July 26, 2004

New iPod: Smart or dumb?

So, if you're into MP3 players, it likely won't have escaped your attention that Apple have once again updated the iPod. Short version: it's a bit thinner, the battery life is up from 8 to 12 hours, and it's 100 dollars cheaper.

When I first heard about this, I was underwhelmed. The sorts of features I had been hoping Apple might consider for the iPod included:-

  • Line-in recording for use at gigs or round at friends' houses.
  • FM tuner
  • Recording from the tuner (and although I'm not desperate to see it myself, doesn't it seem logical that once you have a hard disk, an FM tuner and a powerful OS, that you might as well throw in Tivo-style recording for the radio, so your iPod could automatically record every episode of The News Quiz for you?)
  • Simple removable hard disk operation rather than stopping me seeing the MP3s on its disk.
  • SD card slot to archive my digital photos on to its hard disk.

But perhaps I'm wrong: there's a cogent analysis here suggesting that Apple have in fact fixed exactly the two things that they needed to. The only area where iPods lag behind the competition is battery life and price; 8 hours is right at the bottom of the scale for MP3 players, and $500 (for the 40GB model) is right at the top of the price scale. So maybe what they've actually done is opened up the market to a larger proportion of the population, for whom the existing aura of cool and the new lower price might be enough to persuade them that now's the time to buy.

- 3 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Hmm. Can't help but observe that two of the items in your list are already possible with a 3rd generation iPod (dock connector).

    You can already get an accessory from Belkin, the Voice Recorder for iPod w/ Dock Connector which allows you to record to the iPod. Probably not as high quality as you want, but there nonetheless.

    Also from Belkin is the Media Reader for iPod w/ Dock Connector. This does exactly what you want from the last item on your list – read images from SD (and MMC, CF, SmartMedia, MemoryStick) so you can dump your camera's contents onto the iPod.

    Given the huge fuss around music sharing/downloading, I'm not surprised that Apple haven't made it easier to get music off the iPod. I guess the argument goes you must already have the music somewhere else to get it on there in the first place, so if you need it, get it from there. I'm not saying I agree with that view, and there are plenty of hacks to get around this. Have a look at www.ipodlounge.com and the software download section to find some of them. Being able to do this can be a lifesaver – when the disk failed in my laptop extracting the contents of my iPod back into iTunes saved me an awful lot of re-encoding time!

    The radio idea is neat – what would be infinitely cooler, though, would be the BBC releasing recordings of their shows in a format I can copy to my iPod (you can already listen to programmes off air for a limited period of time via the Internet, so this would be a nice next step).

    27 Jul 2004, 07:21

  2. Steven Carpenter

    I'm glad I managed to resist temptation until this version – I think it's time I took the plunge. My MPIO player is great but 512Mb is a bit limiting these days. Not sure the MOD would agree though!

    27 Jul 2004, 08:53

  3. John Dale

    Can't help but observe that two of the items in your list are already possible…

    The operative word in that statement is possible. The microphone attachment is mono and makes WAV files, not MP3 files, and WAV files which sound like they're coming from the bottom of the ocean at that. And the media reader is bigger than the iPod itself! If I wanted to carry around another device the size of an iPod, I'd have lots of choices; my point was that I wanted something with the elegance and simplicity of an iPod, but which could do rather more. Similarly, while I'm aware of hacks like CopyPod, I'd prefer to avoid third party hacks.

    27 Jul 2004, 12:04

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