Sunday, February 13, 2011

2010 iPod family

The iPod is a veteran today in the world of portable music players, but the iPod family that we see now has grown and morphed greatly over the course of its lifetime. What started out as a brilliant MP3 player, soon grew to accommodate a “Mini” version, a display-less “Shuffle” while consistently expanding the capacities, design and functionality of the main iPod line (currently, the iPod “Classic”). Before we dive into this introspective piece, we would like to state for the record - it’s not called iPod if it wasn’t designed by Apple in California. That Philips MP3 player that you own, that cheap Chinese knock-off that your friend is so proud of - none of them are iPods. They’re all MP3 players. Calling all MP3 players “iPods” is the equivalent of calling all bikes, the “Splendor” (We had to name the largest selling bike series in India, sorry fans of Yamaha!) So Apple, in delivering new iPods to the market like clockwork every year, has done some remarkable improvements in the line-up. But ever since the iPhone (and subsequently, the iPod Touch) was released, it looks like Apple has lost the innovation factor that made the iPhone a device that changed the smartphone market completely. Seriously - if you’ve followed the saga of the iPod Nano, you would know what we’re talking about. Apple introduced video as a feature of it’s third-generation iPod Nano, making the Nano really tiny and chubby. In September 2008, Apple rotated the screen and made the iPod Nano tall again, but much thinner and sleeker. Not much innovation there. The following year, the Nano got a camera added, but nothing much else, apart from a price drop. September 2010 saw Apple completely revamp the form factor and make the iPod Nano into a tiny, square multi-touch device. With no video. So guess what Apple’s going to introduce as a “feature” to this iPod Nano? Video, of course! Now we love Apple, and to try and save them the trouble, we’ve decided that some of the iPods need to be either changed drastically, or killed of completely. The main contributors to this article is one of our in-house geeks, and another young college student (representing the youth of today, we think!). Read on to find our thoughts.

iPod Shuffle

iPod ShuffleWe think nobody liked the 3rd generation shuffle - it was sleek and good-looking, but the lack of buttons made it difficult to use it with non-Apple certified earphones. Thankfully, Apple brought back the buttons in the smallest-possible square form-factor for the fourth-generation Shuffle. We like this, but we hate the fact that it has only a 2 GB version; there is no 4 GB version. Ideally, the Shuffle could be made thinner (if that’s possible, only Apple can do it), cheaper and with a 4 GB version. Not much more that we can think of for this tiny bit of MP3 goodness, but definitely, the Shuffle must be kept alive.

iPod Nano

iPod NanoKill it. Or make a tinier version of the iPod Touch. Like we noted in our introduction to this article, what Apple has been doing with the iPod Nano seems to point to the fact that Apple’s lacking ideas on what to do with the Nano. Instead of carrying this dead horse for another 100 km, we say - kill it. It seems to be the rage these days in the tech world to shake things up; Apple should do the same.

iPod Classic

iPod ClassicDiffering opinions on this one. Some of us don’t see the point of such a tiny screen to watch films and videos, when the iPod Touch is just cosily lazing around. Plus, the fact that the Classic has a Hard Drive makes it a bummer for us. By far, this is the one iPod that has seen the least innovation in the past four years. Yet, there seems to be a crowd out there that would love to have the tactile feel that a non-touch MP3 player like the iPod Classic can bring, including the fact that it has 160 GB of space for storing all your nonsense music, videos and photos. We can’t argue the fact that the Classic has the best cost-per-GB rate, with a great looking classic body design. Maybe Apple could find a way to make a touch-sensitive bezel, and make it a huge-screen MP3 player with about 128 GB of Flash memory? Without a price increase, of course.

iPod Touch

iPod TouchThe prodigy of the phone that changed it all, the iPod Touch has for long been seen as an “iPhone without the phone”. It still remains the same, but the fourth-generation iPod Touch is the best value-for-money MP3 player that we have seen in years. The Apple A4 processor, the high-resolution Retina display, the so-slim-that-I’m-afraid-I’ll-break-it thin design, the 720p HD video camera at the rear, the low-resolution Facetime camera up-front... These are the biggest reasons why the iPod Touch fourth-generation is an awesome device. And although certain retailers sell the 8 GB fourth-generation iPod Touch for about Rs. 15,000/- we have found certified resellers selling it for as low as Rs. 12,500/- That is a good bargain. What would we change? Throw in the phone+3G+GPS functionality for a few extra thousand rupees, and Apple would certainly own the market. We would definitely stand in line to buy a couple of those iPod Touch phones!

 

Apple, a company that many love, sadly doesn’t seem to know what to do with their own iPod line-up which rocked the portable music player market a decade ago. The cause for all this? Apple’s own innovative iPhone and iPod Touch. It’s a dilemma that faces many companies at several points, but it’s an acute dilemma for Apple, with no respite in sight. Only the innovative design team at Cupertino (Apple’s headquarters) could come up with a viable solution. Or perhaps they already have - it’s called the iPod Touch and all other iPods must die for its sake. Whatever be the case, we’re sure you guys and gals out there have some thoughts on the subject too. Which iPod would you kill? There’s a comment box below with your name on it. Use it.

We thank Caleb D. Gnanaolivu for his contribution to this article.

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