iPodspotting in Paris: who’s number one? | iLounge Backstage


iPodspotting in Paris: who’s number one?

It started out as a game: we’d try to spot the white earbuds in crowded subways and on streets. But then we began to notice something. The ratios were different. It was more obvious on some days and at some times than others, but by Manhattan (circa two weeks ago) standards, the iPod seemed to be more closely matched by competitors in Paris than elsewhere in our travels.


That’s not to say that we haven’t spotted lots of iPods here. Dennis has counted thirty or forty a day without trying too hard. We’ve seen them on the Champs Elysses (above), La Defense, near the Eiffel Tower, the Sorbonne, and everywhere in between. But despite very conspicuous advertising here for the iPod nano, we’ve yet to see one in anyone’s hands. Why? A local FNAC store was selling a 4GB nano for more than the cost of a 20GB iPod (likely black and white, but hard to tell), and French prices for 4GB and 20GB color models are only 10 Euros different. Worse yet, a 2GB nano sells here for nearly $300 - the prices go up from there. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that we haven’t seen lots of color iPods on the streets here, either - mostly minis and older black-and-white models.


There’s another possible “why,” too. Stores here are stocked with competing options (see above), including myriad flash players from various companies, and hands-on displays are overflowing with different models to compare and consider. Put on display next to all of these options, the iPod shuffle really suffers, and it appears to translate directly into less street presence. We’ve noticed that quite a few people here wear flash devices around their necks, but we’ve seen zero iPod shuffles conspicuously worn. Again, prices might have something to do with it. A 512MB shuffle sells for over $130, while competing screened 512MB flash players here can be had for around $67. Which would you buy?

We’ve said it before, and will say it again: at the wrong (read: too high) prices, even the best technologies will fail to win the audiences they deserve. But from what we can see, it’s not too late to change that - if Apple really wants to increase the iPod’s international strength.

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Not to burst your bubble, but when I was in S.F. for WWDC this year iPods were - even with a 15% discount for WWDC attendees - almost the same price as they were in Australia at the time (given student discount).  That is to say, the Australian ones were slightly cheaper.

I was pretty miffed.  I’d waited patiently ‘till WWDC, figuring I’d pick up a 60 gig slightly cheaper, only to find I then had to wait yet again to get back to Australia.  Some 25 hours total of flight time with no iPod.  Gah!

Posted by Wade Tregaskis on September 21, 2005 at 3:59 AM (CDT)


It’s true that here in France iPods are not very common. Among my son’s schoolmates - he’s 15 - only one kid has an iPod (that was last year in a school of about 400 kids; this year he’s just started in a bigger school, and has yet to report) and many of them don’t know what an iPod is. Compare that to US teens who all, at least, know what an iPod is.

Granted, I live in a rural area, but it shows that the iPod is not the only game in town here.

Posted by Kirk McElhearn on September 21, 2005 at 4:37 AM (CDT)


I can’t comment on your finding a 512MB MP3 player for $67, but my observations are that in Europe, Apple is pricing the iPod reasonably competitively here with just a small uplift on the exchange rate. 

What you are not understanding dear friends are two factors which apply equally to all manufacturers:
1. VAT (our sales tax) which is always INCLUDED in displayed prices rather than added on.  In the UK that’s 17.5%, and in France I think it’s slightly higher.  (Actually, as outside EU visitors, you can claim this tax back on leaving, unlike visitors to the US who cannot claim the sales tax back!)
2. In France only, they have an “iPod tax” which I assume is levied on all mp3 players to compensate for copyright violations whether you do them or not!  This is currently a whopping €51 ($60 or so).  See this article for details:
So, that’s why in France the prices appear astronomical.  These factors apply equally to all manufacturers following the law.
I’m sure Apple would not unduly increase prices in France, so I think you’ll find these factors outside their control.

Posted by Ian Hobson on September 21, 2005 at 5:08 AM (CDT)


I believe you can claim any state tax back on items purchased in the US if you are a visitor. You have to go to the Customs Desk at the point of departure and get a claim form which is then submitted and you get a refund paid into your bank. I haven’t tried this as the items I have bought have always been way below any UK price - swings and roundabouts.

Re: iPod spotting. I think that it may just be a fluke as a trip down streets in another great European capital, London, will have you counting into triple figures. I know last time I was “in town” the iPod (or at least the earbuds) were everywhere.
Even in Cambridge the iPod is pretty well accounted for amongst residents. I do notice that a lot of Asian visitors tend to have other flash players over the likes of the shuffle. That is more than likely due to the low price in their homeland and a desire for the gadget with most ‘bells and whistles’ on (of which the shuffle isn’t).

It is true that in a lot of stores the Apple iPod ‘family’ is usually on display with other DAPs and this can be a factor when you are trying to choose the best value for money. I have often listened in on sales assistants giving advice on DAPs and in the vast majority of cases the advice has been skewed away from Apple products, sometimes with quite false information.
With the gradual increase in Apple Storesin the UK I dare say the situation will change.

I note that Paris (or France even) does not have a Apple Store ‘on the ground’. Another factor in the lack of iPods on the street maybe?
You have more Apple Stores in California than the rest of the world! With one in almost every mall, the percentage of visible iPod users is going to be high.
I recall from my trip to NY how many iPod users there were, and users openly carrying their iPods around, even on the subway.

So yes, higher prices, lack of concrete stores and pitching the iPod range against other cheaper options is probably all factors in the low visibilty of iPod on the streets of Paris.

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on September 21, 2005 at 6:58 AM (CDT)


The wooping €51 on 4G nano in France comes from a special tax on all mp3 players, usually called SORECOP. It has been set to compensate music piracy. But (don’t ask me why!) this tax is much higher on flash based players than on hard drive based players : around 10€/GB for flash and around 1,5€/GB for HD. So, this tax is around 43€ on the 4GB iPod nano (on which 19,6% VAT is applied, leading to around 51€ !!) and around 8€ on a 4GB iPod mini. As far as I know, the SORECOP is completly aware of this, and a meeting is scheduled on october 13th to harmonize those taxes and set the same ration on flash than on HD players. Then, we can imagine that nano will be around 269€ (VAT included) instead of 319€ (VAT included) before christmas in France. We don’t know what people were smoking while choosing such tax calculation methods… ;-)
I live in France but I bought mine 250€ (VAT and transport included) in Germany, thanks to the web and Europe Union !
Hope it’s clearer for u. Sorry for my approximative english.

Posted by niko on September 21, 2005 at 7:10 AM (CDT)


One thing to note, in France, is that the FNAC distributor is a very important one, kind of a reference. And the FNAC has its own digital music store (FNAC Music), that uses protected WMA. As it is incompatible with the iPod family (Apple refused them to license FairPlay), they tend to skew custumers away from iPods and other non protected-wma compatible players.

Posted by niko on September 21, 2005 at 7:18 AM (CDT)


The $67 MP3 player is linked here for reference, from FNAC.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 21, 2005 at 8:50 AM (CDT)


No apology needed for your English - it is a 1000 times better than my French ;-)

SORECOP sounds a bit warped, differentiating between flash and HD players as it does…

Maybe they need to rename it SOURPOP? :-D

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on September 21, 2005 at 9:42 AM (CDT)


Well, I can understand the differenciation between flash and hd as a way to squeeze more money from flash players packing a lot less storage than hd. But calculations were made when 64 or 128MB were standard in flash and 5GB standard in hd. I suppose it was also calculated so that sorecop tax do not represent more than 5 or 10% of the player price. But they didn’t think that somebody called Steve Jobs (I mean Apple, but isn’t it the same right now ? ;-) ) would release a 4GB flash player at less than 250€ a fews days ago !
At least they should have proposed a more flexible solutino than it is now : they clearly didn’t anticipate. Hopefully it will be fixed in a few weeks, before christmas sales…

Posted by niko on September 21, 2005 at 10:32 AM (CDT)


Something doesn’t add up here. If the tax on a 512M flash player works out to about $60, how can FNAC’s player sell for just $67? They can’t possibly make a profit at $7, can they?

Posted by paul on September 21, 2005 at 2:14 PM (CDT)


paul, the tax for flash is around 10€/GigaByte, not 10€ for 100Mo. To be more precise, the Apple Store France says that price for the 512MB Shuffle includes 6,43€ of sorecop tax It means, it is exactly 12,86€/GB, that’s exactly 51,44€ for a 4GB nano..

Apple Store link timed out

Posted by niko on September 21, 2005 at 4:04 PM (CDT)


In Poland (where I live) iPod is horribly expensive. 20GB with color screen costs 440-470 $. It’s a mad price.

Posted by marcesco on September 23, 2005 at 2:14 PM (CDT)


I live in Sweden and the prices we got there are also higher if you change currency to US Dollars. If you buy the Nano in the US Apple Store it will cost you 249 dollars. If you buy the Nano in Swedish Apple Store it costs about 350 dollars. Many “sweeds” buy their iPods in the US because it’s much cheaper. All the iPod models are much more expensive in Sweden compared to The States. And I have also done some iPod spotting. Like 5 people in my class have mini’s and I always see at least 6-7 people a day in Stockholm with iPod’s. The majority of “sweeds” have mini’s I think.

Posted by hamonio on September 25, 2005 at 11:51 AM (CDT)


Well here in Switzerland, I can see very many iPods (In ears or in hands).

I can normally count between 5 or 6 at a busy tramstop. Certainly much more than 50% share.

Posted by solomalee on September 26, 2005 at 2:38 AM (CDT)


It’s not too common to spot the white earbuds out here in the Philippines, unless you’re in the urbanized parts of the city. But that could be due to a number of reasons, one being that the iPod community in our country is still growing, and another reason being that commuters are avoiding getting mugged. Muggers haven’t caught on to the value of those white buds, but you can never be too cautious. What used to be a symbol of social status has now become a necessity for gadget freaks and music lovers out here.

Posted by dizchik on September 26, 2005 at 4:07 AM (CDT)


iPods are not that expensive here in France (except the SORECOP tax). We used to pay a lot more for Apple products before the euro.

VAT in France is 19,6 % also…

There is also another explanation why you didn’t see more iPods in the streeet. People don’t show them. They keep them in their bags or pocket and some people also use black earbud headphones, because there are some thieves…

Posted by Steph on September 26, 2005 at 9:57 AM (CDT)


iPod Nano is sold out in 2 day when it release in Singapore!!

The 4GB version & the black ones..

Now only left the white ones with 2BG…

Posted by Qiu on September 26, 2005 at 3:30 PM (CDT)


U.S. Customs has nothing to do with STATE taxes. Customs (now CBP) is a federal agency. Each state has a different tax and some offer rebates but not all.

Posted by Jim on October 24, 2005 at 4:48 AM (CDT)


Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it a 1/2 hour drive and your in another country? Now i don’t know the taxes in Europe, but couldn’t you take a trip to italy (a lovely place) or Switerland or some other country and bring one back? I mean that was the reason for bringing in the Euro, was it not? There is also the possibility of buying an ipod off the apple website, or ebay, which is a good way to pick up an ipod without tax. Then again I would have no idea, just an outsiders point of view

Posted by Adam on November 28, 2005 at 3:04 AM (CST)


In the Philippines, most people have Ipods. It actually caught on with the cellphone frenzy!  Good thing that it did.  I used to work for DPSI (AUTHORIZE APPLE RESELLER in the P.I.) and at that time, we had a hard time pushing mac products.  BUT THIS TIME, people have finally realize that Apple products are superior and definitely worth every buck spent!

Posted by JAGA on December 15, 2005 at 10:45 AM (CST)


It’s just this simple.  I live in Washington DC, you might have heard of our stupidly high crime rate?  Anyway I’ve used iPods since v2 and I ONLY use the when headphones at home.  To wear them in public is a statement but also an advertisement to anyone that I have SOME kind of iPod on me they can steal and sell probably within 5 minutes.  So I wear non-descript black sony headphones that can come with any crappy mp3 player.  It’s the same idea as trying to count how many vegetarians there are by counting the number of people not wearing leather. 

Have a good one

Posted by Patryn121 on January 2, 2006 at 11:09 AM (CST)

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