iPod shunners of the world, unite!

CNET editor Jasmine France describes why she doesn't use the iPod and invites iPod fans to defend their player of choice.

No iPod

OK, so perhaps that's a tad melodramatic. It's almost like a call to war, and I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for any bloodshed...especially not my own. But on this, the birthday of the iPod, I've been reminiscing about a previous blog I wrote on why I chose not to use an iPod. More than a year later, I'm still called out for my iPod status--most recently in last week's MP3 Insider podcast--so I've decided it's high time I readdress the issue.

No, I still don't use an iPod in my day-to-day personal life. And I'm still using a Creative MP3 player (currently, the Zen V Plus) that's not compatible with my Mac (blast!). And I feel compelled to say that I'm a bit of a liar: I said in the old post that "the minute Apple offers a color-screen iPod Mini with built-in satellite radio and support for the company's new iTunes To Go service, I'll be the first to hop on the bandwagon, interface issues or not." Nope. Not gonna happen. That sounds like an awesome player and all, but I'm just not an iPod fan. Yes, it's an excellent player: it's easy to use (for most), it's stylish, it sounds good, and there's a lot of great content and accessories for it--heck, I even gave one an Editors' Choice. But just because a product is good for a vast amount of users (79 percent of them, to be exact), doesn't mean it's good for everyone. Let's discuss:

  • No built-in FM tuner: OK, so it's somewhat antiquated technology, but FM radio is still free and easy to get, and it provides another medium through which to discover new music. Plus, I like listening to morning radio shows, and it's a big plus being able to tune into the TVs at the gym. Granted, with Clear Channel Communication's dominance in the Bay Area (don't even get me started), our selection of quality stations is limited, but I still value this feature (hey, at least when I travel to Chicago I can listen to some good radio). I do give Apple some credit for putting out the Radio Remote , but you have to pay $50 extra to get it.


  • No support for subscription music services: Of course, I'd prefer if I could get all the music I wanted DRM-free, but I just don't have time to research, go out and buy CDs, then rip them to my computer. And eMusic is great, but it doesn't have everything I want. Subscription services--especially Rhapsody and Urge --offer exceptional ways to discover new music by providing plenty of content preprogrammed by editors and users alike. Recently, I've been using the SanDisk Sansa e200R, which supports Rhapsody Channels (commercial-free radio, basically) thanks to the excellent Rhapsody DNA interface. It's the best software-MP3 player relationship I've seen since iTunes and the iPod.

  • Personal interface issues: I hate the Click Wheel. That's right, I said it. The circular shape is great for scrolling, but I find the tactile buttons to be imprecise. Plus, it seems like different buttons turn it on and off each time, sometimes from a quick press, other times from pressing and holding--I don't know, I can't keep track. And I have a gripe with the On-the-Go playlist: you can't add a song while you're listening to it from the playback screen, you have to navigate back to the track listing. It's an extra step I prefer not to take. Blame American culture--I need instant gratification.

  • iTunes 7 sucks: I haven't even upgraded to it on my Mac, though I would probably suffer less with it on that platform. It continues to freeze up constantly in Windows.

  • Everybody has one: People constantly call all MP3 players iPods. This drives me batty--admittedly, this probably irritates me an inordinate amount as MP3 players are my job. Or maybe I just have a problem with rage. But at least I restrain myself from correcting them with a smack upside the head. On the rare occasion when I listen to an iPod outside of the office, I try to keep it hidden from sight at all times, else I might be tempted to take this guy's advice.

Well, what do you know? I managed to add more problems to the list this time around. So to those iPod fans out there, I say, bring it on. Is the iPod your dream player? Why? Or, if you're a shunner like me, what's your MP3 player of choice?

Addendum: How could I have forgotten this one? I HATE that you get stuck in the iPod/iTunes buying cycle. Allow me to elaborate briefly: if you purchase songs and videos on iTunes, you must continue to buy iPods if you want to enjoy that content on-the-go (unless you want to go through the time consuming process of burning and re-ripping...and that only works for music). Sure, WMA is all wrapped up in DRM, too, but at least you get to choose from a variety of different devices from different manufacturers. You can start with a Creative Zen, then move on to an iRiver Clix, and, well, you get the idea. Just don't try to throw a Sony player into the mix.

About the author

    Since 2003, Jasmine France has worked at CNET covering everything from scanners to keyboards to GPS devices to MP3 players. She currently cohosts the Crave podcast and spends the majority of her time testing headphones, music software, and mobile apps.

     

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