Why I both love and hate my iPod

iPodI have a love/hate relationship with my iPod. (It’s a 40Gb 4th generation model.)

Why I love my iPod

The design is exquisite. The whole thing is beautiful. Even the power adapter is beautiful.

I’ve never had an MP3 player before, and I love using it.

Lock button: brilliant. Click wheel menu system: easy.

Bung a CD into the PC, it gets the track names from CDDB, rips it easily.

Syncing music is fast and easy via USB 2.

There’s some very nifty addons available for it.

Get a good tune on it, pump up the volume, and I’m in heaven. You should have seen me dancing around the kitchen last night.

Why I hate my iPod

Can’t use it with more than one PC. 40Gb of portable storage in my pocket, and I can’t use it for moving files. (There are shareware tools to do this.)

It has no radio.

Yesterday Windows was recognising it as a drive, not an iPod. iTunes then complained another user was using it. I had to reboot to fix it. Maybe it works better with Macs, but I shouldn’t have to buy one to find out.

It didn’t come with a belt-clip. Okay, so maybe that would spoil the design. So I put it in a skin. The skin is pretty cool, but it doesn’t look as nice as it does out of the skin.

Maybe I haven’t been careful enough with the headphones, but the wire got pulled obviously a bit too hard on one earpiece, and now there’s a little interference from it. My cheapie Sony earphones are tougher, if not as visually appealing.

It doesn’t play WMA. I’m not totally enamoured of WMA, but it’s the only thing offered by online music stores in Australia, since there are continual delays with the iTunes Music Store AU.

There are almost constant horror stories of people having their iPods freeze up, batteries die, or other hassles.

All of these hassles seem to result in the iPod going off to the iPod hospital and coming back empty.

iTunes can’t work through the firewall at work, at least for CDDB lookups.

iTunes on Windows follows the Quicktime example of Apple trying to make their software look like Mac. If I wanted a metallic grey window title bar (which slightly changes shades of grey when it has focus), I’d have changed it to be that way in my Windows settings.

Conclusion

This is my first MP3 player. It works, and I’m not even considering of replacing it while it works. But if I had the choice over again, I’d buy another brand. I don’t know which, but it wouldn’t be Apple. In line with my movie reviews getting a thumbs up or thumbs down, I give the iPod a thumbs down.Thumbs down

Update Thursday 8am. Great feedback about some of these issues in the comments. Thank you all, I’ll be investigating further.

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22 thoughts on “Why I both love and hate my iPod

  1. Jeremy

    I’m thinking of getting an iPod to go with my iBook because I figure nothing could be more mac friendly, except they’re not even shipping them with firewire cables anymore!

    Anyway I thought you could use them as portable mass storage. This FAQ that I found in google says you have to set it to firewire disk mode. I don’t know if that would still exist though and if it also applies to USB. Though in any case you still can’t retrieve music uploaded with iTunes.

    There’s no radio though podcasts sound interesting. I heard that some Triple J programs are already available with this? Though obviously it’s no good if you want to listen to the news or some talk-back stuff.

    I don’t think I’d listen to WMA even if I had the choice. In fact, I certainly wouldn’t buy WMA music from an online store. I’m more disappointed in the lack of Ogg Vorbis support since I encoded all my CDs with this format before iPods even really existed.

  2. andy

    Not shipping iPods with Firewire cables? That’s crazy, given that it’s a proprietary format (the iPod end), and FW is IMO far better than USB2.

    Can you get a WMA -> MP3 / AAC converter? There must be somewhere. Not so convenient, but doable.

    My iPod Mini came with a belt clip – guess they don’t give ’em away with the iPods. I’d never use it though.

    As a Mac user I wouldn’t consider anything else, but everyone’s needs are different. It integrates near-seamlessly with my setup.

  3. Jeremy

    You can still buy a Firewire cable extra (AU$35 more) which I may well do. Firewire is less CPU intensive and in practise it’s faster than even USB 2.0. It’s just that most people buying iPods are using them with PCs and very few PCs have firewire. So it’s probably acceptable for the lower end iPods (i.e. iPod Mini) to ship without firewire cables. But for the higher end 60GB colour iPods it wouldn’t be much to have kept shipping with it.

    Not to mention that while the 60GB colour iPod is cheaper than the previous photo iPod, it’s not even shipping with nearly half the accessory (previously they shipped with a dock, AV cable, firewire cable, carry case, etc). If you do happen to want all those things, then the price has effectively gone up. Though in all reality you can probably live without the dock, unless you want a line out to hook it up to a stereo rather than using the amplified headphone jack. While, the AV cable might be handy to show photos to your relos, etc.

    As for converting WMA to MP3 or AAC, these are lossy formats so each time you convert from one to another, you lose quality. Since these formats only try to make an approximate duplication of the original recording. While most people can’t tell the difference from the original recording when you encode once into one of these formats, if you convert from one to another you’d get double the loss in quality so it might start to become a little more noticeable.

  4. Chris

    If you’re not that fond of iTunes, check out the ml_ipod plugin for WinAmp. As for the rest of your worries… I’d say “try using the competition” before you give the iPod a thumbs-down. It’s hands-down the best in the business.

    Sidenotes: Turn on Disk Mode in your iTunes preferences to use the iPod as a portable storage device. iTunes can transcode WMA for you (although, obviously, lossiness is an issue), though I guess we have to sit tight and wait for the iTMS to launch in Australia. Hold down Play and Menu at the same time to reboot a frozen iPod. If you have a catastrophic battery failure, they’ll replace it. Despite bad news traveling fast (as it always does) battery failures aren’t that common.

  5. Duncan

    The iPod can be used with multiple computers, you just can’t leave it on Automatic Update. You have to switch to manual, then you can use as many computers as you want to load music onto it, and you can use it to play music through those computers as well. As for using it as a removable hard drive, in iTunes if you click on iPod options (appears in the bottom right hand corner when the iPod is selected) you can check enable disk use. This is also where you can set it to manual update.

  6. pbrice

    There is an iTunes menu item for importing WMA files that converts to AAC for you.

  7. Jason

    You can use it with more than one PC. In iTunes, choose Edit > Preferences and click iPod. Then, select “Manually manage songs and playlists.” Now you can connect it to another PC and drag songs to it.

    In manual mode, you can’t auto-sync (because auto-syncing erases anything on iPod that isn’t also on the synced computer), but you can connect your iPod to multiple computers and manually drag songs to the iPod without erasing any of the songs already on the it.

    Also, if iPod is enabled for disk use, you can connect it to other PCs and drag files to it in Windows Explorer. That’s how you use it as a storage device.

  8. David

    First, you certainly can use your iPod to store files. At present I have about 20 Gig of music and 15 Gig of data – a backup of my personal home drive.

    Second, you can use it with more than one computer – with a caveat. Plug your iPod in and under the iTunes preferences set it to Manage Manually. It will no longer sync but you’ll now be able to drag a playlist from another computer onto the iPod. The caveat: Any music you drag onto the iPod from other computers will be lost when you sync to your main computer (without the use of 3rd party software or a bit of trickery.)

    Be glad the iPod doesn’t come with a built-in clip. They break easily and you’d be really unhappy if the iPod had one built in and it broke. I wear a vest pretty much 24/7 and keep my iPod in its vest pocket.

    I hate the earbuds – I prefer the in-the-ear Shure model. But I can’t agree that Apple’s are more susceptible to damage than others. My wife’s still using the earbuds that came with my first generation iPod and the new ones don’t appear to be any different.

    Of course the iPod doesn’t play WMA – WMA is a proprietary format cooked up by Microsoft with little to no involvement from the music industry. Apple’s AAC format was created by Dolby – music experts – and is an accepted standard. Besides, the best way to get music into your iPod is to rip it to your own personal exacting standards – though I understand that’s not legal in Australia. Hmm, owning an iPod down under is quite a legal roll of knotted yarn, isn’t it?

    All those horror stories of people having trouble with their iPods. Aren’t there similar horror stories about people who own computers or cars or lose luggage when they travel by air? Look, with all the millions of people who have bought iPods, it only takes a very small percentage of problems to turn into thousands of people having problems. Don’t forget too that a happy iPod owner isn’t likely to write in his blog – day 543 of iPod perfection!

    As to the worry that your repaired iPod will come back empty – that isn’t a worry. It is a foregone conclusion. When you send the iPod for repair you get a refurbished one – not your own back. But you do keep all your music on your computer, right? Right?

  9. jbelkin

    You can mount your ipod on more than one PC. Launch itunes and change your PREF settings from automatic sync to MANUAL.

    Also important to note is that if you make changes to playlists, or track information, this info is NOT synchronized back to iTunes on your home PC. So if you rename a bunch of your tracks, and create new playlists, and then return to your home PC to auto-sync, the content in iTunes will overwrite the changes you’ve made on your iPod.

    You can convert your WMA files to Mp3 or AAC to play on your ipod (presuming you are using a more current version of itunes). This is a PC-ONLY choice – drag the files to itunes. Highlight and select convert (Choose format in PREF). Can’t be much easier than that.

    I have bought 7 ipods – all work fine, in fact my 1G ipod has 6 hours of battery life so no worries – most ipods are just fine.

  10. Bob C

    — Can’t use it with more than one PC. 40Gb of portable storage in my pocket, and I can’t use it for moving files.

    Sure you can use the iPod with more than one PC, especially for moving files. Just mount it and copy files. What you can’t do is use it with more than one iTunes, something Apple did to slow down the illegal transfer of music. That is, you can’t go round to various computers and accumulate songs through iTunes or distribute your songs to others through iTunes.

    — It has no radio.

    True. Some are bothered by this. Some don’t care.

    — Yesterday Windows was recognising it as a drive, not an iPod. iTunes then complained another user was using it. I had to reboot to fix it.

    Hard to say what this problem was. I’ve never seen such a problem on the home computer (home for the iPod) with the same user, and I’ve been using iPods since they were first sold. If the reboot (presumably of the computer) fixed the problem, that seems to indicate the computer was in an erroneous state, not the iPod. (One can also reset an iPod or restore it to factory state.)

    — It didn’t come with a belt-clip.

    iPods used to, but Apple has been reducing the accessories while lowering the prices. Apple makes less of a profit margin on iPods (compared to Macs or software), so they are not going to give stuff away for free. I myself miss the FireWire cable.

    — Maybe I haven’t been careful enough with the headphones, but the wire got pulled obviously a bit too hard on one earpiece, and now there’s a little interference from it.

    I’ve ruined two pairs of $150 ear buds (Future Sonics) and two pairs of truly excellent headphones (Grado SR80) with iPods since I used them outside while working on construction projects. This goes with the territory. That’s too bad. I haven’t ruined any Apple ear buds (which I rarely wear) but I did mess up two (also in pairs, it seems) of the remote units.

    — It doesn’t play WMA. I’m not totally enamoured of WMA, but it’s the only thing offered by online music stores in Australia

    WMA is a proprietary format owned by Microsoft and licensed at Microsoft’s pleasure. That’s why Apple doesn’t include it. Apple does include every “public” format that’s been made into a standard. Ogg Vobis and FLAC are not standards AFAIK. Online stores usually add a DRM to the format (digital rights management) to prevent unauthorized use of the downloaded songs. The DRM is proprietary as well, both WMA DRM (that’s two proprietary formats) and Apple Fairplay DRM applied to the mp4 format Apple uses (called AAC). Apple doesn’t support WMA DRM either. Indeed, why should it support a competitor’s proprietary format when the competition doesn’t support Apple computers (no online store except iTMS supports Apple computers).

    — There are almost constant horror stories of people having their iPods freeze up, batteries die, or other hassles.

    Some people had trouble with batteries in the earliest iPods. That trouble has been over for some time. As far as freezing up, if you rip a song with too many errors (for example, from a dirty CD), any mp3 player will fail to play it and freeze up. That’s by far the main cause of freeze problems and is easily solved by resetting. Look around on the Internet today. You will not find current “constant” horror stories.

    — All of these hassles seem to result in the iPod going off to the iPod hospital and coming back empty.

    That’s because you don’t get your own iPod back. You get back an iPod that’s been repaired. That allows Apple to give users fast turnaround. Moreover, in some cases the iPod is not repairable. In the rare case where you have to send an iPod in for repair, it takes a short time to reload your iPod from iTunes. At most an hour.

    — iTunes can’t work through the firewall at work, at least for CDDB lookups.

    It works fine in my firewall where I have only a few ports open. Can you get CDDB information outside of iTunes? If not, this becomes a firewall issue. This is a common problem with proxies. Sorry, I know of no solutions.

    — iTunes on Windows follows the Quicktime example of Apple trying to make their software look like Mac.

    Apple’s goal is to make iTunes look and behave exactly the same everywhere it is used. That’s part of the “look and feel” for Macs that Mac users swear by even when they have to use underpowered, overpriced computers. Consistency is a good thing in general. To each his own, however.

    — But if I had the choice over again, I’d buy another brand. I don’t know which, but it wouldn’t be Apple.

    If I were you, I’d try some of the alternatives first. I doubt that you will find any as easy to use as an iPod (especially with the click wheel used for scrolling – Apple has a patent on this and no other manufacturer has found a better way to scroll through thousands of songs or navigate choices). I think you will also find that iTunes works in closer harmony with the iPod than other software does with other mp3 players. I’m sorry you were disappointed with your decision to buy an iPod. You could probably get a decent return on it on eBay.

  11. Frank

    I went for the Nomad Zen and am now on my second (the first was stolen). If my memory serves me correctly it will handle Ogg Vorbis as well as WMA, mp3. And it comes with a handy little remote control which contains an FM radio (and a voice recorder) – great. It’s currently my favourite toy.

  12. Ren

    “I doubt that you will find any as easy to use as an iPod…”

    The Creative MuVo. Cute little bugger. Works a treat. Three buttons. Easy menu. Better than iPod in my opinion (and I’ve now played with enough iPods to know). There’s loads that are better than iPods and just as easy to maintain and upload music to. Can be plugged into the car stereo without having to buy any more gadgetry and feck around with radio stations. Stored oodles of files and there’s no problems trasferring between computers and using firewalls, etc, etc, etc.

    Of course, everyone’s different and what might work a charm for some people, as proven in this post and the comments following, may not work for others.

    Personally I’ve heard enough horror stories about iPods and Apple service that my iPod envy was cured a hell of a long time ago.

  13. Randall Swain

    Sorry Daniel – I agree with most other people here – iPod ROCKS! I have a 3rd Gen iPod and have busted the buds that came with it – but I bought a pair of $AU 80 Sony ear buds and they are very cool. I too have mine in an iSkin which is safer – but the rubber does tend to get caught on pockets etc. Small price to pay. Used mine as a portable HDD. I use mine mainly for audio books to listen to on the bus – easier than hanging on with one hand and holding a book. Battery? Yep, I agree – that was the one thing holding me back for ages but you can get replacement battery kits from lots of places on the net – but I haven’t had to yet and have used mine every day for about 18 months. Battery life could be better – but given that most audio books come in big file sizes (like 30mb plus) that tends to run the battery down. I recharge probably twice a week – for about 10 hours plus listening time which I think is ok. Certainly cheaper than buying AA’s or the like!

    iPod ROCKS! Now to convince my wife I need to upgrade….

  14. Michael

    – Yesterday Windows was recognising it as a drive, not an iPod. iTunes then complained another user was using it. I had to reboot to fix it.

    I get this error when two or more users are logged on simultaneously. ie, Family members switch users rather than logging off. You don’t need to reboot, just log in to all other users and actually log them off, not switch users.

    When you come back to your account, you will need to plug the iPod back in.

  15. Travis

    AHHHHHHHHhhh…I’ve had it. I’ve invested $400 in an portable music technology that is suppose to make my life easier. I hate the interface with windows. On manual mode, itunes doesn’t always find it. In automode, it removes purchased music. That’s right the F***ing thing calculates some value and thinks that I’m on a different computer and zap all purchased music is gone. Of course I don’t notice it until I’m away from the computer and want to listen. Then I have to go back and deautorize all computers….what a pain in the azz. Thought I’d dump it on ebay….only if I want to take about a $150 hit. AHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  16. Thomas

    I hate my IPOD I am on my second the first froze up and couldn’t be repaired so they replaced it for me. I have to go back to the store tomorrow because it is doing the same thing. Nobody at the store can tell me why this happening. I have dropped or harmed it in anyway but it keeps breaking anyway. I love my IPOD when it works but all things being equal I would rather have purchased something that wouldn’t break every three months.

  17. Michiel

    I love my ipod its a wonderfull thing… watch dvd’s, listen to my music collection butt the thing i realy hate that i am going to the swimming pool and my Ipod just crashed and i cant do anything about it. This issent the first time i think i going to return it to the store but i wont like to do that. Hope they give me a new ipod video and that i wont have so much problems with it anymore.
    Greetz
    From Holland…!!!

  18. PlainJoe

    I bought an IPod to check out what all the fuss was about. I hate the wheel. Took forever to get music working properly. iTunes is crap. Still can’t get videos to work properly. No sound. For MP3s my cheap USB players made in China or where-ever have been working fine for years and still is more convenient. I prefer PSP for watching videos and playing games when travelling. My Sony Ericsson phone is great and so is any notebook I’ve used. I don’t care about Macs, Windows and Linux, have used them all and as long as they work. Next to CD-ROMs that end up wasting tons of CDs, adware, spyware and viruses, IT hypers, Free And Open Source (FOSS) evangelists that are actually communists selling proprietary software … the iPod is the worst abuse of technology I’ve come across.

  19. Ateeq A

    Hi all I really really hate most of the apple products right from computers to phone they recently released, I bought an ipod for my wife, and tried to move my mp3 playlist,it did copy but it would’nt play or recognise…
    what a crap I felt like I bought the product made buy aliens.I am trying to return and get a decent one made on this planet by the people and for the people…

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