Too Expensive, My Friend
The real hindrance to this type of personal stereo is the price. The bottom line is that for quite a short listening time you have to fork out quite a hefty wad. There are two reasons for this. As the name implies, the device uses flash memory for storing the tunes, and this type of memory is still too pricey, even though it is gradually getting cheaper.
The other reason is that manufacturers have an irritating habit of always entering the market at the top end. Let me explain: they begin by marketing top-of-the range, super-expensive items fitted with every conceivable gadget, in order to make as a big a profit as possible before bringing them down to a mass market level. Well, this is a vicious circle. The product is too highly priced so the public rejects it, and sales are low because everyone is waiting for an economical model worthy of the name.
Where Should Manufacturers Be Economizing?
They should certainly not stint on memory size. 64 MB, or an hour of high quality music, represents the strict minimum. Of course, it's easy to change tunes by plugging into the PC, but you wouldn't want to do that every single morning while on vacation or on a trip. For one thing, your computer may not be within reach. 128 MB represents an ideal compromise because two hours of listening means you can create a collection of your favorite pieces and not get tired of them within a few days. Obviously, 256 MB would be ideal, but you'll have to wait for a while for that. Entry level models have limited memory, generally as low as 32 MB but that's not good enough.
So the rest of the cost comes from the extras. Manufacturers vie with each other to see who can offer the most. A wide LCD screen, remote controls on the headset wire, a second screen using the same remote, heaps of functions, rechargeable lithium battery, brushed metal finish - and who knows what else. The question remains, do we really need all of this? I claim that we don't, if it means paying such a high price. In view of the number of tunes available, advanced navigation is not really necessary. Displaying the name of the tune is useful but not indispensable. In general, you know what you're listening to, as was the case for CDs for so many years. The power consumption is so low that a simple alkaline battery is quite sufficient. And what's the point of having a remote control when the device itself is miniaturized and within easy reach of your hand? For all these reasons, I have come to the conclusion that in order to get us to buy personal stereos with memory, all the makers need to do is remain within an acceptable price range.