Help me pick a flash-based mp3 player for my mom.
August 17, 2007 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Please help me choose a flash-based mp3 player that will be easy (and loud enough) for my almost-62-year old mom to use while exercising.

My mom isn't tech-phobic, but she's not of the younger, tech-saavy generation, and I don't want to get her something that will end up being too confusing and end up sitting in a drawer, unused.

I have a Zen Nano, which I like, but when I've lent it to her to use for a day she tends to forget how to find things/navigate to anything besides the podcast I've set up for her to listen to. Also, she's not hard of hearing, but she said my Zen Nano didn't get loud enough (though it's possible that was a headphone issue.)

I've been considering an ipod nano, but I've never actually used one. How does that compare to what else is available? Any better suggestions? Anything to avoid? Something with an FM radio is a plus, but not absolutely necessary. Size (physical and storage) isn't that important either.

posted by needs more cowbell to Technology (14 answers total)
I don't have a useful suggestion, but based on my experiences, I'd suspect that the iPod's scroll wheel interface would probably confuse the heck out of someone who's not comfortable with a Zen.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2007

Which of you will be loading it, nmc? It doesn't get much simpler than the one you already have, what with the drag and drop/plug and play capabilities. That's the one I would recommend if she's doing the loading. We actually have that one (among many others...) and I've never noticed an issue with the volume - could it be your headphones?
posted by iconomy at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2007

I have played with a friend's Zen, and I own several iPods. I think the iPod scroll wheel is infinitely easier to navigate and control than the Zen, so I would disagree that the iPod is more confusing. In fact, my Zen-owning friend messed with my iPod for minute after owning her Zen for a while, and immediately said the iPod was way easier.

My folks are in their 70s and, although they don't use any MP3 player, they didn't seem to have any issue navigating the iPod and understand how to operate it. Granted, that was just in a few minutes of playing with it, but after brief instructions, they had the "Ohhh, I get it!" response.

Of course, everyone is different. Are you trying to surprise her? If not, why not take her to the store and let her play with the iPod and see if she likes it.

A better option: how about an iPod Shuffle? No interface or scroll wheel to mess with, just play/pause, volume up/down, and skip forward/back. She can listen to her favorite CDs in order, or with the flip of a switch in random order. It holds over 200 songs, is super-light, has a built-in clip to attach to her clothes. It gets plenty loud for me with the provided headphones. It's $79, or if you check the clearance section on Apple's website, they sometimes have refurbs for $49.
posted by The Deej at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2007

I think the drag and drop functionality of the Zen series trumps the Ipods by itself, and personally have never liked the Ipod wheel. I just bought my wife a Zen V plus, but I really like the Stone. It's half the price of the Shuffle with all the same features, and works with more than just itunes.
posted by Big_B at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2007

I have the second gen. shuffle (my very first and still only iPod purchase) specifically for the gym, b/c the clip is awesome and unobtrusive, and because it's the gym, I just put a crapload of upbeat songs on it, and press play.

Mine is orange and I want to marry it.
posted by mckenney at 9:12 AM on August 17, 2007

It's half the price of the Shuffle with all the same features, and works with more than just itunes.

The Stone is pretty cool looking. I've considered getting one "just because."

One word about the iPod only working with iTunes: I have to clarify this pretty often to friends and co-workers, so I'll do so here. Yes, you must load the iPod using the free iTunes software. But you DON'T need to purchase any music from the iTunes Store. Ever.

You can load your own CDs, or MP3s into iTunes. No, you can't drag and drop MP3s directly into the iPod (normally) and have them play, but using iTunes to synchronize the iPod is way easier for the non-technical, since it happens automatically when you attach the iPod. It will choose songs randomly until the iPod is full, or she can set up a playlist for the iPod and have it fill from that. Of course, if her iPod is big enough, it will hold all of her music.
posted by The Deej at 9:29 AM on August 17, 2007

My (late 50s) mother got a Sansa e200 series player and seems to like it (you will probably have to load drivers for her, but after that she should be able to get the hang of it). I have an iPod nano and I actually wish I'd gotten what she has, because hers plays video.
posted by desjardins at 9:51 AM on August 17, 2007

I've got a second-gen nano. One of the sections in the settings menu lets you modify the main menu to include only the sections you want. FM radio can be added if its critical. I find the wheel to be quite intuitive, but then again I'm not anywhere near 62, so ymmv.

I'd think that an iPod shuffle would be more than adequate for this task, it'll do random playback or follow the set playlist, the built-in clip would come in quite handy if she's using it during excercise, and the price is quite low.

The bigger problem, I'd think, would be getting her comfortable with itunes, or whatever software you end up choosing.
posted by jjb at 10:14 AM on August 17, 2007

my dad just got my mom a nano and she likes it. she's 67 and often types in ALL CAPS.
posted by snofoam at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2007

Definitely go with the nano. The user interface can't be beat. Its extremely straight forward and its pretty intuitive to put music on it too using iTunes.
posted by tundro at 10:34 AM on August 17, 2007

I luuuurrrve my Samsung T9. It is very easy to use, and can get VERY loud! These days, I listen to mine on bike rides with my headphones around my neck. There's a special "outdoor" mode which boosts the sound quite a bit. It would be enough in-ear sound for almost anyone, I'm quite sure.

One barrier to the product for her might be the menu button on the side, but that is easily learned and rarely used. It also has a radio, recording capability, and picture compatibility so she can always see the grandkids! :)
posted by at 10:58 AM on August 17, 2007

Which of you will be loading it?
I'll probably load stuff initially, but it'd be nice if eventually she can load podcasts onto it herself without too much trouble. She's really interested in podcasts.

About navigation--I think what confuses her about my Zen Nano is that there's hierarchical file systems (you can put things in folders) but there's no visual representation of the hierarchy: to go to a different folder, you have to press a button (which is only marked as a the forward/backward switch), select "folder view" (or something) from a menu (by going backward/forward and then pressing the button in again) and then going backward/forward between folders. The LCD screen is fairly small, and it's too non-intuitive for her. I'm hoping to find something that she'll be able to actually navigate, rather than just loading stuff and getting whatever comes up in order.

And yeah, trying to surprise her, hence the not taking her to an Apple store. When I've brought it up in the past she's sounded kinda overwhelmed and just wants me to pick an mp3 player for her. It took her three years to pick out a new washing machine, so I think surprising her is the way to go.

One more question: Do ipod nanos connect to the generic (non-apple) ipod speaker docks? I'm finding it hard to tell from web searches.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:03 PM on August 17, 2007

By "generic" I'm guessing you mean they plus into the earphone jack, and yes, they do. They plug into the ones specifically made with an iPod dock connector as well.
posted by The Deej at 5:08 PM on August 17, 2007

I know earphone jacks are pretty standard--I've seen ipod speakers that look like they plug into a jack (usb? firewire?) at the bottom of the ipod (like this, I guess.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:23 PM on August 17, 2007

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