SanDisk Makes Music Even Less Convenient

from the this-is-progress? dept

SanDisk is getting a bunch of press for releasing what it’s positioning as a new “format” for music. But it’s not a new format at all. SanDisk is simply sticking mp3s onto a microSD card, reasoning that lots of folks now carry phones with microSD slots in them. That’s true (I’ve got one of those phones), but that hardly makes this a compelling offering. First of all, microSD cards are tiny. They’re not the sort of thing that people want to pop in and out of their phones like a CD or a floppy disk. If you do that, you’ll probably end up losing the microSD. So, most folks I know simply put a single microSD card in their phones and just use it as expanded storage. Besides, these days, most folks know that removable storage is annoyingly inconvenient compared to just using a blank disc and moving around the music you already have. I don’t want to have to remember to put a specific microSD card into my phone if I want to hear a band — especially when it’s ridiculously easy for me to just transfer music from my computer to my phone instead. SanDisk claims that this will work because people don’t know how to download music — but they might be surprised if they actually went and spoke to people, rather than making up stuff in an effort to sell more microSD cards.

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Comments on “SanDisk Makes Music Even Less Convenient”

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J.Locke says:

Agreed . . . doesnt make much sense

The micro memory in my phone seems to me much more like the “extended” RAM of the old days. My phone didnt come with it and it could perform its basic funtions without it. If I want to do the cool stuff however, I had to buy it. Also putting it in is too much of a chore on my phone (blackberry) for it to be considered a really transportable medium (I could see how doing it frequently would result in broken brackets).

holdonaminute says:

It's not a bad thing...

From what I’ve read, these are DRM-free mp3 files.

Why are you complaining? Take the card, import to itunes, transfer to your cel phone or PDA’s ‘expanded storage’ card or just copy them to your media center PC. Then do whatever you want to do with the 1GB card.

One huge plus is that I won’t be adding any more bulky CD’s to my VCR-sized ‘disc binder’ again…

mtoddii says:

Not So Bad

It’s not a bad idea as long as these aren’t crippled by drm (and according to the article it won’t be) and you are allowed to move the songs of the card and different ones back on to it. This is actually a pretty good way of getting digital music into the hands of people w/o high speed internet access. Now that we’re in the digital age a lot of people forget that there are vast areas where people’s only option is dial up service. This will be a very convienent way to get mp3s for people that don’t have 20 mins to download a song. As for losing them, I think most people would be smart enough to back up the music to a hard drive. For once I think they may actually be on to something. (Until the RIAA decides that it needs drm which won’t suprise me.)

Anonymous Coward says:

What makes this laughable is the largest segment of the market of MP3 players is the iPod which doesn’t have a microSD slot. Who is going to buy this? The vast majority of phones don’t have microSD either and those that do are typically smart phones that already provide far more convenient ways to download music than this. What a bunch of idiots.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

What has microSD slots? Hmmm…SanDisk’s own MP3 players, for one, which are second in market share. Personally, I’ll take my Sansa e240 over an iPod nano any day.

No, SanDisk’s plans will not be a music revolution, as it is simply shifting the the type of media (CD to microSD), and not the distribution system. However, it is not a bad idea. SanDisk already manufactures flash cards, so they can build the cards very cheaply. They are distributing the music in a format that can be used even if they abandon this market a year from now, so it is good for consumers (at least as good as CDs).

Will this combat piracy or iTunes for an even remotely significant sliver of market share? Probably not, but if SanDisk can use music to sell a few more memory cards and make some profit, then more power to them. Sometimes, a small-but-profitable market can be as useful as a huge market with scant margins. The question is whether SanDisk can generate a profit. We’ll just have to wait and see.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

Oh, and one more thing. I don’t know what phones you are looking at, but just about all music-playing phones on the market right now us microSD. There are MANY microSD phones (take a look at all the Samsung and LG media phones) that are not smart phones. Since most of those phones don’t come with any way to connect them to a PC, SanDisk’s offering could be convenient.

J-diz says:

Don't take an Ipod only view

This isn’t that horrible of an idea. If you read the article, the music will be DRM free, bit rate is not mentioned but they will start off on 1gb cards with “some room to spare” so it sounds like they will be of reasonable quality. If the price is comparable to download then this is just an offline method of getting instant MP3’s (no rip necessary). Great gift ideas for immediate listening for those that have microSD devices (think phones, sandisk and a host of other Mp3 players). Then eventually (or immediately), just like all of our old CD’s they get consumed into our digital libraries and the original medium gets tossed, resold, stored or whatever your fancy…. plus there’s room for Bonus content… throw in free Video’s or other “exclusive” until its uploaded content and its a good offline source of Music with extras…

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Don't take an Ipod only view

Bit rate is 320kbps, according to an Ars Technica article.

This isn’t much different than distributing movies on a USB stick. It’ll be interesting to see if the market for either takes off.

“Makes music even less convenient”, though? Really? How so? The files are not encrypted and can be transferred to PC, which means you can transfer them to another card at will. Come on, Mike, read the article and stop making up facts. You are not forced to put in a specific card for a specific artist. Once you get to a PC, you can move files around however you see fit, moving all the ones you want to a single card if that’s how you roll.

All this does is provide another way to get the files in the first place, an alternative to downloading them off of an online service. (Perhaps some people don’t want to subscribe to iTunes or other download services, or don’t have convenient broadband internet access, or can’t find the tunes they want for download in a legal, DRM-free package?)

This actually provides the added benefit in that the distribution mechanism (the micro-SD card) can then be reused for your own personal use, which as some pointed out (those with cell phones that don’t come with cables to connect to computers, but do have micro-SD slots) is actually more convenient in some cases.

Stephen says:

in defense of sandisk

I recently upgraded from a 512mb Zen to an 8gb Sandisk Fuse in part because of the microdisk, which was full of music (and because it was $70 less than a 4gb Nano, but much more versatile and with a longer battery life). I planned to just erase the music and use the disk for more storage, but it turns out the music was very good: lots of indie pop and rock. Then Sandisk mysteriously sent me a second disk. So I’m way ahead of the game here. My only bother is I prefer to listen to music in the car on CD–I mostly listen to audio books and watch tv shows on the Fuse–and the music isn’t transferable.

Farmer Ed says:

This lacks something, but it can work.

User Experience.
It looks like this is being marketed as an on-the-go application, but I fear microSD/Transflash is too small. Most phones only have one microSD slot, which many people use to store photos. This means that a user has to eject their valued microSD with pictures every time they want to play a new tune. However, if the market demand was there to create a phone/device with a 2nd connector, it may address many issues.

Another challenge is loss of cards, as mentioned by an earlier commenter. microSD cards are freaking small. The size of a pinky-nail. If they are lost/broken/go through the laundry and burn in the dryer, it may lead to a negative overall customer experience and dilatory adoption.

Besides the obvious lack of platform ambiguity and ability to play music at home or in the car, understand that most phones use a push-push type of microSD media-ejection connector. Sadly, these are only rated for a couple thousand- cycle life. Over a 2-year period, this means an average of a few cycles per day over a 2-year mobile phone contract term. But this applies only when the customer knows what they are doing, and not just leaving the bar– It’s probably pretty easy to push a card in with such force that it breaks an internal solder.

Prominent display at a retailer will drive platform adoption. This means packaging designed to thwart inventory shrink (theft). Something with value over $0.25 shouldn’t be able to stick to the bottom of a shoe with gum, and unless packaging discourages theft, it may have trouble growing in adoption.

While these challenges should be addressed, they aren’t insurmountable. I am hopeful that SanDisk, et al. has some people smarter than me working on overcoming these challenges.

But overall, the concept can work, and it’s great that the industry is thinking this way.

Nismoto says:

Re: This lacks something, but it can work.

Besides people storing photos on their microSD cards, I keep my contacts on it as well. For me, having to pull out my regular card to insert a music-filled card and lose my contacts while I listen to music would be a pain @ss.

With that said, I now many people who have phones with a microSD slot but no card and they buy music through their cellular provider because they didn’t know they could buy a microSD card and put music on it themselves.

Like the very first comment states, the market will decide…

Ganz says:

If I have to remove the battery... No thanks.

The thought of having to swap microSD cards in and out of my BlackBerry Curve more than every once in a while really makes me nervous… I always feel like I’m going to break the damn holder, not to mention I have to remove the battery and wait for what seems like forever for the damn thing to reboot. The Pearl users have it pretty easy, it’s a side loader, at least on the 8130… That wouldn’t be SO bad, but microSD cards are so easy to lose.

JGM says:

Well, yes, of course any market research a multi-million dollar company might have done prior to launching a product line pales in the face of Mike’s personal opinions and preferences. And of course whenever they do or say something Mike doesn’t agree with they must be “making stuff up”.

Techdirt consistently overestimates the technical savvy and willingness to manage tech among the general consumer market. Pew just stated that broadband adoption in the US — a necessity for any sort of self-directed music setu — is stalled at just over 50%.

As stated, this is a bit of a niche market. But I’d say there is a lot of potential here filling the gap between a subscription service (which is great but requires users to be well-connected and tech savvy) and a traditional music buyer (who can’t use a phone or MP3 player). A subscription to 512Mb or 1GB of (potential customized, potentially ad-driven) music on a card every month might be just the ticket for a currently unserved segment.

Bob says:

Two things....

OK, so it isn’t the next great thing — but for SanDisk, it’s a winner. They just found a way to sell more MicroSD cards. As for the hype, what did you expect, truth in advertising?

But more important is the story we haven’t heard — how did they get the big names to go DRM-free? Is it a gimmick or a sign of greater things to come? Just because I believe the former doesn’t mean I can’t hope for the latter. Which is it?

Theoden says:

USB Sleeve

According to the CNet report at, “The card will also come with a USB sleeve so it can be plugged in directly to any USB-enabled computer.”

That makes transferring to any device pretty easy, and eliminates the issues with downloaded files when the DRM server is shut down.

I don;t know thatI would buy many of these, but I don’t buy much music anyway – my CD collection is pretty complete with the music I like (and most of the bands I would want to get are no longer turning out songs!).

chronos says:

Another serious issue with using a phone as an MP3 player: battery life. My phone has a microSD slot and a fair music player program, but when as I begin to use it to play some tunes, the battery goes in a blink of the eye.

Is the possible loss of your phone (until you can access a charger) while you’re on the go worth ditching the iPod? Not by a long shot.

Woadan says:

I knew that this issue was DOA as soon as I saw that all four major labels (EMI, Sony, Warner, and Universal) were supporting it.

Maybe they’re realizing, finally, that they aren’t in the business of selling shiny plastic discs (unlikely), and have shifted to yet another physical container.

A micro-SD card is far too easy to lose (it’s small), and I’m not going to switch out cards. It’s why I have an 8GB one to begin with.


Johnny Canada says:

As pointed out even cheap phones come with micro SD slots.

My problem is all my music is stored on regular SD cards for my MP3 player (Palm TX) why carry two devises. Why should I have to change?

By the way my phone (N95-4) does not come with a micro SD slot (8 GB internal memory)and that is a high end phone.

The N95 (Nokia) N95-1, -2, -3 all came with micro SD slots but the latest model -4 Nokia dropped the micro SD slot.

Maybe SanDisk and media/phone makers should talk.

Rose M. Welch says:


First of all, microSD cards are … not the sort of thing that people want to pop in and out of their phones like a CD or a floppy disk. …removable storage is annoyingly inconvenient compared to just using a blank disc and moving around the music you already have. I don’t want to have to remember to put a specific microSD card into my phone if I want to hear a band — especially when it’s ridiculously easy for me to just transfer music from my computer to my phone instead.

Usually I agree with you, Mike, but I think that you’re off base on this one.

First, storage is storage is storage. I don’t care if it’s a CD or a memory card. There’s really not much of a difference, except that I can’t use a blank disc or a floppy to put music on my telephone, and once I burn a CD, it’s generally burned forever, unlike removable storage.

Second, most computer don’t come with floppy disc drives nowadays. You have to pay extra. So mentioning floppies doesn’t even make sense. Computers have been coming with a memory card station meant to hold all kinds of cards, which is where I stick my micro-SD adapter to put new music on it, before I transfer it to my telephone’s permanent storage.

So removable storage is easy and convenient to use as long as your telephone has enough memory to avoid being tied to the card. However, being tied to the card is no different than being tied to the CD, so I don’t see how it’s worse. Actually, it seems like a CD would be worse because it’s much harder to rewrite a CD and amazingly easy to change what’s on a memory card.

Third, it’s not easy at all to add music to my telephone without a card. I have to use the Internet and that’s costs a ton for me since I don’t have a plan… And don’t think I should have to pay for a plan when the microSD card came with the telephone for free.I feel much freer with my SD card than I ever did with the Internet… Or CDs for that matter…

Just my two cents… 🙂

epobirs says:

Plenty of MicroSD storage options

I don’t have a phone with a MicroSD slot (yet) but I do use the format to make my Nintendo DS library more portable. I own a couple hundred games but can only conveniently keep a half dozen or so with me. So instead I have a device that lets games be loaded from MicroSD into the DS. Due to the piracy potential this is greatly frowned upon by Nintendo but using the DS this way is a glimpse of the future of handheld gaming. A 2GB card can hold dozens of games and their save files.

Anyway, there are many option available for carrying several SD or MicroSD cards with you. The one I prefer looks like a thick business card and fits easily in a wallet while holding six MicroSD cards. With 8GB now selling for under $30, you can have a pretty amazing amount of data in your pocket with no severe added bulk.

Joe Schmoe says:

I really want to agree with everyone as to how misguided the idea is, but… look at the marketing of $1 to $4 movies and CD’s in checkout lanes – there may well be a market of fools that would buy [music on a card].

The whole boasting of DRM free MP3’s makes this whole thing down right laughable. It’s so schitzophrenic for the industry to just now capitulate on the format because a physical medium is in the equation but very typical because a physical medium is in the equation. The industry has never sold music. They sell things that just happen to have music on them.

Personally, the ONLY way this approaches worthwhile is if music were packed onto these things in a tribute/anthology fashion. With a fair price, that has an impulse buy quality written all over it. Single album? Pass!

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re:

I agree that there should be no difference between offering an MP3 for download vs. offering an MP3 on a card, in that there’s no reason one should be DRM-free but not the other.

The benefits I see of DVDs over digital files is that you still get more with DVDs. I still have yet to see a digital download file that offers multiple languages, extras, director’s commentary, or even so much as a chapter menu. (Legally-distributed. You do see this in straight ISO rips of the DVDs themselves, but I can’t say I’ve seen those for sale yet.) Why is it foolish to buy this on a disc instead of paying for just the movie to be streamed digitally? Especially if you don’t have a computer hooked up to your living room TV or a fancier DVD player that can play media off of USB?

Their target market here is going to be people who don’t download music already for whatever reason. These are going to be people who still buy music in terms of albums rather than by song.

Bill M (profile) says:

I don’t get this post.

Mike forgets the biggest reason not to like this format — that you’re getting pre-compressed music — and picks up on this, “they’re so small you’ll lose them!” argument.

Personally, I like the small form factor, the lack of DRM, and the fact the cards can be re-used. A lot of other sentences are head-scratchers, too.

– “Not a new format at all?” Well, MP3 isn’t new, but buying music on a microSD card is.

– “most folks know that removable storage is annoyingly inconvenient compared to just using a blank disc and moving around the music you already have.” Um, ok, what is a blank disc if not removeable media? And what kind of blank disc are you talking about? A floppy can’t hold even one song. A CD holds a whole 700MB (a fraction of a music collection), and a DVD, dual-sided, a whole 9GB. That’s if you wanna sit around and wait for the burn process to complete, a time-consuming and arduous task even with the fastest burners. If I didn’t have a network handy (or if I had a huge amount of files to move) I would probably use — a flash drive/SD card! Those microSD cards are coming out in 32GB sizes and soon much larger.

– “I don’t want to have to remember to put a specific microSD card into my phone if I want to hear a band — especially when it’s ridiculously easy for me to just transfer music from my computer to my phone instead.” Hm. I suppose you COULD walk around with a microSD “wallet” full of your purchased music, but I assume most people will COPY the music to their device and use the card as backup or erase it and use it for storage.

I think this *physical* format will indeed be more convenient and appealling for a lot of users who will be able to walk into a store, buy music, and listen to it immediately on their phone. (But sadly, not their iPods and iPhones, until Apple gets a clue and starts adding a microSD slot to those devices.)

Ray says:

i swap cards on my treo

very often, I havent misplaced a single card yet. i have killed a few tho.. if i could only get one of my 32gb SDcards to work in my treo, i would not have to do this tho. i actually have 3 32gb cards and 2 16gb cards for my digital cameras. given that I travel to fun places for work, and I love to see the sights. I still can’t believe I filled up a 4gb SD card in 3 hrs at Mt Ranier last feb.. maybe what they need to work on is battery tech. i have 3 for my treo, and i go through 2 a day, and one is constantly on the charger..

Anonymous Coward says:

Many phones require extra hardware (that is overpriced by phon companies) in order to connect their phone to their computer. this may be slightly inconvenient, but a better deal. especially considering they can transfer the music from the microsd into the phone’s onboard memory. and then perhaps back onto a larger primary microsd card they use. as i said, inconvenient, but if you only by an album so often, not too bad an idea.

I think it’s pretty cool, the only drawback might be people will stop buying them when they realize they’re phones battery will die after about 2 or three hours of music.

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