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5 Stubbornly Standalone Tech Toys

MP3 Players
The iPod went from the iconic rock star in Apple's stable to the forgotten stepchild standing in the corner while Daddy shows iPhone's pretty new hairdo on stage for an adoring public.

More than a decade after its debut, the iPod now makes up only 8% of Apple's sales. Its clickwheeled Classic incarnation is practically a museum piece, its midsized nano shrunk to the size of an airmail stamp and its high-end version, the iPod touch, is basically an iPhone with a $70-higher price tag but without a dial tone.

The rest of the MP3 player market lost its pop once Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) pulled the Zune and consumers just couldn't get excited about rocking a SanDisk on the subway.

"The pure iPod and MP3 player is dying or strongly declining," Entner says. "The reason for it is that the smartphones are so ubiquitous and make it so easy to listen to music."

What smartphones aren't, however, is tiny. Remember when people used to have to buy armband holsters for their iPod so they could jog or ride a bike or had to wear jackets with interior pockets just to give it a place to rest? The dumb ones would just put it in a backpack and hope a thief couldn't work the zipper? Yep, that's pretty much every day with a smartphone-based MP3 player.

The iPod and its ilk now survive based on size and simplicity. The new Nano was initially jeered, but its clip makes it just as portable as the button-sized Shuffle while its touchscreen maintains many of the Touch and Classic's features without taking up so much space. The iPod may not be ubiquitous anymore, but as long as there's someone who needs to jog after scarfing too much pizza on a football Sunday or a child that needs a long-drive distraction that won't cost a Benjamin to fix if it gets damaged, the Nano, Shuffle and other small MP3 players are here to stay for the time being.

"You only need a small music player for children or people who want to go jogging and listen to music while they get run over by a car," Entner says. "Other than that, you're using a smartphone."

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.



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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.
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