Tag Archives | MP3 Players

Is the Classic iPod a Goner?

Heavenly iPodTumblr developer/blogger Marco Arment has posted his best guesses about what Apple will announce–iPodwise, at least–at its music event next Wednesday (Technologizer will be there to liveblog the news). Arment’s predictions seem logical enough–which doesn’t guarantee their accuracy, of course–and the most interesting thing about them is that he thinks that Apple will discontinue the iPod Classic, the high-capacity, small-screen, no-touch, no-apps model that’s the direct descendent of the original 2001 iPod.

In the era in which the iPod Touch is unquestionably the most exciting iPod and the Nano is the dominant “traditional” iPod, are there any reasons why Apple wouldn’t kill the Classic?

Continue Reading →


iPods With Video Cameras? Sure. iPods With Projectors? I’m Skeptical.

iPod CameraJudging the accuracy of Apple rumors may not be a cakewalk, but one technique is surprisingly effective and obvious: Ask yourself if past Apple history suggests that a rumor sounds like something the company would do. By that measure, the current rumors about iPod Touch and Nano models with built-in video cameras sounds entirely plausible. The iPhone 3GS‘s camera shows Apple has invested in video-recording hardware and software. It’s gradually been turning every iPod except for the screenless Shuffle into a video device. And given that a high percentage of people who want iPods own them by now, Apple could use a strikingly new feature with wide appeal to tempt them to upgrade.

On the other hand, I’d be surprised if concurrent rumors about Apple getting ready to build projectors into iPhones and iPods are the real deal. Projectors may be getting tinier, but they aren’t yet teensy enough to cram into a phone or MP3 player that’s as thin as the ones Apple likes to make. And how often would a real person want to project an image from an iPhone or iPod in the real world? Not all that often, surely. Apple history shows that it’s not all that interested in adding exotic features that won’t be used much, and is almost never the first company to embrace a new technology. (It tends to cheerfully sit on the sidelines while other companies make bleeding-edge products that are noble in their ambitions but frustrating in practice.)

I’m not saying that there will never be Apple handheld devices with built-in projectors, but I don’t think we’re a couple of months away from seeing them. And a couple of months from now is almost certainly when Apple will announce its new lineup of iPods. Any guesses (or wishes) about what the Fall 2009 lineup of iPods will involve?


WSJ: Dell is Developing an Android Handheld

Dell Android DeviceRumors about a Dell handheld device of some sort have been circulating for ages, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting what seems to be more than mere rumor. It says that Dell is working on a handheld that will sport an ARM processor and run Google’s Android OS. It may come out in the second half this year, the Journal says. Or be delayed. Or never come out.

The Dell gadget would apparently be a rival for Apple’s extremely successful iPod Touch–a device that’s been around for two years and which still doesn’t have much in the way of direct competition, though it’ll get some later this year when Microsoft’s Zune HD appears. The Journal’s story points out that a Dell Android handheld would be an example of the Mobile Internet Device form factor championed by Intel–even if it runs a non-Intel CPU–but the most striking thing about MIDs so far is that that nobody who claims to make one has built anything that consumers want to buy in significant numbers. Apple made the Touch into a hit in part by blithely sidestepping all the mistakes the rest of the industry was making, such as trying to shoehorn full-strength operating systems onto tiny devices and giving them lame physical keyboards.

At this point in any story on Dell’s handheld plans, it’s mandatory to mention that it tried making MP3 players before and failed. But basing a new device on Android would be smart (it relieves Dell of most of the challenges of being a software company). And Dell picked up some interesting intellectual property and smart people when it acquired a mobile software/service company called Zing in 2007. Bottom line: Dell isn’t any more of an unlikely candidate to take in the iPod Touch than anyone else who seems to be planning to do so.

One comment

Seven Questions About the Zune HD

Zune HDBack on April 10th, our own Ed Oswald reported that he’d confirmed that the rumored Zune HD was real and would ship in the fall.  He spoke the truth–as Cnet’s Ina Fried is reporting, Microsoft confirmed today that it plans to release an iPod Touch-like Zune then. (The company has confirmed it’s called the Zune HD hasn’t yet said what the product’s name will be, or but hasn’t disclosed how much it will cost.)

The new Zune will have:

  • A touchscreen;
  • A 480-by-272  OLED display;
  • The ability to output HD content to a TV;
  • A built-in HD receiver.

That’s an intriguing list of specs, and enough to make it clear that Microsoft is building an iPod Touch rival, not a wannabee: While the form factor shown in the art Microsoft released is extremely Touch-esque, no Apple handheld has an OLED screen, HD radio, or HD video output.

Microsoft pre-announced just enough detail about the device to whet the appetite, so I’m left with more questions than answers. Such as the seven I ask after the jump.

Continue Reading →


Even More on That iPod Shuffle Remote Control

iPod Shuffle ControlOver at PCMag.com, Mark Hachman has a good piece on the controversial new earbud-embedded remote control for Apple’s new iPod Shuffle. Folks have theorized that Apple will demand royalties on third-party headphones that incorporate remote controls, and that it might be encrypting commands send from the remote to the Shuffle to prevent unauthorized clones. And maybe even that it was planning to spread such a design to other iPods.

Hachman’s piece is based largely on an interview with a Monster Cable exec; that company plans to make lots of Shuffle-compatible headphones, and says that the commands aren’t encrypted and that it thinks that manufacturers could make compatible headphones without Apple’s blessing. On the other hand, the remote functionality apparently does fall under Apple’s “Made for iPod” logo program, which involves paying a fee to Apple if a company chooses to participate.

Bottom line: It looks like the remote may be a new revenue stream for Apple, but that it isn’t a nefarious plot to monopolize the iPod headphone market. Which doesn’t mean that the Shuffle’s design won’t continue to be controversial. I seem to be one of relatively few reviewers who was sort of won over by it–not that I decided it makes sense for everybody–and I remain very curious whether consumers will end up giving it a thumbs up. (The most obvious way to tell that will be if the design continues on to the fourth-generation Shuffle, whenever that shows up…)


Apple's New iPod Shuffle: The First Invisible MP3 Player

iPod Shuffle TeaserIt’s tempting, when writing about Apple’s new third-generation iPod Shuffle, to veer towards the whimsical, and stay there. You might compare the tiny player to various other tiny objects, or theorize that the next Shuffle will be the size of a Tylenol, or even perform stupid Shuffle tricks such as stuffing one inside a Pez Dispenser. This is not going to be that kind of review. I found this player unexpectedly interesting, and there’s a lot to talk about beyond its lack of obesity.

When Apple updates other iPod models, the change is usually about two things: better features (such as the bigger iPods’ addition of video) and slicker industrial design (such as the Nano’s evolution from a blocky plastic device to a gracefully curved metal one). The Shuffle is fundamentally different–it’s on a track of ever-decreasing size and ever-increasing minimalism. What Apple would like, I think, is for the Shuffle to be invisible. Not in the ha-ha manner of SNL’s iPod Invisa, but in the sense that the music matters and the gadget itself is sort of beside the point. The new version takes a major leap in that direction, and not just because Apple shrunk its size by almost fifty percent.

Continue Reading →


Introducing the iPez Shuffle!

iPod Shuffle TeaserI’m not sure if there are any deep psychological insights to be gained, but one interesting thing about Apple’s tiny new iPod Shuffle is that it reminds different people of different other tiny things. USA Today’s Ed Baig compared it to a tie clasp. For David Pogue of the New York Times, it evoked Trident gum.

And me? The moment I saw it in person, I thought to myself, Pez. The player’s size and dimensions brought to mind a wrapped roll of Pez candy, the kind you insert into a Pez dispenser. So I did a comparison. The Shuffle is a tad wider than a Pez packet, but its depth is about the same, and it’s quite a bit shorter. And that’s including the Shuffle’s built-in clip.

Continue Reading →


The iPod Shuffle Gets Even Smaller

Apple usually announces new stuff on Tuesdays, but just to keep us on our toes, it’s making an, ahem, small announcement today. There’s a new iPod Shuffle that’s almost 50 percent smaller than its predecessor, and smaller than an AA battery, yet which is still the first Shuffle capable of putting the iPod’s traditional 1,000 songs in your pocket (or on your person–the new Shuffle retains the built-in clip):

iPod Shuffle

The company achieved the further shrinkage by moving the controls off the player onto a tiny remote that’s embedded in the headphones (making this, I guess, the first iPod that can’t be used with third-party headphones, unless someone comes up with some sort of adapter):

Shuffle Controls

[UPDATE: Apple says you’ll be able to buy an adapter for third-party headphones. Better than nothing–especially if you’re the type of person who associates Apple headphone with a stinging feeling in one’s ears, or with them just falling out–but adding an adapter certainly eliminates some of the appeal of the Shuffle’s tininess.]

The new Shuffle also introduces a new feature called VoiceOver that reads menus, song titles, and the like out loud in a robotic voice; it can also read playlist names, allowing this to be the first Shuffle that supports playlists. Apple’s demo video shows how it works. Apple’s promotion for this new player says it’s the first talking MP3 player. Not so. It may have the most sophisticated text-to-speech interface, but the current iPod Nano also has a speech option.

(Side note: The video demonstrator, who says she’s an Apple Store employee, talks about how the remote control lets you use the Shuffle while on a “ride.” If she lives in Apple’s headquarters state of California, that better not be a bicycle ride–covering both your ears with headphones while biking is illegal here.)

At this point, Apple is presumably shrinking the Shuffle because, well, it can, and because some folks will buy a new one simply because it’s smaller. But it’s hard to imagine that anyone found the previous one uncomfortably bulky.

(Second side note: I wonder whether Apple will release a software update for the old Shuffles that gives them VoiceOver?)

The new Shuffle is made of aluminum, comes in silver and black (you gotta think that Apple will restore the old Shuffle’s rainbow of colors eventually),  and is available in one storage capacity: 4GB for $79. It’s shipping today.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, here’s what the previous-generation Shuffle (which dates from September 2006) looked like. It was, arguably, a cooler piece of industrial design, or at least a less Spartan one:

2nd Generation Shuffle

And here’s the original Juicyfruit-sized  iPod Shuffle, announced at Macworld Expo in January 2005, and strikingly small at the time:

First-Generation Shuffle

And here’s a hasty artist’s conception of what next next-gen Shuffle could look like:

Tiny iPod Shuffle


The T-Poll: Zunes of Death

T-PollWith the year ending with the bizarre drama of 30GB Microsoft Zunes everywhere croaking in sudden, synchronized self-destruction, it’s time for a T-Poll. Three of them, actually. (UPDATE: Microsoft has figured out what happened, so I’m closing the polls…)

Be the first to comment

Zunes of Death: Microsoft’s Y2K9 Problem

Zune of DeathGood grief–vast numbers of folks with 30GB Microsoft MP3 players with the latest firmware are reporting that their players have reset and are stuck at a boot-up screen, and are therefore inoperable. It’s not clear what’s going on–the fact that Zune tech support has the day off probably doesn’t help–but Microsoft has posted a note stating that they’re aware of the glitches and are working on it.

For the sake of all those Zune owners, you gotta hope that there’s an easy fix–and that if it requires another firmware update, the fact that the Zunes can’t start up isn’t a roadblock.

Even if Microsoft manages to put things right swiftly, this is a huge embarrassment. I can’t think offhand of another major software company that’s had three recent instances of software accidentally crippling itself (the other two involved Windows Genuine Advantage screwing up the computers of paying Microsoft customers). And all the effort Microsoft has put into improving the Zune’s reputation through building better devices, software, and services may just have gone down the drain. If there’s a God of Technology-Product Reputations, he or she apparently has it in for the Zune platform.

More details when we get ’em. I’m glad we didn’t do a story on the stupidest moments of the year, since we’d have posted it by now, and this just might be the stupidest of them all…

(UPDATE: We’re doing a little poll on all this. Take it here. Thanks!)

(FURTHER UPDATE: The official Zune Twitter feed says they’re making progress and might have news soon.)