This is a short guide I've written because I've recently been looking for a new MP3 Player on Ebay, and have been constantly frustrated by hidden costs and the like. This is not a guide to MP3 Players for those completely new to them, there are already many guides for that, on Ebay as well as on CNet, Znet and many other popular sites. This is a guide to actually buying your MP3 Player, once you know what you want, and what you're prepared to pay for it, as this stage may yield more problems than actually choosing from the plethora of player options at your disposal.
Initially, it seems like a good idea to trawl the many pages of MP3 Players on Ebay. This can sometimes yield good results, but there are many pitfalls.
The majority of the MP3 Players on Ebay are not sold from Australia, they are sold from China, Taiwan, etcetera, and are generic brands. While it is possible to get a great deal on a generic MP3 Player, it is also very possible to be ripped off, either by hidden costs on a generic MP3 Player, or a substandard product being sold as a namebrand player. Here are some things to look for.
Sound to Noise Ratio (SNR): This must be above 85 decibels (db) to get good sound quality. Often sellers of generic MP3 Players, or fake namebrands, will not include this information, in this case,
email them, as some sellers I have seen selling MP3 players with SNRs of 45! If the seller does not respond to your email, do not buy from them - there is probably a reason they are not responding, that is, the SNR is terrible!
Headphone Jacks: In Australia the standard size for headphone jacks is 3.5mm. Most genuine namebrand MP3 players, including iPods, conform to this standard. Many generics or fakes do not, and so once you buy your player it becomes necessary to buy a $15 adaptor as well.
Ridiculous Postage Costs: Many generic or fake MP3 Players have very low starting or buy it now prices, however, do not be tricked, a $20 buy it now 2gb MP3 player will almost always have postage near the $80 mark! A 1GB MP3 Player for $10 might have postage near $50-$60.
Postal Insurance: Often sellers of generic or fake MP3 Players require postal insurance, usually around $15.
Taxes, Import Duties, Etc: Check carefully, in all the fine print both on the item page and on the confirm bid/purchase page, to see if there are any import taxes, duties, etc, you will have to pay on an item. I haven't run across this often, but it can happen.
Return Policies: Often, even if a generic or fake MP3 player comes with a warranty, if it is doa you will have to pay the same ridiculous postage fees to have it shipped back and a replacement shipped to you. What about postal insurance? Well, I guess where that extra $15 went is for the seller to know and you to worry about.
Music Download Software: Fake and Generic MP3 Players do not often support music downloading software such as iTunes.
Battery: Many MP3 Players, including all the iPod range and, subsequently, most of their imitators, run on Lithium Ion batteries. A Lithium Ion battery is rechargeable, but does not run forever. The battery can only withstand a certain number of charge cycles, that is, being fully emptied and fully recharged, before it will only charge to 80%, and then will die completely. Note that if you use half the power of the battery, then recharge it, then use half again and recharge it again, that would count as a full charge cycle, so it may take weeks for you to run up a full charge cycle, depending on how often you use your player. However, here's the deal, when the battery dies, you need another one. Sometimes, very rarely, you can buy a replacement battery and change it around yourself, however, more commonly, you need to send your player back to its maker for a replacement. Companies like Apple will replace a dead battery, but if you have a fake or generic, then a solution might not be so readily available. Bear this in mind when purchasing.
As you can see, buying a fake or generic Mp3 Player that seems like a great deal at first can turn out to be a very expensive deal. Let's say a 1gb MP3 player starts at $1, with $50 postage, that's a pretty good deal. Now throw in the $15 in insurance ($66), the $15 to buy an adaptor ($81), and then when your item arrives it might be dead or of very poor quality (though, there are some sellers of generics and fakes who happily list headphone jack size and SNR, although their prices are generally higher for the item itself).
After battling with sellers who would not answer my questions, descriptions for items that said 'cannot tell more, already been warned for breaking eBay description rules' and the discovery of all these hidden costs I came down to the conclusion that it was a better idea to buy a namebrand MP3 player, as in the long run a namebrand MP3 player will only cost slightly more than a generic. For instance, a fake first generation iPod Shuffle I was considering purchasing would have come up to $85 after postage and insurance (and the seller refused to tell me the SNR), but a 2nd generation genuine iPod Shuffle can be bought straight from Apple, or from Amazon, for $105 Australian Dollars - only $20 more for a guarantee of a half decent warranty, sound quality, and compatability with the inevitable plethora of accessories that will be released for it when it comes out in October.
If you are still determined to save the money and buy a generic or fake MP3 Player, make sure you look for good Australian sellers, as they often have less hidden costs and are usually more upfront about the item (but may charge you $80 for the player itself right off the bat). Read the feedback comments, don't just look at the rating, as the positive ratings of many of these sellers are very suspicious (hundreds of identical responses left by the same few accounts, etc), and you can get a good idea of how they treat people whose items arrive damaged, or are late, etc. Often sellers of fakes and generics respond to negative feedback abusively, and do nothing to rectify the issues of the buyer. Also, you may want to consider getting a player that runs on AAA batteries, as this saves the issue of having no means of replacing a Lithium Ion battery in a fake or generic player.
If you have, however, like me, decided to buy a genuine namebrand MP3 Player, you will need to be wary of yet another pitfall, people trying to pass fakes off as the genuine article. Usually sellers will state that the item is imitation or generic, even though it may look very similar to a namebrand player, however, some sellers are simply criminals, trying to pass their merchandise off as something it is not.
Apple iPods are the most commonly counterfeited brand, and for good reason, they are hugely popular. What this means is that, due to demand, prices on a fake iPod may often go close to the levels you might pay for a genuine article. The iPod will feature the Apple logo somewhere on its body. For instance, the first generation iPod Shuffle features the Apple logo on the back, under the on/off/shuffle switch. However, even this is not a safeguard, as some sellers use photographs from Apple's website when the item they are selling is not genuine, and fakes may even come in iPod boxes, some might even have the iPod logo on them - but remember, they may have a low SNR, a non-standard headphone jack, ridiculous postage costs attached, and they will not be able to use tracks downloaded from iTunes.
There are more comprehensive guides on Ebay on how to spot a fake iPod, such as these excellent ones
Real and Fake iPods: How to Tell,
Fake iPod Nanos,
Fake iPod Nano and Shuffle exposed or
Beware of Buying Fake iPod Shuffles.
It is well worth doing all the research you can, asking the seller constant questions (don't worry about seeming rude, they want your money, after all!). If the seller does not respond to questions, or does not know the details of the product at all, then don't buy from that seller. No exceptions. If a seller cannot be bothered answering your questions, don't assume he or she is on holiday and buy anyway, the seller could be deliberately ignoring you because he or she does not want to reveal details about a substandard item. And, in conclusion, don't let all this depressing info restrict you to buying a namebrand player in stores. A great deal is still possible on Ebay, if you are really, really careful, and failing that, Amazon, or direct from the manufacturer (where possible) is a great alternative.
Hope this helped!
Important Points Re Buying Generic or Fake MP3 Players
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16 September 2006
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