Of accolades and iPods

If you’ve been following along, you know that we recently released the results of our first Playlist Plays of the Year Awards —honoring what we consider the year’s best iPod and iTunes-related products. Our sister site, Macworld, has followed suit and today bestowed its Editors’ Choice Awards on the best Mac-centric audio and video products of 2005. Compare our Plays to their Eddys and one thing is crystal clear.

They’re as cowardly as the day is long.

As a Senior Editor for both entities I don’t make this claim lightly. I’m not referring to the fact that they were “inspired” by our recognition of Whitney Young’s outstanding Senuti as the best way to get you music from your iPod to your computer (Mac) and gave Whitney an award of their own. I mean, of course, that when it came time to choose the outstanding iPod of the year, they punked out by selecting both the iPod nano and iPod with video.


Over on our side of the Web we had to make a hard choice and pick a single iPod that exemplified the best music player Apple had to offer in 2005. And it wasn’t easy. Among our select group of experts, epithets were exchanged over iChat, smack laid down in email, and, so I’m told, threats levied in letters collaged together with paste and words snipped from a newspaper. (If you want to maintain your anonymity, next time try using newspapers that employ the American spelling of “colour,” Dalrymple!)

Seriously, I understand Macworld’s desire to honor the two iPods, as they’re both worthy devices. But each represents a particular stage of development in the iPod line. One iPod summarizes the best of the iPod’s technology and another looks to the iPod’s future. When choosing the year’s “best” model, we selected what we considered to be today’s most complete iPod experience —the iPod nano.

I sympathize with that chorus of moans from 5G iPod owners. Why choose the less-capable iPod nano over an iPod that not only plays music, but offers video capabilities as well?

Because the iPod with video hints at great things to come, but is not only more iPod than a lot of people need, but, ultimately unfinished.

Survey the iPod owners you know and, odds are, you’ll find that most of them pack fewer than a thousand songs into their pockets. Some may have loaded photos onto their players, but let’s face it, it’s the pocket-protector crowd that use an iPod’s photo feature most often. Contacts and calendars? The capability is there, but more often than not you’ll find these areas of the typical iPod display nothing more than Apple’s default Information screens. In other words, much of the capacity and many of the features of a full-sized iPod are wasted on a lot of iPod owners.

The iPod nano provides enough space for a modest-to-moderate music collection, offers a crisp color display and responsive controls, costs a bit more than an impulse buy, supports the majority of iTunes features (audiobooks, On-The-Go playlists, and iTMS music and podcasts) and is beautiful to hold and behold. The easy-to-use extras are there for those who want them—contacts, calendars, notes, enhanced clock with stopwatch and alarm, and picture and slideshow viewing—and more esoteric features such as voice recording, TV output, and camera synchronization are left to the higher-priced spread.

In many ways, the iPod nano is the culmination of everything that came before—small, easy to use, and easy on the eyes. This is an iPod you can give to a parent, a child, your squeeze, or yourself, without regret.

The iPod with video is no slouch, but it’s not the perfect player for everyone. Those without massive music collections who use it strictly as a music player will find a lot of its storage capacity goes to waste. And while it’s great that you can load this iPod with movies, you’ll find the current selection of videos at the iTunes Music Store limited. Yes, you can rip and sync videos of your own, but it’s still largely a process open to only the technically adept. And, of course, video requires your full attention. Little good it does you to have the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy haunting your 60GB 5G iPod when you’re barreling down the fast lane.

In short, the iPod with video is a great first step for people who know how to take advantage of it. The next step is for Apple and third-parties to provide the consumables—offer enough video content to feed this iPod as well as supply tools that make it easy to transfer videos you own to your iPod. This is the future, and a future we anxiously await. When it arrives, I’m confident the next-generation iPod with video will earn a Play of its own.

This story, "Of accolades and iPods" was originally published by PCWorld.

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