Why do people still use MP3 players?

by 2022, people will be listening to MP3 players iPods Walkman.

Photo for illustration: Kudzu49, Pixabay

Mp3 players: Do you remember that? They are a long-forgotten relic of the pre-smartphone era, then iPod was the most recognizable Apple product, and it still felt strange and new to turn the wheel on the Classic.

Today, fashion is from the early 2000s completely hip again and get wired headphones to make one come back† MP3 players have not yet reached the same cult status – only a small group of people still use these devices.

All kinds of people have an MP3 player: students trying to circumvent the rules of electronic devices in the classroom, audiophiles looking for high-quality audio, and targeted podcast listeners. There are apparently many reasons why people still use MP3 players despite the ubiquitous smartphone.

We asked people who still swear by MP3 players about their specific reasons behind this nostalgic choice.

Max, 19

Gambling company employee, UK

I did not have an MP3 player when I was a child. I missed it at the time. But around the age of 16, I started liking a lot of retro stuff – from retro computers to retro game consoles to retro music.

The appeal of MP3 players is the retro style. For example, I love the sixth generation of the iPod Classic – a clumsy big thing with a wheel – but I also love the price. I bought it mainly because of the price. I used Spotify in the beginning, but not only was it very expensive and ultimately unaffordable for someone without a job like me, it also drained my battery quickly. You can play any .mp3 file on an MP3 player. So you can access everything, whether it’s an official song or a fan-made mash-up you chose from YouTube, or audiobooks. The possibilities are endless.

Adam, 45

Cook, USA

Adam's mp3 players.

Adam’s mp3 players. Photo: Adam

I have a smartphone but prefer to use a separate device for music and podcasts. This allows me to put together the content I listen to more carefully. Apps can flood you with unplayable episodes of podcasts that I might not want to listen to at all.

I usually listen to music or podcasts for three to six hours a day. Many podcasts I like are on the long side, so I usually only listen to two or three a day. I can just download the podcasts that interest me that day as .mp3 files.

Linda, 38

Artist, USA

I have previously owned several iPods, including the Classic and a few Nanos. I absolutely loved my 6th generation Nano – the design was just so wildly cool. That said, I am currently actively using the iPod touch and FiiO M7, and the rest is for emergencies only. Sometimes I feel like a Baby Driver with all these things.

Linda's mp3 player collection.  Photo: Linda

Linda’s mp3 player collection. Photo: Linda

I’ve had several iPods in the past, including the Classic, and a few Nanos. I absolutely loved my sixth generation of Nano – the design was just so damn cool. At the moment I use though iPod touch and FiiO M7the rest is for emergencies only.

My current employer is fine with us listening to music with headphones on. Phones (and everything with a camera) are prohibited in the workplace, so it was important to me to have a device that is not an iPod or a phone. At home, I like to use an MP3 player because my music is not interrupted by notifications or calls. In addition, it is convenient while I train as I no longer have to use data on my phone to stream. And my music collection no longer occupies my phone storage space.

I would much rather risk ruining my MP3 player than my phone. So for me, the MP3 player is primarily of practical importance. I’m old enough that an MP3 player is not exactly nostalgic for me, but many of the digital audio players pay attention to aesthetics, which I really appreciate. My FiiO M7 has a metal case that does not weigh too much and nicely defined buttons on the side to skip or pause numbers. And my personal favorite: a wheel that controls the volume. It’s really nice to have a tangible experience now that everything is increasingly going on via touch screens.

Prashanth, 42

Software Engineer, USA

Prashanth's old iPod touch, with a touch screen that only works partially.  Photo: Prashantho

Prashanth’s old iPod touch, with a touch screen that only works partially. Photo: Prashantho

I’m a self-proclaimed music snob and a bit of an audiophile. I mostly listen to movie music, so I prefer FLAC or AAC files where no sound quality is lost. Most digital streaming services use compressed audio, so I have always preferred an MP3 player, so I always have my music with me, even when my phone is out of range. Recently, I signed up for a six-month trial subscription to Apple Music. Much of their music is delivered in files where no quality is lost and I like that. But I prefer to have my .mp3s with me, whether they are on an iPod or on a USB stick.

I do not think that for most people listening to today’s ‘commercial’, radio-friendly music, there is a significant reason to go for good quality audio files. But if you like classical, orchestra or jazz, this is the right choice.

Kyle, 26

Student, USA

Kyle mp3 players.  Collage: VICE, Photos: Kyle

Kyle mp3 players. Collage: VICE, Photos: Kyle

I have a smartphone, but the advantages of an MP3 player outweigh the disadvantages of online music services. Being a student means I do not have a lot of money, so it is useful to be able to use the music I already have. I’m not bothered by the annoying ads that come with radio and free apps. Most teachers are okay with carrying an MP3 player because you can not find the answer to it, but you can record the lectures and update your notes later.

The first MP3 player I ever got was a SanDisk Sansa Fuze that I painted over several times as a kid and still work to this day. Over the years, I have tried some cheap MP3 players to see if I could replace the Sansa Fuze. I am currently using a MYMAHDI M230.

Susanne, 69

Retired, Canada

I could easily use the smartphone in my pocket, but I do not for a few reasons: Apple got rid of the headphone jack, I spend a lot of time outdoors as a nature photographer, and I am always afraid of losing the expensive AirPods if I go through a trip in the forest.

I often travel abroad. Usually I went for two weeks every 18 months, mainly to London, where I went everywhere with my MP3 player on. I also have an iPhone, but use it primarily for the essentials: searching for information, Google Maps, and sending photos to my friends. Even – or especially – when I’m in a foreign city, I like to immerse myself in the culture by listening to the local radio.

In short, if I need to look something up, I use the iPhone, but for daily entertainment and news on the go, I use the radio on my MP3 player.

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