I’ve always had 2 basic problems with iPods, you have to use their software to load the thing, and they all run a good 10 to 20% more expensive than the competition. I got a 32GB Samsung P3 that works just like a USB drive when it comes to loading software, has a speaker (pretty good one even), can play games (though I don’t care), has 5 “on the fly” playlists plus how ever many “permanent” playlists as you want to load, and it was $50 less than any 32GB iPod. This is why I don’t understand the iPod’s market dominance, at any level you can find better products for cheaper. The biggest thing I see pushing their market share is they’ve managed to become synonymous with “MP3 player”, kind of like Kleenix, Q-Tip and Xerox used to be, I think a lot of people don’t even look at anything other than iPods.
Which isn’t to say your analysis of why the iPhone slipped is wrong, just to say it should be true of the iPod too. I think the big thing is smartphone competition came on early enough and hard enough to prevent iPhone from becoming synonymous with smartphone so people looking into the market aren’t self limiting their language.
To your point:
"you have to use their software to load the thing..."
it ain't necessarily so (apologies to Gershwin).
For years I've used www.Winamp.com as my music manager--no iTunes!
*easy to use
*nowhere NEAR the resource hog that iTunes is
I looked up the Samsung player. Interestingly although it was marked down to $260 and so about $50 cheaper than the most equal product from Apple the iPod Touch. However, it was marked down from $329.
Another aspect is that the major competitors in the smartphone market are more well known. Google, Motorola, Verizon etc are well known brands. They also have the money to get behind their product with advertisements. Other than maybe a few Zune commercials I don’t think I have ever seen an mp3 player ad outside of Apple’s. Creative was in the mp3 market before Apple, but didn’t have the money to dominate it like Apple did. And despite some offerings from others now, they are like you said too late and can’t compete with the ecosystem, which I imagine more people like than dislike.