The iPod has dominated sales of the devices almost since it hit store shelves five years ago, and most analysts think this holiday season will be no exception.
Apple offers three recently updated lines of iPods, ranging in price from US$79 to $349. Other companies offer credible competitors to each iPod line, however, some of which offer additional features, a lower price or both.
Some competition for every product Apple launches
- The iPod nano comes in 2 GB, 4 GB and 8 GB versions, double the capacity of the three prior models at the same prices: $149, $199 and $249, respectively. Perhaps more important, Apple added colors to the nano mix: In addition to black, the nano now comes in metallic pink, green, blue, red and silver.
Competition to the nano this year come from SanDisk. Closely linked with Best Buy's new digital music store, the company's new Sansa e200R series will play music encoded with either RealNetworks Rhapsody technology or Microsoft's PlaysForSure. Also, the lower-end Sansas are $10 cheaper than comparable nanos.
- Apple's top-of-the-line iPods play videos, music -- and now games such as "Bejeweled" and "Tetris," which owners can download from iTunes. The new versions also have a 60 percent brighter screen, longer battery life and an 80 GB drive on the top version, up from 60 GB previously. Apple cut the prices on the two models to $249 and $349, down $50 each from last year.
Key competitors are two wireless 30 GB gadgets: Microsoft's $249 Zune and Archos' 604 WiFi. The latter also has a giant 4.3-inch screen and the ability to both surf the Web and serve as a digital video recorder, all for about $400 online.
- Apple is offering just one model of its entry-level shuffle this year: a 1 GB device priced at $79. The new shuffle, however, is about the size of a big postage stamp, substantially smaller than the prior one. It still doesn't have a screen, but it does come with a built-in clip, handy for joggers and others on the move.
This is the most competitive area of the market. You can find off-brand models for as little as $20, depending on the amount of storage space and features. For about $70, however, you can get a 1 GB MP3 player from Creative or SanDisk that includes a small screen, an FM radio tuner and a voice recorder