iPod, Therefore I Write
This is getting a little predictable: Every fall, Apple updates the iPod and I wind up devoting a column to trying out the new hardware. Thing is, with the iPod, this year's model bears little resemblance to last year's model. Apple keeps tweaking the design, like a writer who keeps running a story through the typewriter with different characters and conflicts each time.
That brings me to today's column, which begins by assessing the dramatically upgraded iPod Nano and the not-quite-so-upgraded iPod Touch.
(BTW, in case you've been wondering why this blog's been so quiet this week, I wish I could tell you I'd been wrapped up in exhaustive real-world tests of these media players, or that I'd been drafted to help out in our coverage of Wall Street's meltdown. Unfortunately, I've been fighting off some kind of nasty stomach flu. It's a real picnic spending two days feeling so blah that you don't even want to eat... but I digress.)
Uh, where was I? Anyway, writing today's review reminded me of one thing I like about covering the electronics business. For all the junk it puts out, it allows buyers to make seemingly impossible demands for their next gadget and have them fulfilled in short order.
In my case, I look at the iPod Nano I bought two years ago, a silver, 4-GB model. Even after I've managed to drop it on the sidewalk twice, leaving some scratches at the top, it still seems to work fine (aside from some recent wonkiness with the screen). But now I could get a new, distinctly thinner iPod Nano with four times the memory and about twice the screen size--plus video- and game-playing capabilities--at the exact same price.
That's pretty cool.
At the end of today's column, I briefly touch on Microsoft's updates to the Zune. These did not wow me as much. The desktop software certainly has progressed considerably since its 2.0 relaunch last year--it does smart playlists and offers a much better podcast directory--but the Zune players only feature more memory, without any other changes to their hardware. Keeping last year's design does not seem like an effective way to keep up with Apple.
The new Zune "buy from FM" feature felt like a particularly wasted opportunity. It may just be that I tried it in the wrong city--the D.C. radio market can seem like a wasteland compared to many other cities. (For example, we've got nothing close to Seattle's alternative station KEXP.) And many of the more creative music outlets around here don't tag their songs over the air--WPFW, for instance, doesn't do this, so if you don't catch the title of the jazz cut you just heard, you're out of luck.
(Some HD Radio receivers include iPod docks that let you tag songs you like for later purchase off the iTunes Store; I'm somewhat skeptical of this feature as well, but at least some mainstream stations are being relatively creative with their HD Radio secondary channels.)
What else would you like to know about the iPod--or media players in general? Ask me at my Web chat, starting at 2. Or post your thoughts in a comment here.
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