People are still using MP3 players in 2022. Illustration photo: kudzu4, PixabayD
Remember MP3 players? These relics from a pre-smartphone era, from a time when the iPod was the flagship product ofApple and where touching his wheel was a tactile odyssey?
If we have been witnessing the return of Y2K fashion for some time and wired headphones have become the new accessory for It Girls with low waist pants, readers MP3 have yet to achieve this cult status. In 2022, these devices are still evolving in the hands of a minimal part of the population, far from a fashion revival.
Let’s go, if you don’t mind, to meet those few people who still use this simple technology to boycott smartphones: students trying to get around the current ban on cellphones, audiophiles looking for exceptional sound quality and the savvy podcast eaters who seek above all to carefully select the content they broadcast to their ears.
In fact, there are tons of good reasons why some people press the play button on an MP3 player. Whether from Gen Z or retired, those who swear by these little wonders explained to VICE what motivates this choice sometimes tinged with nostalgia.
Max, 19 – employed in a gaming company, UK
I never had an MP3 player when I was a kid. I kind of missed the mark. But around the age of 16, I started going into retro stuff, everything from old computers to consoles to music.
I think my attraction to MP3 players stems from that retro aesthetic. If I love the iPod Classic 6th generation – the chunky block with its control wheel – it’s for its style, but also for its price. That’s actually the main reason I bought it. I used Spotify before, but not only was it too expensive for an unemployed kid, it was killing my battery in a heartbeat. And the ads — oh, the ads were driving me crazy. With an MP3 player, I can listen to any MP3 file, any song, from any site. Whether it’s an official track released on Spotify, a fan-hacked mashup on YouTube, or even an audiobook. The choice is downright endless.
Adam, 45 – chef, USA
I have a smartphone, but to listen to music and podcasts, I prefer to use a device that is intended only for that. It allows me to more carefully select the content I will listen to. Apps tend to overwhelm me with useless podcast episodes and offer me stuff I don’t necessarily want to hear.
In my day, I usually have three to six hours to listen to music or podcasts. Since most of the podcasts I listen to are quite long, I only listen to two or three a day. I can choose the ones that interest me that day, download them in MP3 format and load them on my player.
Linda, 38 – artist, USA
I’ve had several younger iPods, including the Classic and a few Nanos. I loved my 6th Gen Nano, the design was so cool! Now I use iPod touch and FiiO M7. The others are only reserved for emergency situations.
My current employer allows us to listen to music with headphones, but in the workshop, phones (and anything with a camera) are prohibited. It was therefore essential for me to have a device other than an iPod or a smartphone. At home, I like to use an MP3 player so my music isn’t interrupted by notifications or calls. Then it’s good for doing sports: I don’t need to burn out my data for streaming or clutter up my phone’s memory with music.
In fact, I prefer to run the risk that it is my MP3 player that fails me rather than my smartphone. So it’s more of a practical question than anything else. I’m old enough not to be nostalgic for MP3 players, although quite a few digital audio players take aesthetics into account, which I really appreciate. My FiiO M7 is super cool: its metal body has the ideal weight and its control buttons on the side stand out well for easily skipping tracks or pausing. But what I prefer about him is his wheel to manage the volume. It’s really nice to have a tactile experience in an age where everything is done via tapping on screens.
Prashanth, 42 – engineer, USA
Music level, I admit to being quite snobbish and a little audiophile. Most of the sounds I listen to are cinematic in nature. As a result, I prefer to listen to music formats that do not generate audio loss, such as FLAC and AAC files. Most of today’s streaming services offer compressed audio files and it’s been a very long time since I purchased a premium subscription from one of them. I’ve always preferred to have my MP3 player on me, so I can listen to my music even if there’s no 4G around. Recently, I received a six-month trial period for Apple Music. A lot of their content is lossless, and I like that, but I still prefer having my MP3s, whether on an iPod or a USB drive.
I like to think that for most people who listen to ‘commercial’ and ‘radio’ music, there’s really no reason to go lossless. But if you like classical, orchestral or even jazz music, this is the way to go.
Kyle, 26 – US student
I have a smartphone, but the advantages of an MP3 player outweigh the disadvantages of streaming services. As a student, I’m very short of money, so being able to use the music I own is already one less expense. I also don’t have to stuff myself with the boring ads that play on the radio or on free apps. What’s also cool is that the majority of teachers let me have it with me in class, since there is no way to look for answers on it. I can use it to record lessons and correct my notes later at home.
The first MP3 player I received was a SanDisk Sansa Fuze. When I was a kid, I used to decorate it all the time. It still works today. Over the past few years, I’ve tried a few cheap MP3 players to see if I could find a replacement. Currently I am using a MYMAHDI M230.
Suzanne, 69 – retired, Canada
I know I could use the smartphone in my pocket, but I don’t for several reasons: Apple removed the audio port! And then I find the wired earphones, those supplied with the iPhone, very uncomfortable for my ears. As a wildlife photographer, I spend a lot of my time outdoors and I’m always afraid of losing those super expensive little AirPods in the middle of the forest. So I don’t use it.
I do (or did, thank you COVID) a lot of international travel. In general, I went abroad every 18 months for two weeks. I mainly went to London, and I traveled up and down the city with my MP3 player in my ears. Although I have a phone plan for my iPhone, I mostly use it for travel necessities: finding information, Google Maps, and sending photos to friends. When I’m in a foreign city, I need to immerse myself in the culture by listening to the local radio.
In summary, if I need to search for information, I use the iPhone, but for everyday entertainment and on-the-go info, I use the MP3 player radio.
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Who are these people who still use MP3 players today?
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