Many MP3 players lack certain features that make then useable for listening to podcasts, seminars and other long material
The shift to MP3 players as replacements or additions to CD players,
either portable or in cars and homes, offers many real advantages.
However many of these devices are quite unsuitable when it comes to
listening to podcasts, seminar recordings, business and marketing
practice tapes and recordings of college/university lectures.
MP3 players evolved with a heavy focus on listening to music. In the
main original market, this meant collections to fairly short tracks. So
the controls evolved along these lines, easy controls to skip tracks
forwards or backwards, menues of tracks and playlists, remembering
which track you were on when the unit switches off, etc. For popular
music, this all works very well.
Podcasts, lecture recordings and motivational works or talking books,
on the other hand, are characteristed by a smaller number of longer
duration tracks. Lately I’ve been testing some MP3 players. Because I
often listen to podcasts or seminar recordings in the car, I’ve been
trying them out with such material, as well as my usual choice of
music: jazz, gregorian chants, celtic music and 13th Century French
secular music. Let’s consider two MP3 players I’ve had here for
sometime and that I have been experimenting with: the Samsung YEPP and
the XIRO 128MB player. Both will remember which track you are on but
forget just where you were in the track. This is really annoying when,
say, you drive somewhere listing to a one and a half hour lecture and
get half way through when you get to your destination. The unit
switches off when you have left it in pause for some time and forgets
where you are. Then to make this worse, the fast forward and back
controls only advance at a pretty slow rate, making it very time
consuming to advance quickly forwards. The iRiver H-10 I also have does
remember where you are and has a similar very slow fast forward.
Apple’s iPod allows you to scrub through a recording using the control
wheel, but is also not as quick at fast forward as I would like.
So, to me, there need to be a few things added to new MP3 players to
get the best possible use out of them. Firstly they all need to
remember where you are in a track when they turn off. Secondly they
need a logarithmic fast forward and reverse control. This could either
offer varying speeds of advance as you move the control further to
start off slow and accelerate as you hold the control or spin the wheel
for longer. Thirdly, for the larger units, they should offer high
quality recording as a built-in option that doesn’t require anything
else and have a microphone jack for the use of external microphones.
This would help podcasters, students and many others.
There’s the challenge. Let’s see who is the first manufacturer to do it properly.