Yesterday I said that Apple was going to come out with an iPod with touchscreen similar to the iPhone, but that if it had WiFi, they wouldn’t allow you to surf over it. Well, I’m completely wrong. Today they announced the iPod touch, which is essentially an iPhone without the phone part that many people were clamoring for. I actually can’t believe that Apple did it. They’re not known to make devices that people ask for, rather they make a device and make you want it. I thought they would limit WiFi usage somehow so that the iPhone is still their “high-end” offering. Perhaps they know that they’d get a lot more sales of an iPhone-like device without the phone, and are using the touch to make up for a slow down in iPhone sales? Or they’re just making sure all bases are covered by offering the iPod touch to users (like me) who really didn’t want to move over to AT&T? Whatever the reason, I’m very glad they made the iPod touch. In fact, I pre-ordered the iPod touch today. This is the first time I ordered a device online on the day of the announcement.
If you’re not as interested in the iPod touch, the rest of the iPod line got a nice refresh/update. The “regular” iPods are now called iPod classics. They got a bump in capacity up to 160GB, which is awesome. They also have a new metal casing, which I think looks pretty sleek.
The rumor of the “fat” iPod nanos turned out to be true! Luckily the devices do not look ugly. They have a bigger screen, video and game capabilities, and they have an upgraded UI like the iPod classic does. It seems both iPod classic and nano are running the normal iPod OS, but with different menus/display modes, while the iPod touch is running OS X. Don’t quote me on that, though. The nanos are also amazingly thin. I am a little wary about how fragile they could be in a pocket.
The shuffles are essentially the same, but there are 5 new colors. And one of them is purple! Purple is my favorite color, for those of you who don’t know. There aren’t many purple gadgets out there, so I may pick up a purple shuffle just because. Oh yeah, there’s also a Product(RED) edition of the shuffle and the nano.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the iPod touch and iPhone will get 3rd-party apps. If they do, they could be very close to becoming the Newton’s successors. As it stands, it looks like the iPod touch will have basic calendar and contact syncing. Combined with Gmail and Google Docs, the iPod touch could be a decent PDA-like device, or multimedia computer to compete with devices like the N95.
So now we have Leopard to look forward to sometime in October (hopefully), and perhaps around that same time, some MacBook or MacBook Pro refreshes will also be available. Still holding out for my ultra-portable MacBook with the 10″ screen… Very fun stuff for Apple enthusiasts.
Powered by ScribeFire.
Since I have been dragging my feet a bit in posting my review of the Sandisk Sansa Connect, I thought I’d post a straight dump of the mind map I did on bubbl.us, an online mindmapping application. I will probably revisit this and flesh it out a bit more in the next couple days, but I wanted to post something now, since I know some of you are waiting to hear more about it.
**Sorry about the fonts and the weird formatting. I can’t seem to get it to look right from my WYSIWYG editor (ScribeFire extension for Firefox). I already enlarged the fonts overall, but there are still some really small fonts. Mea culpa!
- Vivid colors
Downloading tracks directly over WiFi
Downloading tracks at the same time as streaming net radio or listening to music did not seem to affect the streams that much
Easy, just log in to YMU service and subscription is taken care of
Very easy to download a song or an album of the current song playing, whether it is on the streaming radio station, or a local track on your player.
Sounds great for a small, mono speaker
A lot more convenient than a speaker dock
Connection to Flickr is really cool
Since Flickr requires Yahoo login, assuming your Flickr and YMU subscription are under the same login, the connection is automatic
Colors seem very close to my iMac monitor
Menus look fairly pleasant
Okay, bright color scheme (Yahoo-ized, as mentioned elsewhere) that sort of looks glassy, like Aero Glass on Vista, or Aqua elements in OS X
Album art is shown in just about every menu, whether it is for local content, or for streaming radio stations, or for Yahoo Music Unlimited content under the “Get More Music” menu
Consistent context menus available for different options during playback
Options menu (left button under screen)
Can rate not only current song, but also the album and artist. This feature is very good for tailoring music recommendations from subscription service.
Control shuffle and repeat; nice to be able to do this without having to leave the “Now Playing” screen.
Remove song from playlist or from device. I really wish the iPod had this feature! Helps to get rid of listened-to tracks while away from computer.
Zing menu (right button)
My most liked feature: “make a mix like this song”
Main draw for this player — WiFi functionality is accessed through this menu option
Sending recommendations to friends
Yahoo Messenger buddies
Can see what music your buddies are listening to if they are online and have the feature enabled
Nearby Sansa Connect users
Getting recommendations from friends
Sending tracks to other Connect users nearby
Downloading individual songs or albums
Slow sync time
At least 2x slower at syncing playlists than iPod
*Granted, I did sync to a HD-based iPod. I don’t know if syncing to my nano would’ve been closer in syncing time to the Connect. I highly doubt it, though, considering my past experience.
This is likely due to MTP. When I used two other apps to sync a playlist to the Connect, I got similar sync times (both of which were still at least 2x slower than iTunes syncing to an iPod).
Means that you’re limited to programs that handle MTP
Windows Media Player
Preferred, since it seems the least bloated out of all of these apps. Also seems to be more effective at managing ID3 tags and album art.
Yahoo Music Jukebox
Winamp (via plugin)
Can’t use as Flash drive
WiFi is limited to Yahoo services. Cannot specify your own favorite online radio stations. Can still use any PlaysForSure tracks, but not over WiFi.
LAUNCHCast radio stations
Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go subscription service
Yahoo Music Jukebox software sucks*
This and the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription service will discussed in more detail in a separate blog post.
Crashed several times
Problems with licensing, dupes, no genre ID3 tags on some subscription tracks
Storefront looks blah, hard to navigate, too much drilling down into genre categories
WiFi interface to YMU is not robust enough to completely forgo Jukebox software
Only limited to a certain number of “top tracks” in each genre.
Genre categories are not as intuitive as on other music services; need to drill down too much to get to certain common genres, like “alternative”.
Can’t download tracks from PC over WiFi (i.e. podcast playlists)
No OTG playlist creation
This would’ve helped in “untethering” the player from the PC, which could’ve help the Connect overcome the lousy syncing software it has to use.
No video (would have been a nice bonus with the big screen)
Screen is not that much smaller than 5th-gen iPods, so watching short video podcasts or short TV shows would be a decent experience
No Audible support?
No display customization
No themes or wallpaper choices
Only one view for playback window
No “album art-friendly” display option to show the album art fullscreen
Very Yahoo-ized look, which isn’t that bad
Price is high compared to competitors
While comparable in price to iPod nano, or other 4GB flash players, a user would really need to subscribe to Yahoo Music Unlimited to get the full experience on the Connect. So price is really $250 + $15/mo subscription.
MicroSD slot is too hard to access
The slot on my particular unit seemed deeply inset, so you need to use something like a fingernail to really push the card into the slot properly. And I already have small hands. Someone with larger hands would surely have a problem with this.
Mechanical scroll wheel, while smooth, sometime lags behind, or does not register movement. So navigation can be a bit touchy.
Battery life might be short compared to competitors; didn’t do any scientific tests, though
Power button doesn’t have enough tactile feedback. It is relatively low-profile, so sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not the button press was registered by the device.
No extra features like games, clock, alarm, sleep timer. Would have at least liked a clock display at the top of the screen during playback.
Podcasting support is nonexistent, meaning podcast are just treated as any other audio track
No bookmark feature for playback
Essential for long podcasts/audiobooks
The rew/ff speed of the player isn’t quick enough (IMO) to skip through a long track to get back to where you left off.
No show notes support for podcasts
No easy way to filter out podcasts or audiobooks from music library
During shuffle, would probably get podcasts interspersed with music, since the two types of tracks are not differentiated.
I was listening to my backlog of C|Net's Buzz Out Loud podcast (very good daily tech news podcast), and their mention of Windows Media Player 11 (specifically a mention of a review for WMP11 on C|Net's site) reminded me that I wanted to check it out. I think I had already installed it before, but hadn't been able to check out the Urge music store.
Well, I finally did look around the Urge store, and I have to admit I was impressed, although I have noticed that the Urge store is much slower in loading than iTunes Music Store (could be because it's still beta, but who knows). The iTunes Music Store is kind of the benchmark, whether you like it or not, and I think the Urge store has made a good attempt at creating an online music store similar to iTMS. They have their version of "iTunes Essenials" playlists called "Super Playlists", which are like megamixes based on genres, themes, etc. They have celebrity playlists, streaming radio stations, charts of the most popular tracks, and of course, a lot of MTV/VH1/etc. featured content. There are 3 different account types, 2 of which (IIRC) are subscription-type accounts, with the third being similar to iTMS — pay per track/album. I just noticed that if you have the "All Access" subscription account, you can preview the whole song sample, instead of just the first 30 seconds.
The feature I liked the most about the Urge music store was that if you navigate to different parts of the store while a song sample is being played, it doesn't abruptly stop mid-stream, like on iTMS. I always found that really annoying. It's a minor detail, but I'm surprised that iTMS is "ungraceful" like that. So that was a pleasant surprise on the Urge store.
OT: I discovered a cool group called Psapp (pronounced "sap") while browsing around the electronica section on Urge. They had an album up on the electronica new releases section. The first time I tried to check out the album, the tracks weren't sample-able, but I think that was a glitch, because later in the evening, all the tracks were playable. There was a link to one of Psapp's music videos, so I watched it when I saw I couldn't listen to song samples at the moment. Googled the group, and eventually figured out that I want to buy one of their albums, but Urge doesn't happen to carry it; iTMS does. How ironic…
Anyway, getting back to WMP11… The overall look of the player is very slick. Very reminiscent of Vista styling (of course). The grouping methods for your music library are a lot better than what used to be available in earlier versions of WMP. It's quite apparent that Microsoft is gunning for iTunes. Like iTunes, you can manage and view your digital photos and videos along with your music all under one interface. You can sync to supported portable media devices, and it graphically indicates the free space left on your device (didn't it use to do that? Other reviews I've read keep mentioning this feature…). Unlike iTunes, you can do a "reverse sync" of content from your portable player back to your PC without having to resort to a 3rd party program, so that is a bonus.
I don't have a portable player that I can sync up with WMP 11, but if I do end up getting the Toshiba Gigabeat S, I'll report more on how the two interact. Well, it wasn't an extensive review by any means, but there's my first impression of WMP 11. I think it's a vast improvement over earlier versions, and I will keep my eye on the Urge music store, as well as the Vongo video subscription service that is supposed to be available as a content provider within WMP 11.
Here are a couple good C|Net review links (I swear I don't work for them; they're just a good review site!) about Windows Media Player 11: