Thursday, June 21, 2007

Am I the only one who doesn't love the iPod UI?

I love my iPod. There's something magical about burning several drawers full of CDs onto a device I can stick in my pocket. I even use iTunes to buy music, though not frequently.

(Side note: Hey, music industry, I have 1000s of songs on my iPod and NOT ONE of them is pirated. But I have two laptops, a desktop, two iPod shuffles, one iPod, one Disney MP3 player, and I'd love to find a car stereo that let's me store my music directly on the stereo instead of trying to remember my iPod whenever I drive somewhere. I have reason to copy my music between all these places. Stop making my life difficult. )

(Side note: Hey, Apple, that 99 cents-a-song thing was a great gimmick when you launched iTunes. But that what is was... a gimmick. It's over, man. First of all, 99 cents per song isn't cheap. Second of all, there's no real reason why all music should cost the same amount. Here's the deal - there's a whole bunch of music on iTunes that I'd pay a quarter to buy, but I won't pay a buck to buy. For a quarter, I'll try new things. I'll experiment. I'll get some older nostalgic songs from my misspent youth. For a buck, I'll get stuff I know I'll really like, and I'll be careful. If you took your music catalog and made half of it 25 cents a pop, you'd make more money.)

Anyway, back to the iPod and its UI. I had heard all about how "simple" the UI was. I expected to love it. Instead, I'm a bit shocked by some of the fundamental flaws in the UI that irritate me on a regular basis. Here's my top 3:

  • Multi-modal inputs stink. It annoys me that I need to press-and-hold the Play button to turn the thing off. And it turns on when you touch it. And the screen goes dark to save energy while it's playing. So how do I know that the thing is really off? I don't. And I've repeatedly experienced times when I have shut the thing down and then stuck it in my pocket or my backpack only to discover hours or days later that it must've turned on by mistake and the battery ran down to nothing. Hey, I have an idea! How about a fricking ON/OFF switch?
  • I have a ton of "specialty" playlists that I listen to on very rare occasions. In practice, I only have 3 playlists that I listen to on a regular basis (1. "3 or more stars" which translates to "every song that I like." 2. "Relax" which translates to "mellow songs that I listen to when I'm falling asleep." 3. "Wake Up" which translates to "rocking songs that I listen to when I need an adrenaline boost.") Why can't a bookmark those 3 playlists at the top of the iPod hierarchy so I can quickly get to each of them? I configured it so that I have "Playlists" at the top of my hierarchy, but considering that I have about 50 playlists, it's still not that easy to get to the exact playlist I want using the stupid spinwheel.
  • And the biggie. There are two ways I listen to music. I either listen to a playlist or a listen to an album. When I listen to a playlist, I want it to be in random order. When I listen to an album, I want it to be in track order. Who wants to listen to "American Idiot" in random order? But changing from random to ordered is a pain on the iPod. I can understand, perhaps, why they don't want another physical control on the iPod (though it works fine on the iPod Shuffle, which has a lot less room to work with), but at least make it a toggle button at the top of the software hierarchy. It's not a "preference". It's a frequently changed setting. Don't make me dig around for it. And hey, as long as we're talking, how about having a separate setting for albums, where you default to "track order" when listening to an album? I'm sure I'm not the only person who treats an album differently than a playlist.

1 comment:

JHB said...


I have iTunes on my phone - a Motorola SLVR. I have the same "biggie" complaint as you have with your iPod, plus an additional related one. Everytime I shut iTunes down, it resets the shuffle order, so that the next time I listen to a playlist, there is a good chance that many of the same songs play again early in the sequence. I'd prefer to have the device maintain the shuffle order between uses, and then only reshuffle after a previous sequence has played through every song.