Friday, September 07, 2007

the iPod, three weeks in

I adore my iPod Nano. It's one of my favorite birthday gifts I can remember, ranking up there with my Rocket eBook (back when it was the coolest e-book reader on the planet). I'm impressed with the battery life: it's got close to double the life of my old Zen Nano, and five times the battery life of my Axim handheld. I also like its ability to create new playlists on the fly; just hold the center button for a second or two when a track is selected, and it's added to the On The Go playlist. I like the sound quality, I like the EQ settings, and I like the physical design, from the extremely-portable form factor to the intuitive user interface. And 8 gigs is an enormous amount of music. I like that iTunes now lets you specify which playlists you want to sync (unlike some early versions) with each iPod; this makes it a lot easier to use multiple iPods with the same computer (like, say, Laura's Mini and my Nano).

On the other hand, it's got some features that make no sense, from an end-user standpoint. For one thing, how many people own and/or use more than one computer? But you can still only use your iPod with one at a time, in any practical sense. I also have a quirky problem when I use the "shuffle" function on the iPod. Sometimes, it shuffles all the songs from all the playlists together. Sometimes it works fine, but I've shuffled my cycling playlist and ended up with bits of audiobook in the mix. This might be an operator problem. It's happened twice so far, and both times I've just re-shuffled, and it's gone back to shuffling within playlists. I also wish it would remember my place in a playlist if I switch to another playlist and back. If I'm listening to a book-on-mp3 and change to music for the bike ride, when I change back to the book I have to relocate which track I was on. I don't know if htis is because I don't listen to official Apple-sanctioned audiobooks; mine are mostly just mp3 files.

And I have to say I'm irritated with Apple's policy of not telling you when new products are about to be released. I feel a bit sorry for the people who bought their iMacs the day before Apple rolled out their new iMac line; I only hope Apple has a somewhat-friendly return policy. I had my Nano for less than a month when they released the new Nano line with widescreen video. I think I prefer the smaller form factor of the old nano, and I don't think I'd ever watch movies on it anyway. Still, it would've been nice to have the choice. The only upgrade I can picture is the iPod Touch, essentially a large-capacity iPhone without the phone functions or camera. But I wasn't going to spend $500 or $600 for an iPhone, and I'm not going to spend $300 or $400 for the same product minus the phone. Despite their excellent product design, Apple isn't the white knight of the electronics world; they're more of the smoky grey knight, replete with unnaturally expensive hardware, borderline-evil pricing policies, bad new-product release policies, and quirky (but well-marketed) customer service. This is why Apple owes so much to Microsoft: the Black Knight of Redmond makes Apple look lily-white by comparison.

Still, I'm extremely happy with my slightly-old-school Nano. I'd recommend it, but you can't buy them anymore....

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