For a tech toy praised up and down as being the "best" MP3 player, how has everyone managed to miss its shortcomings?
I started out shopping for an MP3 player as a Christmas Gift over the holidays and wound up reading hundreds of reviews on all the available players. After much thought I narrowed the features that the player had to have:
1. Support MP3 bit rate of 192 Kbps or higher.
2. Drag and Drop File transfer both ways (no software)
3. Universal File Storage (not just MP3s)
4. User Replaceable Battery (Either Rechargeable or Standard)
The MP3 bit rate is often overlooked except in regards to audiophiles who understand this or just have better hearing? Generally MP3's with a bit rate below 192 Kbps when played on standard audio equipment (stereo) will exhibit numerous sound flaws including the potential lack of stereo sound. Some may argue that on very high end equipment 192 Kbps is still not good enough but I would argue that is the best mix of quality to size. Then of course you have the various encoding formats vs. bit rate but again the average person cannot tell the difference. The iPod supports up to 320 Kbps, so we are fine there.
I then narrowed down the common features that every player had but you would choose based on how you would use the player, debatable features:
1. Rechargeable Battery or Replaceable Battery
2. Harddrive or Memory Stick
This article is NOT debating these two features since these are determined based on personal preference or finances (being able to afford a more expensive player and or constantly buying batteries), how much music you listen or want to take with you, and long term reliability (Memory Sticks will last longer then Harddrives, and rechargeable batteries will fail at some point). Regardless, I was sure I would be buying an iPod and all this research would just confirm what I initially thought. What I found was the exact opposite. The iPod was way overrated.
iPod's Achilles Heel:
1. Proprietary Software - This was a deal breaker, having to use proprietary software such as iTunes is just unacceptable, especially when it is completely unnecessary. Could you imagine if Microsoft released the mPod and you had to use winTunes to transfer the files to the player? There is absolutely no excuse for this. To make it worse files can only be copied one way with iTunes. Are you kidding me? You cannot take your iPod to a friends house and copy songs off of it or too another player. Yes there are hacks but this is not the point, numerous other players feature Drag and Drop both ways WITHOUT iTunes or ANY software.
2. Nonreplaceable Rechargeable Battery - Keyword is "nonreplaceable", at least not for the average user. Anyone that knows anything about electronics and rechargeable batteries is that at some point they will fail and need to be replaced.
This whole fiasco was brought to light a year and half ago: www.ipodsdirtysecret.com yet I never heard about it until I started doing this research and I am sure MANY iPod owners are unaware as well. Since that site went up iPod changed their battery replacement policy (below) and have improved the battery life on the new models to 18 hours.
Apples Replacement Policy:
Out-Of-Warranty PricingPrice includes:
Repair: $249.00 USD Replacement: labor, parts, and a 90-day guarantee on materials and workmanship, plus $6.95 USD shipping. $255.95 USD total.
Battery Service: $99.00 USD: labor, parts, and a 90-day guarantee on materials and workmanship, plus $6.95 shipping. $105.95 USD total.
Still, the iPod's battery is not easily replaceable by the end user. Excuses for this such as player size and design are unacceptable. Nor is it that other popular players feature the same bad design. My point is there are good players that do not.
Recently on vacation I found the iPod (and its variants) the most widely used and talked about MP3 player (which compelled me to write this). No one seems to know the shortcomings of the iPod, nor how massively overrated this player is. Simply put no one does any research. I recently heard on the morning news an anchor say, "Most people don't realize you have to install and configure software to get songs onto MP3 players" Unbelievable! Not only is this overrated player spreading huge misconceptions about MP3 players it is setting socially acceptable standards on bad design decisions.
Update:After extensive use with the interface I can honestly say it is one of the most idiotic and unintuitive ways to use a device. Moving in a circular motion to go up, down, left and right through menus is beyond maddening and nothing more then a trendy gimmick for Apple to show off their touch sensitive interface pad. I will never buy a device with unintuitive controls.