iPhone hasn't put iPod use on hold

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I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed with one aspect of the iPhone. It’s not the fact that it hasn’t yet managed to turn me into some sort of instant celebrity, nor that it didn’t prevent me from burning myself on the toaster the other day, or even that it failed to encompass me in some sort of golden aura that would enable me to win friends and influence people. Then again, I didn’t really expect it to do any of those things.

But I did expect Apple’s legendary convergence device to, well, converge some devices, and the truth is that almost three weeks later, I’m still carrying around not only my iPhone, but my iPod too. I mean, wait just one darn second: Steve Jobs dubbed the iPhone the “best iPod ever.” Why would I possibly need anything else?

Steve’s not totally wrong. For many of its functions, the iPhone is the best iPod ever. Its video playback puts my fifth-generation iPod with video to shame. I can’t imagine ever going back to watching video on my iPod—unless, that is, I want to use my iPod dock to hook it up to the TV. I don’t do it very often, admittedly, but it’s something my iPhone can’t do. And the iPhone has just enough of those quirks and shortcomings to make it impractical as my primary music player.

You see, I’m one of those people who takes their iPod almost everywhere: When I walk to the local cafe, or drive to the store, or even sit down to write this piece, I do it to a soundtrack. Ever since getting my first iPod back in 2001, I’ve rarely been without one by my side. And now, here I am, with two and I’ll tell you this: it ain’t twice as nice.

One problem is the iPhone’s much-abused headphone jack. Apple’s included earbuds don’t do it for me: I’ve yet to find a pair of earbuds that will stay in my ears without shoving them far enough in to make them difficult to remove without the help of a prybar. I’m currently on my third or fourth pair of Sony behind-the-head earphones. Audiophiles will probably shiver at the thought, but hey, they⁏re cheap, and they work great for my needs. Unfortunately, they also have a thick, L-shaped plug which simply refuses to fit in the iPhone’s jack (I have the same problem with the cassette tape adapter that I use in my car, where I also have to contend with interference from the GSM radio causing a wince-inducing whine on my stereo). Now, I’m not quite to the point where I want to start shaving plastic off the plugs. (In both cases, I think that might require a fair amount of surgery.)

My colleague Dan Frakes has already reviewed a couple of adapters which would help solve that problem, but the one I’m waiting for is Shure’s Music Phone Adapter, since it’ll let me actually use the phone features as well. I also tend to keep my iPod in my pocket when I’m using it, skipping through tracks by touch, so having some sort of control that I can use without having to take the iPhone out, unlock it, switch tracks, lock it and put it back is essential.

Physical limitations aren’t the only problem. While I’m pretty far from filling up my 30GB iPod, I do have more music than can fit on the 8GB iPhone. “No problem,” I can hear the masses clamor, “just set up a playlist for it to sync with.” I’m totally with you, except that it leads directly into my next problem.

Like Macworld’s own Jason Snell, I keep most of my music on my desktop Mac while using my MacBook as my primary computer. Jason’s managed to get multi-computer syncing working, but it’s clearly a quirky process that doesn’t always go as expected.

And, to add insult to metaphorical injury, my desktop Mac is running Panther, which isn’t even compatible with the iPhone. I’d planned to upgrade it to Leopard, to take advantage of Time Machine, but since Leopard isn’t shipping until October, I’ll have to hold off on that. I could mount my desktop’s drive on my MacBook, and convince iTunes that it’s my library, but that’s a bit too much of a hassle to go through every time I want to sync.

In the end, I guess you could say that the thing really keeping me from using my iPhone as my iPod is inertia. At the moment, there are just too many little hoops for me to jump through; it’s easier to just carry around my iPod too. I’m fairly certain that I’ll get around to converging these two devices at some point, but it may take a while. Just goes to show you that convergence doesn’t always kill: In fact, sometimes it just reminds you how good something like the iPod is at the one thing it does.

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