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A headset with rhythm
The champagne-colored MPower3 is shaped more like an oversized AA battery than an MP3 player. But it works like other similar devices, attaching to your mobile's headset jack (only certain models are compatible). The 64MB player comes with earbuds that have an in-line mike. The MPower3 lacks the Samsung Uproar's capability to send the ring tone right to the headphones, so hearing the mobile ring in your bag while you're listening to music can be a challenge. When the phone does ring, just flip the mike's switch and start talking; you'll hear the caller in the earbuds, and you can speak comfortably through the mike. The biggest perk of the MPower3's external setup is that the unit uses its own power (two AA batteries give you 10 hours of music), not the phone's.
Getting music onto the MPower3's internal memory is sinfully easy. Connect it to your computer with the USB cable, and the MPower3 appears as an external drive. Once the device is attached and the software is installed, you just drag and drop MP3s onto the drive. Unfortunately, this player doesn't have an LCD. It also lacks features such as resume, shuffle, and playlist support, so you're stuck listening to songs in the order that you loaded them.
While we were initially skeptical about the MPower3's design--it's not as compact or as modern-looking as similar products sold by cell-phone manufacturers--it did feel comfortable in the hand or the pocket. We also like the rocker navigation button on top of the device, but we wish that it weren't so sensitive. On more than one occasion, the sound cut out right in the middle of a song or the MPower3 skipped ahead to the next tune simply because this control knocked against some pocket change. We wondered why there's no Hold button to deactivate the controls. If you're thinking of buying this to use while you jog or work out, you're in for a bumpy ride.
How does it sound?
Design issues aside, the MPower3 does produce decent sound, though we would welcome some EQ options for tweaking the bass levels. The MPower3 performed adequately as a phone headset. Callers said that they could hear us loud and clear, although we couldn't always hear their voices coming through both earbuds. Unfortunately, you cannot swap in alternate headphones, so what you see is what you get. If you find the earbuds uncomfortable or want the full sound provided by enclosed headphones, you're out of luck.
Ultimately, this isn't a new idea. Ericsson and Motorola already have MP3 player accessories for many of their models, but the MPower3 does something those players can't: It works with mobiles from many different manufacturers. If your phone is compatible with the MPower3, $99 is a very reasonable price for adding 64MB of MP3 playback to your phone, especially if you're OK with a no-frills listening experience. But more demanding MP3 fans will be better off spending the extra cash on a standalone player.