Apr 28, 2006


I bought my wife an iPod this week. She works out a lot and has been working very hard lately so I thought it would make a nice gift. She seems to like it a lot but I guess I'm just missing the attraction of these devices. It may be the best mp3 player out there but that doesn't make it good. There are a number of problems with it.
  1. Sound. I'm willing to give a small portable device some slack when it comes to the sound department. It doesn't need to be perfect and besides I'm no audiophile. I don't even own a stereo. But at the end of the day the device just couldn't hit all the registers of the songs I was playing. And I don't think it's an encoding problem as I had everything set to the insane setting on lame (~320kbs). It seems like the earbuds are regularly replaced by people who buy iPods so the problem must lie there.
  2. Earbuds. Do these things fit into anyone's ears? They kept falling out. Even my wife thought they were an abomination. Jogging with these just won't work. We'll need to buy a replacement.
  3. Size. Ironically I found it (I bought a Nano btw) too small. It's nice that Apple's focused on size but at some point it interferes with your ability to control the device easily. In this case the Nano is too tiny. It doesn't fit into my hands well. I'd have liked a little more girth. It wouldn't detract from the portability if it was twice as thick and a little wider. I suspect that is why a lot of people still like the Mini best. That's a good size.
  4. Navigation. It's probably blasphemous to say but I'm just not digging the scroll wheel. I must say the Blackberry's approach with a jog wheel is a better solution. The scroll wheel creates the same problem I have with cell phones. My thumb doesn't naturally articulate well when forced towards the front of the device. It sits more comfortably on the side of the device. It was awkward to circle the scroll wheel and press buttons.
  5. Sensitivity. The 'touch pad'-like nature of the scroll wheel is nice because it means you don't get nasty buildup in the crevices. But it's also hard to avoid bumping and nudging the wheel or the buttons. I found myself constantly cranking up the volume accidentally. Again a jog wheel would alleviate this problem.
  6. Battery. This really is the worst aspect of the Nano. I don't know if the other models are better or not. But there is no way it has 14 hours of playing power. I'm guessing it's closer to 8-10 at best. I didn't run it all the way down and I didn't time it either but I was getting very low on the battery reading after only a few hours of screwing around with it. This unfortunately will get worse with time.
  7. Interface with iTunes. I don't know if the Apple implementation is better or if I'm just not used to the way Apple designs their software but I felt a little helpless during the syncing process. A lot of the loading of songs is automated. You hook it up and it syncs. I guess that is the "It Just Works" approach. I guess I'm the type of guy that likes a "Sync Now" type of button. And it wasn't obvious to me how to get songs off or how to easily specify which songs get loaded. Luckily I just pointed iTunes to a folder with 7 albums of stuff I wanted to put on the iPod. But longer term, and with some 12,000 songs on my computer, I clearly would need to exert more control over what gets loaded. I can't think of a good way to solve this but drag and drop seems to be the most obvious. I don't know if this is possible or not.
These problems would be pretty easy to fix. Make the thing bigger. Use the extra space for a bigger battery. Enable drag and drop. Drop the scroll wheel for a jog wheel. You could even use all that space in the front for a bigger screen then. I'd be all over that device.

And while I'm here kvetching. Is Best Buy the worst store? I went into Best Buy to pick up the Nano. Without even asking me, the lady helping out says, "Of course you'll need a charger and a case to go along with that" and proceeds to grab those items.

It was after work so my brain was kind of turned off. "Of course... You need to charge it right? And I've heard this thing scratches easily. Yeah of course".

Then my brain kicked in. "It doesn't have a charger? Wait a second. Of course it has a f**king charger. And didn't Apple announce they were going to include a case now?".

Quickly I belt out "no".

"No?", she says. But really she was saying "Are you an idiot? Are you questioning my superior salesperson skills? Don't look like a fool man. Get the redundant accessories!"

I just stared at her. I'm good at staring and never feel particularly uncomfortable doing it.

"Fine", she says emphatically after the pregnant pause I was trying to conjure up ripened.

Next we needed to go get the iPod. Good companies generally focus on a particular segment of the population they want to serve. In Best Buy's case this target segment is the career criminal. I know this because everything in that store is locked up.

She led me to the back of the store where they had the iPods locked up in a huge cage. The litter hadn't been changed in days and the water bowls were empty. The iPods did their best to preen themselves and purr and play friendly as we came up. Bambi eyes on every one of them. I spotted a nice white one in the back and said, "she's just what I'm looking for."

And then to make me feel completely dirty some massive tree trunk, with a name tag reading "Stan", decides he wants to see my receipt. They spared me the cavity search thankfully. Can we officially agree never to step foot in that store again Chook?

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