I really wanted an iPod Nano, I did. It's a triumph of industrial design, a delight to hold, and the sweet deal Apple got from Samsung for the 4GB SRAM chips is a tribute to the power of monopsony (don't tell the South Korean FTC). In terms of hardware alone, I think it's pretty clearly the best portable music player on the market right now.
For all the genius engineering of the iPod Nano, its functionality is largely determined by the iTunes software and music service, which really leaves me cold. It may be the most popular music service, but it is far from the most fully-featured. Compared to Rhapsody, iTunes has bare-bones artist descriptions, few editorial reviews or much other useful metadata, an unhelpfully broad single-level genre hierarchy and lame recommendations. Plus the over-restrictive DRM in its AAC files makes even Microsoft's WMA look good.
On top of that, I prefer Rhapsody's all-you-can-eat subscription model to iTunes' $0.99/track downloads. For $8.25 a month (on the yearly plan), I can listen to all the music I want from the 1m+ tracks the service offers. As a result I'm far more inclined to explore new bands and genres, something that's now fun, easy and risk-free. I'm even starting to feel a little cool again.
So the main reason for not choosing a Nano is that I didn't want to leave Rhapsody and the ability to stream unlimited music. But the reason for choosing the Zen Micro in particular had to do with a newish feature that I was keen to try, extending that all-you-can-eat subscription model to a portable music player.
A regular Rhapsody subscription allows you to store any tracks, even
those you don't own, on your PC so you can access them even when you're
not online, such on your laptop on a plane (as long as you continue to
subscribe to the service). But the Rhapsody To Go option, at another $5
a month, allows you to copy them to a portable device so you can carry
Right now there aren't many MP3 players that support this, but the Zen Micro is clearly the best of those that do.
Charlie Owen has posted on his own research and logic in choosing the Zen Micro over the iPod Nano. Among the factors that influenced him was the cost per capacity, which he summarized with this:
- 2GB iPod Nano = $99.50 per GB
- 4GB iPod Nano = $62.25 per GB
- 6GB Creative Zen Micro = $33.17 per GB
My own reasons included the Micro's small size, intuitive
controls and interface, and USB 2.0 data transfer and recharging, which
meant fast loading and no extra charger.
So now I've got a cool black Zen Micro. It's loaded up with 2,000
cool (and legal) tracks that I didn't have to pay for. (That's $2,000
worth of iTunes music.) Maybe next month it will be a different 2,000
tracks. And another 2,000 the month after that. All for an extra $60 a