iPod Photo: Color does make a difference

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An ongoing phenomenon, that's what the iPod is. No matter what the competition does, Apple's diminutive digital audio device seems to keep pulling in customers -- sometimes faster than they can make them. In some cities the iPod is so ubiquitous, you'll find yourself in a sea of white headphones just walking down the street. In the most recent upgrade, Apple added color to the iPod, but is that enough to keep the phenomenon going?

Without changing the form factor of the device, what could Apple do to appeal to the small percentage of portable digital audio device users that don't already have an iPod? Rumors swirled around the introduction of a video iPod, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs put an end to that at the unveiling of the iPod photo. The next step for Apple was a color screen and support for photos, said Jobs.

To be honest, this appealed to me much more than a video iPod. I have no need to watch my own movies on my iPod and, to date, there are no legal ways to purchase movies and transfer them to the device, so what would I really need it for? If I'm on a plane or in a hotel room, I use my PowerBook -- it's much bigger screen will ensure my good eyesight for at least another few years.

I took some time after the iPod photo launch event in San Jose to play around with the device. I was impressed, but that's not real-world conditions -- the lighting would be perfect, so if you look at a picture, of course it's going to look good.

Since then I got my own iPod photo and immediately transferred 4,000 pictures from my iPhoto library and 4,000 songs from iTunes (far too many of these purchased from the iTunes Music Store -- I really need to find another hobby that doesn't involve a $0.99 charge every time I click).

All told, this added up to about 28GB of data on my iPod, leaving me lots of room to purchase more songs and to put files on it. When I travel I use the iPod as a hard drive, carrying all of my important files and a backup, just in case some thing happens. Since I always have the iPod with me, it cuts down on the amount of extras I have to pack.

Viewing pictures on the iPod works as you would expect. The pictures are easily viewable on the screen and show a surprising amount of color and detail. The index of library is a different story -- I found that unless I knew what I was looking at, it was difficult to make out the thumbnail.

Setting up a photo slideshow from the iPod couldn't be simpler. The slideshow settings are straightforward, allowing you to choose music to play, repeat, shuffle, transitions, etc. After you're done with the settings, plug the iPod into your TV using the included AV cables from Apple, choose your photo album and click play. Worked first time for me with no messing around or jiggling of the cables (Yes, the first thing I tend to do is jiggle the cables -- it never works for me, but I continue to do it anyway).

The most notable change on the music side was the inclusion of album art on the iPod. This is something else that I liked a lot -- if you're going to have color, you have to have album art.

Overall, the iPod photo is certainly a good device. I don't know if there is something Apple can do with the photo thumbnails to make them a bit bigger, but nothing else really stood out on the negative side for me. On the positive side, there is a lot to like about the iPod photo -- enough to keep it on the wish list of many this holiday season.

Playlistmag.com's Christopher Breen has recently posted an in-depth review of the iPod photo where he shares a few tricks including hidden button combinations.

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