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iPod, iPod Nano, iPod shuffle and iTunes 7
It's been a while since the new iPods and iTunes came out, and now that we've got all of them with us, we decided to take a very honest look at the new features they bring.
One of the most impressive things that the new iPods bring—according to me—is the new pair of earphones. The older ones were a little too big and like most other earphones, didn't fit my ears too well. The new ones are smaller and are much more comfortable than the previous ones. I haven't heard my entire music collection using these new earphones, but I didn't notice much of a sound difference. The new earphones sound great and along with the more comfortable size, I think they'll appeal to everyone who's had problems with the older iPod earphones. I would still ditch them and use my pair of Sony Fontopia in-ears, but you won't have to.
On the other hand, all the new iPods lack an AC charger being a part of the standard package. They all have smaller, streamlined packings because they skipped the charger in favor of a USB cable that can be used to transfer as well as charge the iPod. While you would agree that anyone who has an iPod has a PC or a Mac, there is an alarming number of users in our city who have an iPod but no computer, and some of those who have a computer have no idea how to transfer stuff to the iPod. They'd like a regular plug they can charge their iPod with (which was filled with music from a friend's computer), so this can be a small negative.
The new iPod isn't called Photo or Video anymore—it's just called the iPod. It comes with a bunch of new features, but the most interesting are the new search and gapless playback features. Instant search is useful for iPods with larger capacities like 30gb and upwards which can store a lot of music. It let's you search by letters instead of just scrolling through the never-ending list of music on your iPod. This is similar to entering your name in games on the PlayStation or the Xbox without using the keyboard. While still being no match for a full keypad or even a T9-enabled numeric keypad, the search is still a good step forward.
Gapless playback is probably the next most innovative feature in a digital audio player, after the dawn of the player itself. I listen to a ton of—actually just about all of house, trance and other electronica out there, and with most live sets and continuous mix CDs making up for most of my collection, the gap between sequential tracks is as annoying as having a Pimp My Ride-style car blare out some trash music next to you when waiting at a signal. I hate gaps between my mixes. That's why I'd usually prefer to rip the entire CD as a single track, but that makes searching for individual tracks as bad as playing cassettes. With the new iTunes, sequential tracks of a set can be tagged so they continue seamlessly into the next track. This is a little rough right now; it didn't entirely eliminate the pop and click when the track changes, but it's better than having a full 100mb MP3 file.
The new iPod also lets you play new arcade games which you can buy and install. It has improved battery life that claims to be up to 75% longer, or up to 14 hours for music or 6.5 hours of video. It all depends on how much you use the iPod during playback, and most users do use a few of the features other than just playback (i.e. search), so you probably won't get the full rated batter life.
The new iPod is available in 30GB (Rs. 13,000) and 80GB (Rs. 18,000) capacities.
The first generation iPod Nano was a super slim version of the regular iPod—white or black on the front, and stainless steel silver on the back. The new, second generation iPod Nano brings back the colors of the older iPod Mini. In fact, the new iPod Nanos are quite simply slimmer versions of the iPod Minis, with flash memory and a color display, of course. Available in silver, green, blue, and pink, the entire case of the new Nano is colored. Maybe it's just me, but I really liked the shiny, stainless steel rear of the older Nano (or the new iPod, for that matter), regardless of how much of a fingerprint magnet it was (or is). The new Nano is slimmer, but the top and bottom have sharper edges, unlike the older Nano's smooth, rounded corners. I think you might just cut your finger if you aren't careful while handling it in your pocket.
The display on the Nano is also brighter—40% they say, although we didn't try and measure that—but it didn't seem to make a big difference. The display is so small, hardly anyone I know actually wants to put photos on it for viewing, and the Nano can't play video either. And most of the time, the Nano will be in your pocket or bag or wherever, with the display turned off.
Battery life of the new Nano has also been upped to a cool 24-hours. Once again, it depends on how much you fiddle around with the device, but we did manage to squeeze out ample time from the battery to justify that claim.
The new Nano comes in 2GB (Rs. 8,250), 4GB (Rs. 10,250) and 8GB (Rs. 12,500) sizes. Too small in capacity for my taste, but those without an entire room full of CDs, this works.
The new iPod shuffle has been completely redesigned. It is no longer the chewing gum stick-style player, but now a more smaller, matchbox-like rectangle. It looks as if they took an iPod Nano and snipped out around an inch from that to create the new shuffle. The main shuffle itself is quite small and sleek, however, it comes with a clip that's fixed to the rear, which doubles the thickness of the device. The whole point of the new shuffle is that its small enough to leave it clipped to your jacket or shirt, but what if I don't want to wear it? I should have the option of removing the clip and enjoying the tininess of the music player. The clip is not removable.
The other problem with the new shuffle is that it no longer has a standard USB plug like the older shuffle. While that may have gone to make the device smaller, it also removes the ability to use it as a USB flash drive to transport data from one computer to another. The new shuffle comes with a proprietory dock with a 3.5mm stereo jack that fits into the earphone socket of the device. The earphone socket doubles up as a sync outlet, like our favorite MobiBLU DAH-1500i cube MP3 player. Non-music files can still be stored on the new shuffle, but you'll have to carry the dock around. Fortunately, there are third part solutions that add standard USB functionality to the new shuffle, for example the IncipioBud.
Also, the new shuffle doesn't come with the redesigned earphones found in the iPod and the iPod Nano; it ships with the same old earphones that the previous generation iPods shipped with. There's no apparent reason why the old earphones were chosen. Do the bigger, older earphones stay put more firmly in the ears during workouts? I don't think so.
The new shuffle is a fabulous piece of technology—so small, yet being able to store up to 1GB of music--but the non-removability of the clip, lack of an integrated USB plug and the old style earphones leave it from getting a very high rating.
The new iPod shuffle comes with 1GB of storage and costs Rs. 5,000.
I'm not a huge fan of iTunes and since I don't have an iPod, I never had to rely on it for anything. I manage my music manually; tagging and sorting it into folders. I prefer the ease of use and straightforwardness of Winamp (without the Media Library), and I don't think i'll ever be able to get used to any other music player.
But for those who like and/or have to use iTunes, the upgrade beings in a few interesting features like the whole cover flow view, which lets you visually breeze through your CD collection like you'd do if you had a book full of them. The new iTunes also downloads missing CD covers for music you may have, even if it wasn't purchased from the iTunes Music Store (provided you have an iTunes Store account. An alternative view is the album view, which shows you your CD covers one the side and tracks in the album next to it.
The user interface of the new iTunes 7 has been refreshed up a bit so it looks more refined. Brushed metal has been polished away for a more smoother look.
It has crossfading and gapless playback settings which get synced to the iPod for continues, gap-free mix sessions.
After having used iTunes 7 for some time, I like the way it shows me my music and the conditional gapless playback feature is useful. I'm going to keep it installed for longer.
That's the new iPod bouquet for you. A few negatives, but overall a better experience than before. Until the touch-screen iPod and/or the iPhone comes out anyway...