Something to Like About iPod Mini, Part 1

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Poor iPod Mini. A very nice product, so beaten up because of expectations about price. I'm with you -- I wish it was only $99 too. But it still seems to be a pretty good product, despite the price.

I was thinking about how much I like the iPod Mini last night as I put my daughter to bed. She's getting over a cold and was pretty unhappy, especially since it was me putting her down instead of the greatest person in the history of the world, or as we call her around the house, "Mommy." In any event, my daughter was pretty distraught and I decided to use my iPod to play the same music we often play on mid-day car rides we use to induce naps.

So there I sat, listening to my daughter drift off, with my iPod in my hand (attached to a boom box via a cassette adapter). And I must have inadvertently restarted a song or skipped a song a half-dozen times. Because the third-generation iPod has four circular, touch-sensitive buttons above its scroll wheel, and it's a catastrophically poor interface design.

Why so bad? Because if you can't see the iPod (for example, if it's pitch black), there's no way to feel and be sure which of the four buttons you're touching. You can't even touch the buttons to orient, because any contact with a button will press it. I've taken to use my iPod remote control in almost every instance, because I can touch those buttons to orient myself without setting them off by accident.

Anyway, the iPod mini doesn't have this problem. The four compass orientations on its scroll wheel are physically clickable -- it's a lot like the four buttons outside the scroll wheel on older iPods. Once you learn what each button does, you can find it in the dark. (Having the wheel be clickable is also cool because you never need to move your finger or thumb off the scroll wheel to operate the iPod. It's a good thing.)

Now, when the third-generation iPods came out, I thought the new four-across button interface was a good idea, because many people (like my wife, for example) didn't really understand that you pressed the top button to move left in the iPod's left-to-right menu system. The new approach is much more like other consumer-electronics devices. It's the touch-sensitive buttons that ruin the whole thing. I guess what I need to do is invest in a PodSleevz, which dramatically reduces the touch-sensitivity of the buttons.

But for the fourth-generation iPod, I'd prefer Apple either reduce the sensitivity of those buttons, change them to ones you actually need to push, or just shift to the iPod mini-style clickable wheel.

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