SanDisk slotRadio Misses the Beat

At a time when the digital music industry is finally moving decisively away from restrictions on your tunes, SanDisk unveiled a new MP3 player that goes entirely in the opposite direction. The company’s new slotRadio comes with a microSD card loaded with 1000 songs and almost as many constraints.

The songs are locked not only to the card, but to the player. You can’t move them to any other device. You can’t even determine the order in which you play them, according to the SanDisk spokesperson I talked to. The songs are arranged in playlists for a number of genres. You can switch from genre to genre, but if you’re favorite Country tune is #10 in the playlist, you have to listen to the nine songs ahead of it before you hear the one really want (though you did seem to be able to skip forward). And if your favorite songs are in different genres, forget it. There doesn’t seem to be anyway to make your own playlist with the prerecorded songs. (There is some space for you to load your own music on the card.)

The slotRadio, a square about 50 percent bigger than an iPod shuffle with a grayscale screen, sells for $100 including the card filled with music. You can buy new cards with more music – and the same restrictions – for $40. You can also buy albums on microSD cards at places like Best Buy and Walmart.

When I asked the SanDisk spokesperson about all the constraints on what you can do with the slotRadio’s music, she urged me to “Think of it like radio.� But isn’t the whole point of the digital music revolution that we don’t have to deal with the annoyances of radio anymore? I thought the days of waiting an hour for your favorite song to play were gone forever. Not for slotRadio buyers.

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