iPod, the 20GB version released at July’s Macworld Conference and Expo in New York City, came with more than just added disk space. The updated iPod added a few accessories, new software and a version of the digital device targeted to Windows users.
The 20GB iPod looks the same as its 5GB and 10GB siblings, with the exception of the scroll wheel. With older models, the wheel moved in circles when turned to select songs or navigate menus; the new version features a touch sensitive scroll wheel that doesn’t move. While it did take some getting used to — I found myself pushing down on the wheel to make it move — I like the sensitivity and overall feel of the new scroll wheel.
Another added feature of the new iPod is a cover that protects the FireWire port on the top of the device. Many users were worried about the port being exposed to weather or any number of other things that could find its way into the opening.
With two kids running around my house, I am still surprised that nothing made its way into the FireWire opening of my iPod. I found the door difficult to open at first — so much so, I thought I might have been on Candid Camera — but after using it for a little while, I learned a trick to opening the door and it loosened up a bit from use. Because of the way the door seats in the port, it doesn’t come open on its own when using it in demanding situations such as exercising, even when tipped upside down.
The 20GB iPod also comes with an inline remote on the headphone wire. The remote, which can also be purchased for older model iPods, is a very handy thing to have when on a walk. The controls allow you to Fast Forward, Rewind, control the volume, skip songs and pause/play the current song. The remote itself attaches to your shirt like an alligator clip leaving the buttons easily accessible. The only trouble I had with the remote was when I would grab it to change songs or adjust the volume, I would open the clip and it would fall off of my shirt. Like the scroll wheel, a bit of practice and it works like a charm.
The carrying case that comes with the iPod is solid black with elastic sides to hold the iPod firmly in place. I thought it might have been a good idea to have the front of the case open to access the buttons and scroll wheel, but with the remote there was really no need. When I did want to use the buttons, I was able to remove the device from the case easily with two fingers and quickly slide it back in. Even though it is easy to take out, it would take a lot of force to shake the iPod from the case — even tipping it upside down and shaking only slightly moves the iPod.
The iPod software has many features including a calendar, clock, contacts, the ability to browse by composer, a menu for the game (which was previous hidden), the ability to sync the top 25 songs played and the 25 most recent songs played as well as custom playlists. I found, like many other users, that battery life was not what it was with older iPods. Users came up with a variety of fixes for this problem, like resetting the iPod and not setting the clock and/or turning off alarms in the settings. An update that Apple recently released seems to have also helped in fixing the problem; battery life on my iPod seems to be normal again.
The calendar and address book in Mac OS X can be synced to the iPod using iSync. If you already added vCards to your iPod manually, before iSync came out, you will find you have double contacts on the iPod. iSync makes a new vCard file on the iPod and doesn’t delete the original. Mounting the iPod on your desktop and manually deleting the vCard you put in will take care of the problem.
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One of the features that I liked the most about the iPod is the added support for Audible.com content. Until now I have not listened to book on cassette, CD or from Audible — I always shunned the idea, thinking books were meant to be read, not listened to.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I downloaded a book and put it on my iPod. The convenience of having a book with you all the time is great; when I went for a walk and would normally listen to music, I listened to the book. When I was in my hotel room checking email or working on the site, I would have the book playing in the background on iTunes and after a tiring week, it was nice to sit on the plane, put my head back and listen to an interesting author read to me.
One problem I thought I would have was remembering where I left off in iTunes, so when I went out with the iPod I could pick up at the same spot. With Audible content, the iPod and iTunes sync both ways — if I listened to the iPod and stopped after one hour into the book, all I had to do was plug it in to my PowerBook and iTunes would sync itself to where I left off. The reverse is try too — if I listened to another 30 minutes of the book in iTunes and synced the iPod, the book would go to the correct time on the device.
The iPod for Windows
The 20GB iPod for Windows is exactly the same as the Mac version in features, appearance and usability. Also announced at Macworld New York, the Windows iPod is Apple’s way of trying to capture a burgeoning market.
Apple spent much of this year appealing to Windows users to try the Mac with the company’s “Switch” advertising campaign. While the ads feature Windows users that have made the move to the Mac, it will also help Apple’s bottom line financially if they can become one of the dominant players in the MP3 market on both platforms.
Analysts like Needham & Co.’s Charlie Wolf have long said that Apple would do well to release the device for the Windows market. According to market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), worldwide shipments of MP3 will reach 207 million by 2006 — given Apple’s history of making cool devices, this is a market they should be able to do well in on any platform.
The problem for Apple was how to make the device work as seamlessly on Windows as it does on the Mac. Do they make iTunes for Windows? Do they partner with a Windows vendor to make their software compatible with the iPod?
Apple partnered with MusicMatch to make their Windows application compatible with the iPod. The two did a commendable job with the software, making many of the functions Mac users are used to having available in MusicMatch.
MusicMatch brings up a dialog when the iPod is plugged in allowing the user to rename the device and gives the option to automatically sync when the device is connected. FireWire Disk Mode is also an option in the Windows software.
The Windows iPod comes with a 6-pin to 4-pin adapter — most Windows-based laptops have a 4-pin FireWire port, which doesn’t supply bus power. For this reason, it is essential to make sure the included AC adapter is always close by. While many desktop machines do have 6-pin bus powered ports, not all systems come with FireWire support out of the box.
The iPod also supports vCards from Outlook, Outlook Express and palm desktop, giving users the ability to have their address book on their digital device if they wish.
One strange thing about MusicMatch and the iPod is the software versions the device will work with. The iPod comes with version 7.1 of the MusicMatch software. When you boot up the computer, MusicMatch asks if you want to upgrade to the newest version, 7.2 — while most people would do the upgrade to stay current with the latest software, you won’t be able to use your iPod if you do.
This problem should be remedied with a new point release. MusicMatch spokesperson Jennifer Roberts said that MusicMatch Jukebox 7.5 — due out sometime in the next several weeks — would have iPod support that should be maintained by future releases as well.
Overall the iPod is a great device that I use all the time listening to music (and now books) and also transferring files and a backup for my most important files when traveling.
The iPod for both Mac and Windows come in 5GB, 10GB and 20GB models, which cost US$299, $399 and $499 respectively. The 10GB and 20GB models both come with a carrying case and the inline remote.