Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts on the New iPod Line

It used to be that when Apple announced an update to it's product line, you cursed yourself for having bought the previous model, even if it came out a year ago. After watching Steve Jobs's announcement for the new iPod models, I feel the opposite. I find myself content with the iPods i have, and feel no desire to get new ones, not even that unrealistic sense of needing to have what's new. If anything, I'm worried that if the ones I do have break, I'd be forced to get one of the newer models I'd rather avoid. (Although I still buy CDs, I bought enough songs off iTunes with DRM to feel tethered to the iPod brand.)

I had this problem before when my first generation iPod Shuffle went on the fritz. I bought the Shuffle to have a simple bare bones music player for when I workout. By the time it stopped working correctly the Shuffle was at it's third generation. The line had been upgraded so that the player was the size of a stick of Trident and the buttons had been moved onto the wire of the earphones. Not wanting to be stuck with the basic Apple earbuds, and not caring for any of the other new features, I bought one of the last second generation shuffles which was an improvement over the original without unnecessary bells and whistles.

(On a side note, it turned out my first generation Shuffle wasn't broken at all, but that a bug in a software update messed it up. By the time I realized this I already had a shiny new iPod Shuffle in my hands that I didn't care to take back.)

At least Apple realized that people hated the lack of buttons on the 3rd generation Shuffle, so they brought them back for the 4th generation one. After acknowledging the consumer dissatisfaction with the 3rd generation Shuffle's lack of buttons, surprised when Jobs announced the new Nano would have a touchscreen instead of buttons, making it look less like previous versions of the Nano and more like a jazzed up version of the Shuffle.

I honestly don't see this one going over well. With a display of 1.5 inches, I think the new Nano is just too small. I'm of average size, and sometimes even my bony fingers are too fat for my iPhone to figure out exactly where on the screen I'm pressing. I just don't see how anybody can effectively navigate the menus with such little space to move their fingers.

What also worried me about the announcement was that there was no mention of the iPod Classic. This presumably means one of two things. Apple is fine with the product the way it is, or they plan to drop it soon. Hopefully it's the former. My 30GB Classic is on the verge of maxing out storage space, and there's a spiderweb crack on the glass front. Odds are I'll want to replace it in a year or so and I'd prefer to just get another Classic.

I wouldn't want an iPod touch because as I mentioned, I already have an iPhone. Even though my iPhone can play music, I'd rather have a separate music player. For one thing, I can listen to hours of music without having to worry that I'll have a dead cell phone at the end of the day. On top of that, I'd rather not leave my cell phone in a dock out in the open at a party, just so others can listen to music.

More importantly, I like the clickwheel on the Classic. It lets me operate the iPod completely blind. I can skip ahead to another song or adjust the volume without having to take it out of my pocket to make sure I'm hitting the right part of the screen. Better yet, I can use it while driving. I can change songs or playlists without taking my eyes off the road just as if I were changing the radio station or tracks on a CD. With the Touch, you have to actually look at the screen to know what you're doing. There's no tactile feedback. If you're driving, I doubt a cop will care that you were just changing the song on your iPod and not texting somebody.

Hopefully one of two things happens. Either the Classic sticks around, or if Apple does finally decide to drop it, they bring the clickwheel back to the Nano and up its storage capacity to something around 60GB. Maybe then I'll once again feel the urge to have to get it right away.

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