Saturday, September 10, 2011

Opinion: Apple's iPod Line is a Total Mess



Almost ten years ago, Apple dipped into the music industry and changed it forever with the revolutionary iPod. Ever since, when we have all thought of tiny mp3 or music players- we've thought of iPods. And rightfully so; they produce the industry standard for portable media players (PMPs) and make the best products in the world. They earned their success. But the market is changing- smartphones and tablets are eating up media player market share. At the same time, the relevance of the products are slowly fading into oblivion- but we all still need that product that has excellent battery life, small size, a robust and unbeatable design, large storage sizes and ruggedness. That's the iPod line as it was once upon a time. But as I've said before, things have changed. The products are not as revolutionary and awesome as they were in the past. Something needs to change soon- or Apple will loose the beautiful gem that is the iPod product line.



The iPod was perfectly simple and didn't need to change.

There was a time when Apple's iPod was dead simple focused on music. There were no power-consuming color displays, video playback capabilities, applications or internet access. Ten years ago was a simple time. But then the dead simple iPod continued to change and change... and change. Eventually, if we come back to today, we see that Apple has tried to bring the idea back with the latest iPod nano. Unfortunately however, the product is too damned small. Yes Apple, it's cool that you can do that, but these products have become so easy to lose or misplace, and it's super ridiculous. Besides, if the size was kept the same as the second generation nano, capacity could be doubled for the same price- and users such as myself appreciate that bumped up storage. I've got over 20,000 songs totaling about 23 GB in my music collection. Although I understand I can't take it all with me, I'd like to have my favorites. My Bob Dylan collection alone is a little bit over 4 GB- and that's in relatively average quality. There needs to be an iPod like the classic and the nano- with the click wheel and a strict focus on music as it's sole media capability.

The iPod touch is not an iPod, it's an iPhone sans the phone.

We all know it's true. The iPod touch has lost it's iPod relevance. It's the best selling iPod for only one reason- it's the cheapest gateway to both Apple's App Store and iOS. Nobody really gives a hoot if you can play music or watch tv shows from the iTunes store on the thing. People who buy the device really desire access to Apple's ecosystem of devices and software. If anything, it should be marketed as the smallest and cheapest iPad nano- because hey, that's what it is. Hell, they should then build a device in-between to fill the 6 inch gap with an iPad mini. This error of a naming process really needs to be repaired, because it leads technologically un-savvy folks to believe that they need a device that's really a computer in their pocket to listen to their music or watch a video they downloaded off of iTunes.

The current iPod nano is what the shuffle should have been in the first place.

Don't deny this, because it's the truth. If you take a deep look into the iPod shuffle's original purpose and the features of the new nano, you'll see a striking similarity. The iPod nano even looks like an overblown mini with a display. It makes jogging simpler, at the same time, it fills in the cracks that the shuffle couldn't with it's lack of display. Sometimes, people want to listen to the music they want to listen to. They don't just want to shuffle through the damn thing until they find their power song. For many people actually, due to it's lower price- this becomes their first iPod. My first iPod was the iPod mini, released back in 2004. From there I went on to stick to the same line of products as it became the nano. Now I'm even considering an iPod classic if it becomes refreshed. Back to the iPod nano- it's a thin device that's meant for easy and thoughtless transitioning between songs and other conten- OH WAIT, it's only dedicated to music. Almost in the same way that the shuffle is. Oddly enough, both products still coexist.

Whatever happened to the iPod classic?

Oh yeah, that thing... Well, apparently Apple doesn't care about it. However, as shown by a recent email with Steve Jobs, one customer was able to find out that the company doesn't plan to drop it anytime soon. And they really never should. The iPod classic- as the name suggests, is the legacy of the original iPod. For many people, this product form factor and design holds a far more desired interface than the touchscreen iPod touch. Not only that, but the device is flat out nostalgic for everybody. It's the product that brought Apple back into relevance from a very deep hole of customer distrust and an overall innovation-less atmosphere. For many people, they need that 160 GB to store all of that music they have. I've got a friend who probably has multiple terabyte hard drives filled with music. Hey, so do a large number of people. There is a market for large capacity music playing devices. Maybe it's time to focus on them as well as the "average" consumer who just wants a device thinner than a business card.

Closing remarks. 

Apple is the company that brought the music industry into the 21st century and saved their asses with iTunes and a large desire for digital music. As Steve Jobs said himself almost ten years ago- it's not a speculative market. Music will never die. But for some reason, the PMP is getting old, and more importantly- so is the iPod. Apple needs to get back into the game and save the market before it dies. People still want dedicated music devices, just like people still want books and ebook readers, and not to be forced to read off of a backlit tablet screen. The times they are a' changin'- but that doesn't mean the iPod needs to stop.

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