The Similarities Between USB Flash Drives and MP3 Players

Derek Rogers asked:

Today’s MP3 players, like Apple’s iPod, are basically fancy USB drives with built in control mechanisms and a hefty price tag. Unlike USB flash drives, most MP3 players lack the ability to share data files, DVD movies and photos easily.

USB flash drives are not only capable of easily sharing music, but can transfer any file that can be stored on a home PC quicker than using CD-ROMs.

MP3 players require a separate program for your computer to be able to upload music or download existing tunes stored on the device. Sometimes these programs are memory intensive or poorly written, making the task more of a headache than it’s worth. Even Apple’s iPod lacks the ability to download songs from the device to a computer, due to copyright infringement worries.

This is all well and good, until you want to place a song from a CD you bought and ripped to your computer at home to the computer at the office using the iPod as a transfer medium. In addition, you are required to download or install the MP3 player’s proprietary program to each computer.

USB flash drives are different; they act as any other storage device used for your computer. Once you plug the device into an available USB slot, the files stored on it become a new drive in your computer’s directory, the files can then be saved, deleted, moved, or renamed just as with any other system folder. This makes sharing music between computers a breeze.

You simply load the drive up with your favourite music and carry it to another computer. Once the drive is plugged in, the music can be played directly from the USB drive or the songs may be copied to a folder on the computer’s hard drive for later use. No mess, no fuss.

One of the advantages of having an MP3 player is the ability to connect it to your car’s stereo system to listen to your music on the road. More and more car stereo manufactures are building USB slots into their products now, though. With a USB slot built into your stereo, you simply plug a USB drive in and all the music stored on the drive will be available to your stereo without added equipment. What’s more, many brands of receivers will read MP3 tags and display the title information for the songs and albums, depending on your model.

USB friendly MP3 players can also be plugged into these slots, but the play control remains with the MP3 player instead of the in-dash radio. Multitasking is not a skill you want to develop while driving!

USB flash drives are also considerably cheaper than their fancier counterparts. Leave a USB drive in your car in a bad part of town and it will probably still be there on your return. Leave an iPod, and it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be missing soon after you leave. Capable of storing the same amount of songs as twenty or more CDs, depending on drive size and data compression, the cost of a stolen flash drive pales in comparison to the cost of replacing a case filled with compact disks.

The only decisive advantage MP3 players have over flash drives is the ability to directly plug in a pair of headphones. In this day and age, though, how often are we without a computer or car stereo close at hand?

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