My colleague Chris Bidmead mentioned this gadget on Twitter today. It’s advertised as a USB stick that gives you access to thousands of internet radio and TV stations – just plug it in to your computer and you’ll be able to listen to or watch loads of stuff, absolutely free.
All for the amazing price of just £29.99 – saving you £50 over the RRP. Yes, really – this is, apparently, something that’s worth £80 normally. So it’s a real bargain, clearly. And lots of people might buy it on that basis, and think that they really do need something like this to access internet TV and radio.
It’s not worth it!
The Zennox branded device is being sold by the reader offers sections of, at least, the Daily Mirror, the Star, the Guardian, The Scotsman, Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph. In each case it’s described as an “ingenious USB stick” and I’d suggest that the true ingenuity lies in persuading people that they actually need to spend £30 on something like this to access internet TV and radio.
They don’t. The product is, in each case, supplied by a company called Clifford James, who seem to have written the original copy that’s used by all the newspaper offers. Head over to their site, and you can download the manual or follow a link to a video.
What’s clear from that is that this is not a particularly ingenious USB stick. It’s just an ordinary USB stick which contains internet radio software, that doesn’t need to be installed on your hard drive to run.
I’m a little unclear how exactly this is worth £30 of anyone’s money, let alone the claimed £80 that’s used to justify the massive saving. Even as an ordinary consumer, you can buy a 2GB USB stick for just over £3 – and in large quantities, they’ll be much less than that, even with a fancy ‘Zennox’ logo printed on them. And, frankly, I would be surprised if the one that carries this software is even as big as 2GB.
What about the software? Won’t that cost a lot? Well, true, there is internet radio software out there that costs money – I even found one package that cost about $30. But the video and the manual for this don’t show anything terribly special, and if you head over to PortableApps.com you’ll find quite a few internet radio player apps that don’t need installation on your PC, and cost precisely nothing.
In fact, you could grab yourself a copy of iTunes, and use the radio functionality built into that, completely free, or visit WindowsMedia.com for Microsoft’s directory of online stations, or perhaps visit Shoutcast.com instead, for another directory.
What you most emphatically do not need to do is to spend £30 on a USB key, while fooling yourself that you’ve really saved £50 and got a bargain. You don’t need a USB key to listen to internet radio, whether it’s from Zennox or the similarly oddly described Manhattan equivalent – you just need an internet connection and some free software; many people will already have software on their computers that provides access to lots of internet radio.
Ultimately, products like this are misleading. The less knowledgeable believe that they need something special to receive internet radio; selling them a USB key with software on it is cheeky and unnecessary. When you don’t make it clear that all you’re getting is a program, dressing it up with terms like “ingenious USB key,” that comes pretty close to disreputable, in my opinion. And it’s certainly not the sort of reader offer I expect to see in newspapers that readers might turn to for information and opinions on gadgets.
(Updated to add Telegraph and Express reader offers too)