Hardware or software that plays audio files encoded in MP3 and other audio formats. On the software side, applications that reside in the user's computer, such as iTunes, Windows Media Player and RealPlayer, are used to organize a music collection, play audio files and rip music from a CD. Software players may also provide access to Internet radio stations and other streaming audio sites (see media player
On the hardware side, devices use solid state flash memory to hold songs downloaded from an online store or the user's computer. Apple's iPod has long been the industry leader, but players have come in all sizes, with some units including FM radio. See iPod
More than MP3
All players, whether hardware or software, support MP3 and generally several other formats. AAC is Apple's featured format, and FLAC provides CD quality sound. See codec examples
and high-resolution audio
Built into Smartphones and Tablets
A music player app is built into all smartphones and tablets, as well as many satellite radio receivers and in-dash navigation systems.
Diamond Rio - One of the First
Diamond Multimedia pioneered the handheld player market in the U.S. in 1998. Its 32MB of flash memory held eight songs. (Image courtesy of SONICblue.)
A Back Pack Boom Box
An industry of accessories was created to carry and operate a music player. Skullcandy's LINK Packs held waterproof speakers in the straps along with a microphone for cellphones.
Gloves for a New Generation
The metallic-coated index finger and thumb tips made electrical contact between the user and the iPod's click wheel. (Image courtesy of 4sight Products Inc.)