If I may tread a very fine line, let me say that we don’t do rumors here. If we catch wind of a new iPod or version of iTunes coming down the pike, we’re more than happy to let it come without spoiling the surprise. There are other folks out there whose living is based on digging the dirt on upcoming releases and they don’t need any help from us. However, once those rumors float freely in the mainstream, we’re not above commenting on them. That I’d like to do today.
As you may have read, Think Secret is suggesting that
the release of a new version of the iPod mini, complete with greater capacity and a color screen, is just around the corner. The article, credited to Ryan Katz, goes on to say that this is the first step in bringing color to all iPod models later in the year. And French website Mac4ever reports that a Motorola product manager hinted that
a Bluetooth iPod is in the works.
Who cares? The fun is in the fantasy.
Let’s start with color.
Glance at ads for the latest crop of cell phones and you’ll discover that putting a color display on a portable device is no longer an expensive proposition. The price of pint-sized color LCDs has dropped in recent months to the point where they’re finding their way onto mid-priced portable music players such as
iRiver’s $280 H10
Samsung’s $230 YH-820MC. While Apple has been willing to skip such “superfluous” iPod features as voice recording and an FM tuner, it’s within the company’s nature to create devices that are second-to-none in design. If it can produce iPods with a color screen without jacking up the price, it will—even if those iPods don’t display pictures.
This last point has been lost on a few folks who’ve commented on the color mini rumor. If the mini can’t show photos, why bother with color? Trip down to your local Apple Store, switch on an iPod photo’s backlighting, and play with the device for a few minutes. Now compare it to any other monochrome iPod with backlighting switched on. If you don’t walk away from the experience feeling like color vastly enhances the look of the iPod, you’re blind. Color is cool and the entire line of iPods would benefit from it.
And now, capacity.
Short and sweet: The many “mini killers” released in the past couple of months sport a 5GB hard drive. The current mini still has a 4GB capacity. A 5GB mini is a no-brainer—I was certain such a mini would be among Steve Jobs’ announcements at last January’s Macworld Expo. Western Digital has announced that it has developed a 6GB, 1-inch hard drive that will ship in the second quarter of this year. Other companies are likely to be working on drives of this capacity. Given the history of the iPod mini, iPod shuffle, and Mac mini, Apple seems willing to announce new products, ship a few of them when promised, and then ramp up production to eventually satisfy built-up demand.
If Apple can find a way to pack the next mini with a 6GB hard drive and leapfrog the competition by 1 gig, all the while keeping the price at $249, what are the odds it won’t?
And finally, Bluetooth.
At one time a white earbud cable was a signal that you owned the hippest music player around. No longer. Other companies have joined the white cord cotillion in an attempt to cash in on the iPod’s cachet. Hip as it may have been to wear the white cable, hipper still (and more convenient) is having no cable at all. And the secret to working without a cord may be Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), a new version of Bluetooth included with Apple’s latest PowerBook models that runs at 3Mbps versus older versions of Bluetooth that operate at a maximum of 1Mbps.
That jump from 1- to 3Mbps isn’t interesting as a means for transferring music from a computer to an iPod wirelessly—FireWire and USB 2.0 are far faster. This speed increase benefits a device’s battery by transferring bursts of information more quickly and allowing the host device (and its battery) to rest more often. Having such technology built into an iPod may allow it to transmit to a set of wireless headphones while maintaining reasonable play time.
According to a MacCentral article by Seattle Times columnist Glenn Fleishman, we shouldn’t expect to see Bluetooth 2.0 peripherals until this summer or fall so I’m not holding my breath that a Bluetooth 2.0+EDR iPod will appear next week. But the fact that Apple is on the forefront of this more efficient form of Bluetooth may hint that good things are on the way for iPod owners interested in cutting the cord.