This is what happens when the most popular product on the market is actually the best product available: Any would-be usurpers come across as shoddy knock-offs.
On the left, the reigning champ supreme, Apple’s iPod. On the right, Creative Labs’ Zen Micro (no relation).
What we see in the user interface buttons of the Zen Micro isn’t much of a user interface. It’s more like what goes underneath the interface — the touch-sensitive pads you’d expect to find if you peeled off the metal faceplate, or the messy internals you’d be exposed to if you dropped your cell phone on the floor and shattered the front. If they’ve thought about those buttons any further than “Back on the left, Forward on the right” I’m having a hard time finding evidence of it.
A few minor iPod usability quirks aside (which mainly revolve around difficulty operating the song/playlist selection through a jacket, without taking it out, which is mainly in turn a combination of exceptionally high expectations and just out-and-out laziness) Apple has the portable music browsing interface perfected.
No one is going to topple the iPod on ease of use. Which leaves features, or price. When the consumer has the assurance of quality, combined with the lure of popularity, paying a premium isn’t that hard to stomach.