I’ve joined the countless millions who have had their ears invaded my small white buds that connect to the infernal device pictured over on there on the right commonly known as an iPod. More specifically, it’s an iPod Mini which is a model they don’t even make anymore having been replaced by the iPod Nano some time ago. My subversion was originally scheduled to happen about this time last year, but the untimely cancellation of my contract by the folks at Ford Motor Company ensured that I wasn’t around to go to my contract house’s annual Employee Appreciation dinner where they handed these out in celebration of 20 years of business. Turns out, though, that they had quite a few more left over than they anticipated and now that I’m working in-house for the company my HR rep dug up the iPod that had my name on it and got it to me today. So this little 4GB instrument of hearing loss didn’t cost me a dime. Which, ironically, makes it difficult to judge its value.
I’ve kind of wanted an MP3 player of some sort for quite awhile, but not so much that I made a special effort to get one and I wasn’t particularly worried if it was an iPod. My opinion was that they seemed cool enough, but like most of Apple’s products, were overpriced. This is, in fact, the first Apple product I’ve ever owned mainly because I could never bring myself to spend the extra money when there were alternatives that suited my needs just fine for less money. Like I said, though, I hadn’t really made an effort to get any MP3 player because I do most of my music listening in the car where I have a perfectly good in-dash CD player. At home and work I don’t tend to listen to music all that often and I’ve not really stuck to any serious effort at exercising where having an MP3 player might come in handy.
I’ve only been playing around with it for a couple of hours or so and my initial impression is that it’s “nifty”, but has a couple of annoyances:
The first and foremost irritant is the necessity of using iTunes to load the damned thing up. I don’t care for iTunes as an MP3 player and I like it even less as a means of loading up an external device such as the iPod. My MP3 collection at the moment consists of some 3,400 files equaling around 16GB of space which is a lot of shit to have to sort through when you’re picking what you want to load onto your iPod. I thought I’d be able to just click the little check boxes next to each song and then tell it to load ‘em up and away I’d go, but it doesn’t work that way. So I went back through and CTRL-clicked on every title I wanted to load up and tried to drag and drop it onto the iPod only to have something not work right and it only copied one song. I didn’t really feel like CTRL-clicking all those files again and the little check boxes were still checked so I finally figured out a way to create a “smart list” that picked only the songs that were checked. In short, I didn’t find loading up the songs intuitive at all. Doing a little searching shows that there’s a couple of possible iTunes alternatives out there that I may have to give a try. I only own one album purchased through iTunes anyway and I don’t plan on buying any more songs from Apple due to the DRM they come with so I won’t need to use it all that often. Yes, I know I can strip the DRM with various software freely available on the net, but I’d rather not have to bother. There’s not that much new music I’m interested in anyway so I’ll just rip my CDs, which the majority of are from the mid-90s or earlier.
The other irritation is these damned ear buds. Maybe I just have funky shaped ears, but they feel like they’re about to fall out any second and the slightest head movement dramatically changes the sound quality as they shift in my ears. At the proper angle they sound great with good bass response, but then shift your head slightly and they sound like the cheapest transistor AM radio kit you can buy at Radio Shack. I suppose I just need to find the proper way of wedging them in so they stay in one spot. I sure as hell don’t think I can get away with dancing like they do in the commercials without them flying across the room.
Beyond those two things it’s not a bad little toy though the touch-sensitive shuttle dial takes some getting used to. It charges up pretty quickly (took about an hour or so plugged into the PC’s USB port) and it’s definitely much nicer to clip to your belt than the Walkman players of old which I used to own in my teen years. I’ve only loaded up 542.2MB out of the 4GB it has available and that’s already enough for 6 hours of non-stop music so that’s pretty cool. If you were to buy a similar model today it’d be the 4GB iPod Nano which runs around $249 and I don’t think I’d be willing to spend that much on this player, though the 512MB or 1GB iPod Shuffles for $69 and $99 respectively might be something I’d consider if I had to buy one. If you’re going to spend $249 on the 4GB model then you may as well spend the extra $50 and get the 30GB iPod for $299 and have a shit load more room.
For free, though, it’s a great bargain so my advice is to get someone else to buy one for you. Then you can be a wicked cool hipster just like me.