I’m still not sold on microSD cards as the next-gen physical medium for music that will save physical retailers — there won’t be a next-gen physical medium — but I’ve got SanDisk’s slotMusic player in hand, and it’s a cute little device.


With a suggested retail price of $20 (with no memory card, ouch) you can configure a 2GB model for less than half the price of a comparable iPod Shuffle. And it’s still cheaper than the entry model Shuffle. Artist-branded models come with an album of DRM-free MP3s plus extra goodies on a 1GB card and a USB sleeve so you can get your music off and on even old PCs, for $35.

The player puts out great sound and has a solid feel (it’s a little hefty). It’s easy to use, though I miss shuffle mode — a lot — and I had no problems dragging my own MP3s onto it, in contrast to a lot of cell phones I’ve seen in the past. The packaging is attractive and you can even get album liner notes. Wal-Mart and BestBuy should be stocking them by now.

One of SanDisk’s target audiences is the “surprisingly high number” of people who use a portable music player, but don’t program it. In fact, our latest music survey shows that 30% of online adults regularly use an MP3 player, yet only 23% say they maintain a digital music collection on their PC. SanDisk thinks slotMusic will play with tech-averse grownups, while appealing to savvier kids due to microSD compatibility with cell phones.

I don’t think the slotMusic player will be a huge hit among the exercise crowd, but it’s a no-brainer gift at the low end, and the branded models should be fun gifts for fans. Worst case, they keep the music and the microSD card.