Monthly Archives: December 2004

Why I Don’t Love my iPod

A few months ago I finally took the plunge and bought myself an iPod, after resisting the temptation for over a year, because I was accruing a large number of MP3 music files on my computer that I wanted to listen to on the subway and at the gym etc., and it was too tedious and time-consuming to keep loading them all onto Minidiscs.

I bought the “new version” Apple 40GB iPod from the Apple Store in Arlington, VA for $399 plus tax, and after living with it for about three or four months now, I like it, but I don’t love it; here’s why:

1. Battery Life

The battery life is still pretty poor, even though mine is the “new, improved” iPod that is supposed to have up to 12 hours battery life. I’ve never timed it, but it sure doesn’t feel like 12 hours — the thing ALWAYS seems to need recharging, and the battery meter drops to less than 100% within seconds of use immediately after charging. With an iPod, it seems, the battery is always less than half full!

2. Easily Scratched Screen

The LCD screen on my iPod is now so scratched up that it’s hard to read some of the text unless the backlight is on. If I had known the screen was so easy to scratch, I would have bought some kind of protective case for it, but why does the screen have to be made out of such easily-scratched material? My mobile phone also has an exposed LCD screen, and it’s survived for more than two years being much more thoroughly abused, bouncing around in pockets full of loose change without sustaining anywhere near the same level of scratches.

3. Gaps Between Songs

When listening to DJ-mixed albums, the iPod inserts an infuriating fraction-of-a-second gap between tracks that mix smoothly and seamlessly from one to the next on the CD, totally screwing up the beat and the mix. My Sony Minidisc didn’t do this, so why does my iPod?

4. iTunes Library Management

I bought my 40GB iPod before I really understood the iTunes Music Library model, whereby you build up a library of tunes and playlists etc. on your computer’s hard drive, then synchronize the contents of the iPod with the contents of the iTunes Library on the computer. However, my laptop only has a 40GB hard drive, and I need to use quite a lot of that for other stuff, such as my files, applications and an operating system. This means that I’ll never be able to use more than about 25% of my iPod’s capacity, unless I abandon the “automatically synchronized library” approach — which would be significantly more effort. It would be nice if iTunes offered a choice when importing music of EITHER importing to the iTunes Libary and synchronizing, OR copying directly to the iPod, on a tune by tune basis.

5. Truncated Names

There’s no way to scroll across long names (e.g. album names, artist names, track names etc.) that are truncated because they don’t fit on the display. I have a bunch of Global Underground CDs, for example, that (until I renamed them all by hand) all came up with completely indistinguishable abbreviated names.

6. White iPod, White Headphones and Headphone Socket

Although the iPod is undeniably an attractively designed object, why don’t full-size iPods come in different colours, like the iPod Mini? I’m not very fond of the white case, and would much prefer either black, dark grey or silver. Similarly I wasn’t very comfortable using the supplied telltale white headphones, not only because they are not very comfortable and sound mediochre at best, but also because I didn’t like advertising the fact that I was an iPod user (and I’m not alone in wanting to remain discreet, as a recent Wired article, IPod Users Go Into the Closet, amply demonstrates). No problem, I thought, I’ll just use my Sony Fontopia earbuds, which are comfortable, sound great and come in discreet black. However, this is when I discovered that the Apple minijack socket on the iPod (and the jack on the Apple heaphones) is a few micrometers greater in diameter than normal, such that the minijack on my Sony earbuds is a loose fit and regularly gets accidentally unplugged from my iPod.

Mind you,

having said all that, it is of course nice to have a huge library of music at your fingertips, the user interface is pretty damn great, the ability to use it as an ultraportable hard drive is very cool, and it meets what is probably my biggest “PDA” requirement: I can quickly export my contacts list from Lotus Organizer on my laptop as a vCard file and store it as a browsable list on the iPod, giving me quick easy access to all my contact information without having to lug around and boot up a laptop.

So I guess I’ll continue using it for the time being!