Why Apple’s iPod Sucks – Part 2

This is the continuation and conclusion of my earlier post on Why Apple’s iPod Sucks.

I have already touched on what I believe makes iPods cool: clever marketing. Now I will tackle the true purpose of this two-part post.

Why iPods Suck:

  1. The battery and hard drive are not user-replaceable.
  2. The warranty and support options are laughable considering the cost of the device and #1.
  3. The hierarchical navigation of the iPod is dated and unimaginative.
  4. iTunes purchases cost $0.99 each (or $9.99 per “album”).

The first item is self-explanatory and is an issue because the huge storage capacity and long battery life is what makes these devices better than portable CD players. If you lose one of the two, the device becomes a costly paperweight. Even rechargeable batteries do not last very long (compared to the shelf life of one’s music catalog) before needing to be replaced and hard drives are prone to failure with repeated use within a portable device. It is no surprise, for these reasons, notebook/laptop/tablet computer makers configure their systems such that both these components are easily serviced by the end-user long after the warranty expires.

The PJB-100, which was the first mass-marketed, hard-disk-based, portable music player, predates the iPod by about 3 years and has both a user-replaceable battery and hard drive. I purchased a PJB-100 back in June 2000 and have had no battery issues that require me to send the device off to be serviced — which is great since the company is no longer in business — and I have since upgraded the hard drive to 40GB which is more than the capacity of my current, 3rd-generation iPod. In fact, the PJB-100 accepts just about any Toshiba 2.5″ hard drive so I could upgrade it to 100GB fairly inexpensively, immediately giving that “old” device considerably more capacity than Apple’s largest-capacity iPod offered today.

As indicated, bullet #2 is definitely related to bullet #1. I have had the unenviable experience of having my iPod hard drive fail on me after its anemic one-year warranty had expired. What guidance did I receive by the thoroughly chipper, thoroughly unhelpful representative at the nearby Apple Store after he diagnosed the problem?

Option 1: He would allow me to trade in my broken, 18-month old device for a 10% discount toward a new device. Let me see: My broken iPod cost $400+ and broke after 18 months. Now I was being given the privilege of upgrading to the latest comparable device at $399 + tax minus a 10% discount. Did I mention sales tax in the area is 8.8%. I wish I had a photo of the look I gave the poor sales rep. I think he quickly realized that was a non-starter.

Option 2: He would “swap out” my defective device for a refurbished unit (same model) for the low price of $249. So I could get a used/refurbished device for more than half what I paid for a brand new model just 18 months ago. And what about all the music that would be lost? Sorry, it sucks to be you.

What option did I pick? “C” [sic] and sent my broken iPod to the nice folks at iPodResq to replace the drive and battery for approximately the same price as Option 2. I just could not accept having a $400 paperweight after only 18 months since I do use my iPod a lot. Of course, I may end up with a $650 paperweight in 21-months (the iPodResq warranty is just 90 days) but it is a chance I am willing to take. I am so glad the maker of my laptop computer had more foresight when it came to the serviceability of its battery and hard drive.

On to bullet #3 (I am going to wrap up this post soon…I promise.) The navigation on the iPod is so yesterdecade. Genre->Artist->Album->Song. Umm, the PJB-100 had this back in 1999. In fact, it even supports shuffling by genre/set, artist or album. I want searching ability with auto-complete like my empeg/Rio Car. I want custom search playlists like Windows Media Player but on the device so when I add songs to my iPod they appear in the appropriate playlists automatically (e.g., all Little Brother songs I have listened to more than twice.)

Bullet #4 is just stupid on Apple’s and the music studios’ parts. Not all songs are created equal so they should not cost the same amount. I agree with Steve Jobs that à la carte pricing the way the studios want to do it amounts to nothing more than greed however the middle ground solution is to make $0.99 the maximum price and discount less popular tracks from there. Why is this a problem? Two reasons:

  • A skit on an album is not the same as a song on an album. Many hip-hop albums contain skits that add to the listening experience or are just plain funny but they lose their value after the second or third time hearing them. So “don’t buy them” is not much of a solution for those of us who wish to hear the entire album the way the artist intended at least once. “Buy the entire album for $9.99 then,” you say? Well…
  • Not all tracks are available on a given album so doing the “Buy Album” option really amounts to buy the sanctioned tracks from this album. Furthermore, if you have credits in your iTunes account these cannot be used to buy entire albums just individual tracks.

I promised to wrap this post up quickly and I do not want to scare people away with my maiden post topic. So, to summarize: Apple’s iPod Sucks.

John Dvorak published an interesting article on Media Bias and Technology Reporting focused particularly on the coverage of Apple’s products versus Microsoft. Anyone who has read his writings over the years knows Dvorak is definitely not biased toward Microsoft which gives this article a good dose of credibility. Furthermore, I think his conclusion dovetails nicely with Part 1 since clever marketing + media bias = hype.

Another recent article on CNet discusses Apple’s proposed iPod tax that the company intends to impose on makers of gadgets and accessories which connect to the iPod dock connector. This is inline with my previous assertion that Apple gets away with things with the iPod that no other company would. Imagine Microsoft taking such a similar stance publicly with the myriad companies who make money by leveraging Microsoft technologies. I highly doubt representatives from such companies would react with, “We have a great relationship with [Microsoft], and we fully support the ‘Made for [Xbox 360]’ program.” In fact, I bet lawyers would make more money from such a program than Microsoft ever would.

I promise not to be as verbose going forward but this was just something on my mind that I wanted to put on yours.

Keith

One Reply to “Why Apple’s iPod Sucks – Part 2”

  1. Very interesting. I completely see your point (although I am an ipod virgin – they’re not that popular over here in Aotearoa). EVEN SO. I use Microsoft everyday, both at work and at home, but at heart, am an Apple girl. Seems I just can’t help myself. There’s something nostalgic about the brand (or am I just the ultimate consumer?) Keep blogging, I luff reading it 🙂

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