What Is a Portable Media Player (PMP)?

Learn what a portable media player is, and how to use one

Young Black Male businessman listening to music

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The term portable media player (often shortened to just PMP) defines any type of portable electronic device that is capable of handling digital media. Depending on the capabilities of the device, the types of media files that can be played include digital music, audiobooks, and video.

Portable media players are often generically named as MP4 players to describe their multimedia capabilities. But, this shouldn't be confused with the idea that they are just compatible with the ​MP4 format. Incidentally, the term PMP also contrasts with another digital music term, DAP (digital audio player), which is usually used to describe MP3 players that can only handle audio.

Examples of Devices That Qualify as Portable Media Players

As well as dedicated portable media players, there are other electronic devices that can also have multimedia playback facilities, thus qualifying them as PMPs. These include:

  • Smartphones / cellphones
  • Satellite navigation receivers (satnavs)
  • Digital cameras
  • Internet-connected tablets
  • Smartwatches

What Are the Main Uses of a Dedicated Portable Media Player?

With the rise in popularity of smartphones, sales of dedicated PMPs have inevitably fallen. However, because they are often a lot smaller than smartphones, it can be easier to enjoy your media library while on the move — some even come with clips for easy attachment to a sleeve or pocket.

  • Digital Music — perhaps the most popular use of a PMP. Songs that you have purchased from music download stores or ripped from CDs can easily be transferred to a dedicated PMP. A USB cable is usually the method used, but wireless transfers are also possible in many cases with newer PMPs.
  • Audiobooks / Podcasts — the spoken word is another way of using a PMP. This can be via downloaded audiobooks or Podcasts which are free.
  • Music Videos — with a reasonably large enough screen, a PMP can be a good way of watching your favorite artists and bands either by streaming video or downloading from the Internet.

Other Features of Portable Media Players

As well as the popular uses mentioned above, PMPs can also have other useful facilities too. This can include:

  • FM Radio — some portable media players can have a built-in FM tuner. This enables the user to listen to live radio broadcasts, just like using a traditional radio receiver. To improve radio reception, the wire used for your earbuds doubles as the FM aerial. 
  • Recording External Audio — PMPs can also double as voice/sound recorders too. If there is an integrated microphone, you can store external sound in digital forms — such as voice or live music. This can then be played back on your portable or transferred at a later date to a computer.
  • Displaying Photos — most dedicated PMPs don't come with a camera as smartphones do. However, they can very often be used to display photos and images. In fact, while playing your music, album art is usually displayed while the songs play.
  • Reading Ebooks — on a modern portable media player, there is sometimes the facility to display ebooks. This can either be a built-in feature or one that can be added using a downloadable app.
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