Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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iPod Generations

852 words

The Register on losing your iPod by mugging. Seeing all the people with the obvious iPod headphones in the streets in California, made me worry about this as well. Personally I am not keen on everybody knowing that I've got an iPod. Nor do I think the 'symmetric' headphones are a particular step forward from the non-symmetric ones that came up in the 1980s. Of course the story in the previous link was brought to you by the wonderful streets of Birmingham.

Having used my iPod for a while now, I must say that I am not too sure about how useful its interface is. I have always though that the 'solid state' interface was inferior to a mechanical one. Rather than a particularly good feature it seems to be an admission along the lines of 'well, our engineers just aren't good enough to come up with something mechanical that is small and reliable enough – – – but look what we got instead'.

Apart from those 'solid state' parts likely being cheaper and less demanding on the engineers, they also have the problem of lacking any physical feedback. Want to use a particular button on you iPod while it's in you pocket? Tough luck – you'll use all the other buttons you pass first as well. Want to quickly change the volume in the same situation? Tough luck again.

Now that was just concerning the touch sensitive buttons on newer iPods. I do think, however, that the whole UI can be quite user unfriendly in that it requires you to actually look at the screen for most actions, while for most devices you use while moving that is exactly what you don't want to do.

The most prominent example for this is of course that the iPod will go back to the top menu after finishing to play an album – to the best of my knowledge, this can only be overcome by turning on repeat all (which is very poorly translated into German, btw). Another gratuitous flaw is the introduction of setting the rating via the scroll wheel (who uses those anyway?). Managing two states for the wheel for cueing and volume may still be possible but things are a complete mess this way.

The third main problem for me is the length of lists in iTunes. Basically scrolling through a list of 500 artists is neither fun nor easy to do precisely. As many of those artists are included there because I have songs by them on compilations in my library, they basically 'litter' my artist list – heck there are many I don't even know by name. I assume this wasn't as much of a problem on the original 5GB iPod, but I hope Apple will 'smarten' the iPod to deal with these cases better.

Which brings me to the 4GB iPod mini. While probably not the device for me as just deciding which parts of my library should be on it would be too hard – and I like the larger hard drive for backups -, this could be the next big thing™. Away from the buzz Apple create, with their press releases, pretty ads and inability to deliver the goods, it just makes sense.

Many people will find 4GB plenty and couldn't care less about storing data on the iPod. It's sort-of a fashion accessory (even in gold for the pimps among us), so the girls can get one matching each outfit. It is nice and small and very good to hold. They actually improved on the 'big' iPod with the cool mechanical switch and the crisper display (showing one line less, though). But they seem to charge extra for the Dock and I am not sure whether it has line-out.

The final point about the iPod mini is its non-shiny metal casing. That seems to be a very good idea to me – seeing that the 'big' iPod seems to be made of the most scratch sensitive materials available. Yes, its nice and shiny – but these things are supposed to be used and a scratched shiny item will rather start looking ugly than developing charme and being more 'personal' that way. And once you start having scratches on the display (which even I have now, despite being really careful) they'll not only make it less transparent but also cast shadows on the display in sunlight – bad design! That said, I doubt that the iPod mini is much better in that respect. Also the scratch resistance doesn't seem as good as it should be judging from the iPod minis I saw in the Apple stores in the U.S.

Apple should keep in mind that design isn't just about looks but even more about usability for all their products.

As I've been bridging different generations of iPods here, let me ask these final questions: When you see photos with first generation iPods in them don't they look very old-fashioned and chubby? And weren't they at the height of fashion just two years ago? I think it's due to the fact that they are rectangular at the front.

April 1, 2004, 11:08

Comments

Comment by ckd: User icon

I use the remote when the iPod is in my pocket/bag/etc, not least because I have a case that covers the front to keep the screen from getting scratched up.

Tactile feedback isn’t a problem with the remote.

I have used the ratings-on-the-iPod feature a few times, though I do most of my ratings using iTunes and Synergy.

This blog entry covers some of what I do with smart playlists.

April 1, 2004, 17:22

Comment by ssp: User icon

I am not too fond of the remote, as I think it makes the cable too long. At least during the winter months, I found it quite convenient to carry the iPod in the back pocket of my trousers and have the wiring under the top layer of clothing. At least that way the remote wouldnt be of much use.

Personally I haven’t used ratings at all.

April 2, 2004, 11:34

Comment by Diane: User icon

I am looking for the iPod T-shirt the one with the dancers ore more beautiful. Apple deson’t sell them anywhere. And the people at the Apple Store didn’t know where to get them. I am looking for iPod Dancers Magnets and buttons too!!!

December 19, 2004, 15:30

Comment by Palmer: User icon

I use my ipod photo for biking and i just pull it out of my pocket, keep one hand on the handle bar, and change the song/playlist/artist. It’s fine.

June 25, 2005, 21:53

Comment by Sanjay: User icon

Gotta love the new iPOD bluetooth headphones..which have dedicated volume and track and power button on the device… I keep my iPOD in my pocket and totally control via the wireless headphone.. awesome…

September 20, 2005, 15:26

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