Here’s the latest novelty music format to come from a technology company desperate to get a piece of Apple pie. Albums on MicroSD cards, from SanDisk. SanDisk, who have second place in the MP3 player market with 11% market share, reckon that the way to get consumers to re-engage with buying music is to provide it to them in a mostly useless format.
Why am I calling it useless? Well, it’s got the worst features of both physical and digital media. First, it’s tiny. People have repeatedly said that they like their physical media to be big – so there’s more of a feeling of ownership. People also like to appreciate album art at as large a size as possible. Sure, you can put it in a big package, but that defeats the point somewhat.
Secondly, it won’t play on anything. Hands up if you’ve got a MicroSD card reader handy. One…two… three of you. You’ve forgotten about one, though – your phone. SanDisk are targeting this at people who like consuming music on their phones, and are confused by digital downloads. I couldn’t name you one person who knows how to transfer files between phones and SD cards but is bamboozled by music downloads.
Thirdly, MicroSD cards are fragile. If you only want to listen to one album on your phone forever again, and you don’t use a MicroSD card in your phone normally, then by all means, go nuts. But don’t come crying to me when you get bored, try to swap the card out, and end up breaking it. Those cards aren’t built to be pushed in and out as often as a CD or a cassette might be.
Sure, there are a few benefits to this format. Assuming the cards are priced competitively to a CD album (if they aren’t then no-one will buy them) then £8 isn’t out of the ballpark as a price for a MicroSD card. You can always copy the music to your PC, wipe the MicroSD card, and (now you know how to use it with your phone) load up hundreds of pirated MP3s.
SanDisk are also promising 320kbps DRM-free MP3s. That’s reassuring, but for my money I’d much rather go buy the same files off 7digital, and get them backed up online, as well as recommendations for other stuff I’d like. I’m pleasantly surprised that SanDisk aren’t proposing any DRM, but you never know – when the labels get their hands on the format, anything could happen – especially with something as easily sharable as a MicroSD card.
This format, just like the USB Memory stick, and the wax record on the back of cereal packets, will fade away before it even starts. It won’t even last as long as Minidisc. People who are confused by download stores will be catered for by simpler download stores – not tiny bits of silicon that only work with one device. That’s where SanDisk should be putting their cash.