I was given an iPod as a birthday gift a couple of years ago. Immediately, I fell in love with it, and it revolutionised my listening habits. It looks good, it is easy to use, and my particular model stored 5,000 songs, about half of my CD-based music collection.
But my love affair quickly turned sour. Over time, I have experienced various problems with the iPod and iTunes, some of which are listed after the jump.
My iPod is theoretically full (well, it would be, had it not refused to upload 40% of my digital music catalogue), meaning that I need a new one with more storage space, but because of these issues I’m going to wait for Microsoft’s ‘Zune’. I don’t expect MS to fix everything, but I just can’t commit to investing in another overhyped, underperforming device from Apple, beautiful as they are.
So here are my top 10 issues with iPod and iTunes:
1. iTunes = TOO EXPENSIVE. You pay over the odds for albums that often cost way less on Amazon. So if you’re prepared to wait for a CD to arrive then do so, because you get some added extras like packaging and artwork, and hey, it’s a hard copy! Ok, iTunes is great when you just want one or two tunes, but you end up buying full albums. One Cocteau Twins ‘box set’ was being sold on iTunes for twice the price of the much nicer hard copy - £35 vs £18. Outrage!
2. iTunes = TOO SINGLE-MINDED. Variable pricing is needed, especially for the indie labels and the vintage material. Blame the greedhead record execs for this. I can’t come to terms with buying a new tune for the same sort of money that I pay for something that’s already made millions in profit for these swine. Or that the really weird only-me-and-three-others-will-buy-it-this-year song costs the same as some guff from Coldplay. But no, some obscure track costs the same as a new, uberpopular, 15-weeks-at-number-1 hit single.
3. iTunes = UNFORGIVING. It gives you the songs once, and no more, so you have to remember to make backups. You can’t download them again! And yes, I'm bitter, I forgot (procrastinated / relied on my iPod for backup). I just didn’t get to this in time and my rubbish Dell laptop died some months ago, leaving me 40% stuffed (see 6. for calculations). Like I said, buying a CD gives you a hard copy to begin with, so why bother with iTunes? iTunes suggests that you always backup downloads. Presumably you need to buy blank CDs to create ‘hard’ backups. Ridiculous, when you can just buy the CD to begin with, for less money.
4. iTunes = HORRIBLE USER EXPERIENCE. But it’s APPLE! Apple wins design awards! Jonathan Ives! Righty-ho. Well here it is: iTunes sucks, from a usability perspective. I may save my bitchin’ for a whole new post – that’s how sucky it is. Clunky, heavy, image rich, slow, imprecise, poor search functionality, no watchlist. Why can’t I search by label? Why can’t I properly personalise iTunes? How come it doesn’t seem to remember which albums I have bought, when recommending me new material? I think Apple has missed a trick in this area.
5. iPod = CRASH. It’s gonna happen, happens all the time. I’ve stopped shuffling ‘All Songs’, because, like a blind alcoholic driving a bus with faulty brakes, that’s a guaranteed crash-in-waiting. Sometimes it will stick on one song, keep you waiting, then move to another, repeat several times, then play the opening of a song before giving up entirely. This forces you to perform a hard reset. Sometimes, a hard reset will put the iPod in a coma for days, before you see a miraculous recovery, like some kind of gift from the iPod Gods. And you, poor iPod user, remain none the wiser. The brave can opt for a factory reset, but then you need to re-upload all of your songs. Pain! Woe! Craaaash!
6. iPod = FALSE DAWN. Believe me, if you’re a music fan who hasn’t made the switch to digital music players then you don’t know what you’re missing. You will be amazed at how an iPod changes your listening behaviour. But then, it will Let You Down, as technology often does. Sometimes you are told that you MUST update your iPod, even if it is working perfectly, and sometimes this course of action results in Big Problems. Technology is never simple, is it? Figuring out how to make iTunes and iPods work when things go awry is not straightforward. I couldn’t get mine to speak to one another for a number of annoying weeks. When it finally did start talking it only uploaded about 60% of my music catalogue. And then my Dell laptop stopped working, so now I’ve lost 40% of my digital music collection.
7. iPod = UNETHICAL? Apple has been on the receiving end of accusations about using sweatshops in China (The Mail On Sunday pointed the finger last month). Sure, iPods look pretty cool, but would you feel comfortable paying £300 for a device built by “workers, who work 15-hour days but are paid just $50 a month - miserable even by China's standards”?
8. iTunes = PROPRIETARY FILE FORMAT. A ghastly, lock-in strategy from Apple, which doesn’t realise that people don’t like this sort of thing. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft’s Zune offers, in terms of acceptable file formats. We do know that it is “planning to let you download for free any songs you've already bought from the iTunes Music Store”.
9. iPods = QUALITY ISSUES? Not according to VP of iPod Marketing Greg Joswiak, who says the iPod has a 5% first-year failure rate, compared with 30% for many mobile devices. But there have been many reports of breakages, of battery failures, of scratchy surfaces. And hey, 5% of the 8.1m iPods sold in the last three months is 405,000, which is a lot of broken devices.
10. iPod = NOT ZUNE! Yup, MS is going mano e mano with Apple, which currently dominates the digital music space with about 80% market share. This is almost certainly going to fall with the release of Zune, which we also expect will enlarge the overall market. Don’t bet against Microsoft, not when it is this serious. It is planning to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the Zune rollout, and has a 5-year strategic plan. Serious Commitment. Look at how well MS has done in establishing the Xbox as a competitor to Sony’s PS2. At the time, many thought launching a console was folly. I’m highly likely to give Zune a whirl when it is launched. Especially if it is Wi-Fi-enabled. And, of course, for the 9 above reasons…