There are other .MP3 players out there besides the iPod. Sandisk makes the Sansa line, Creative makes the Zen series, Sony has its Walkman, ARCHOS is popular and don’t forget about the Zune.
Not everyone’s .MP3 player is an iPod (or iPhone). Some are recent switchers, new to the Mac. Others wanted something less expensive or received it as a gift. Whatever the reason, a huge question for you is “Does my non-Apple .MP3 player work with OS X?”
The good news for you is that, yes most of them do but you’ll have to live with their limitations. The bad news is that there’s a few that don’t but you may be able to hack around with them if you want.
Let’s look at the players themselves.
Sandisk Sansa Series:
Sandisk’s Sansa .MP3 players are really nice. I’ve had one myself for a few years now. OS X is well supported if you’re running 10.5 Leopard or higher. If you’re still on Tiger, you’ll have to switch to an older firmware but that’s not always guaranteed to work depending on the revision of your player.
Syncing with the Sansa is done without software such as iTunes. First, put your Sansa into MSC mode under the Advanced settings. Then, through the magic of Mass Storage Support, when you connect the Sansa, it will show up on your desktop as a removable drive. Copy the songs into the “Music” folder and when you’re done, eject the player. The Sansa will restart itself and index the new music.
Note: Make sure your .MP3s are properly tagged or you’ll have a big media mess on the players.
ARCHOS .MP3 Players:
ARCHOS .MP3 players work in a similar way to the Sansas. Put your ARCHOS player into MSC mode (it may also be called “disk mode”). As long as your Mac has Mass Storage Support – it does in 10.5 and higher, it will show up on the desktop. Syncing is done manually by dragging and dropping your .MP3s into the appropriate “Music” folder.
Creative Labs Zen Series:
Creative’s Zen .MP3 players are very popular and don’t officially support OS X at all. Put your Zen into disk mode (MSC) and try connecting it. It may show up on the desktop and it may not.
If it doesn’t you can try to hack at it with XNJB. If that doesn’t work, sell it on eBay or Gazelle if it’s worthwhile and get a device that’s more open to other platforms like the Sansa, ARCHOS, Sony or iPod.
Sony Walkman Series:
Sony is still making Walkmans, except now they’re .MP3 players. With all the negative notions about Sony and their DRM, closed, proprietary, locked down ways – I thought the Walkman wouldn’t work at all with OS X. It does!
Like the Sansa and ARCHOS players, connect the Walkman to OS X and it shows up on the desktop. Just drag and drop your music into the right folder, eject and the device will index the new material.
As one may expect from Microsoft, the Zune is not compatible with the Mac. With XNJB, you can read the music but not write – no transferring music.
iTunes Style Music Management:
The devices that do work with OS X have you transferring and managing music manually. If that’s what you like, then you’re all set. If you like an iTunes style solution, both doubleTwist and Songbird are worth trying out. Supported devices vary.
Parallels, Boot Camp or VMWare Fusion:
Yes, you can use Parallels, Boot Camp or VMWare’s Fusion to use your Zune or Creative product but really – if you have to boot up a Windows machine to use your player, even if it’s running inside a Mac, that’s not OS X support.
If you have to do it though, it does work.