First real impressions with the iPod

I bought the iPod a few days before I left the US for a week, but it was attached to my PC while downloading music for several days straight. This is because music has to be converted over to a format the player can accept. I don’t know of any other major player that does not work with WMA. But I knew about that limitation before.

On the flight over from SFO to AMS I noticed one of the other huge limitations of the iPod. Unfortunately I did not have a direct flight: SFO to DEN then DEN to AMS with a plane change in Chicago. I think it is crazy to call it the same flight number, but thats not the subject of this blog entry. Anyway, I had about 10 hours of flight time. I wasn’t playing the iPod all the time (watched Crash, and some movie with Will Farrell).When I arrived in AMS the player was almost dead. So I figured I got about 6 hours of play time from this thing. 6 HOURS!?!?!?! That SUCKS!!! Yeah, yeah, there are all sorts of excuses: oh there is a bigger drive, a color screen, etc. I don’t think they should have put a player with such a huge limitiation on the market. One of the reasons for this is that the screen is always on. I can’t seem to turn the thing off but stay playing. Sure, the backlight can be turned off but the screen cannot go blank. Surely that must account for some wasted battery life.

One of the other problems is that it is often difficult to power the thing off. From some screens, holding the play button will turn it off, others holding the play button does nothing. Why couldn’t they have added a simple power button at the top (and a volume dial, as you will learn below). ugh. OK, so you think maybe if I stop playing anything and don’t touch it for a while, it should automatically turn off. Guess again. Left it for about an hour and the thing was still waiting. When I am listening to an Audible book, I have to pause the book, then play another regular mp3 file, press the back button to stop the file, then pressing play for a couple of seconds powers the thing off. Thats pretty lame.

The iPod has been around for a while now. You would think that in the time they have had they would have improved on the materials used. If they have, the device must have really sucked before. The thing scratches up if you barely touch it. there seem to be scuff marks on the plastic in front of the screen that I cannot get rid of. Nothing has rubbed up against it yet that I know of. Every other device I have ever used had more durable materials than this thing has. I can’t believe Apple has gotten away with this for so long. Or maybe it is part of their plan. Make a player that scratches up easily, thus removing any chance to return it for a refund before you realize that it is really crap and you overpaid for a music device.

Ok, so a few big problems aside, the device handles Audible better than any device I have tried. Being able to speed up the play speed is very cool. Just noticed that this morning while listening to the Girl With The Pearl Earring (I haven’t quite adjusted to the 9 hour time difference). Not quite as cool as the implementation that is part of the full Windows Media Player, but I haven’t seen that in a small device before. Unfortunately the iPod seems to forget what it is playing and you just here scrambled audio until your rewind a few seconds.

Navigating around the iPod is very cool. The wheel interface is ultra slick Unfortunately you really have to use it for everything, and it always defaults to volume. If you want to scroll forward in the song, click the center button, then scroll with the wheel. If you want to go forward again, keep scrolling, but if you wait more than a few seconds, and scroll again, all of a sudden you are blasting your ears as you have just turned up the volume. Makes it impossible to do anything without looking at the screen.

The reason I bought it was the higher capacity. That it certainly has. But if I knew about the usability, performance, and other limitations before hand, I am sure I would have gone with a different device. Just goes to show that the most popular device isn’t always the best device.