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MP3 Players

Move over iPod

Should you really pay that much for a colourful iPod?

Top 10 phones of August
Should you really pay that much for a colourful iPod?

Yesterday, before the news came flooding in that Apple unveiled its colour iPod and U2-branded iPod, I was planning to write a column looking at the abundance of other MP3 players on the horizon. However this was overshadowed when this morning I heard the news of Apple's new iPods, and we scrambled to aggregate our iPod stories.

The thought of a colour iPod was initially a bit thrilling to me -- but there are still many limitations that the new players face. Yes, the colour screen is capable of displaying photos stored on the massive 60GB hard disk as well as album cover art. It also has a video output so you can look at stored pictures on your television. But where is the on board voice recorder, FM radio and replaceable battery that many crave?

The other iPod that Apple released features more of a cosmetic transformation rather than significant change to the music player's technology. The special edition U2-themed 20GB iPod doesn't bring anything new to the table other than a colour change (with its black face and red click wheel) and a scribble on the back (the band's laser-etched signatures). Couldn't Apple at least have included matching black and red ear buds to sweeten the deal or is that part of the conformist or ostentatious appeal -- to be recognised as an iPod owner by flaunting your white ear buds? Potential customers running out to buy one should note that they will save themselves AU$70 if they can bear to stick will the 20GB white model.

Apple also announced the news that nine additional countries in Europe now have access to iTunes Music Store and Canadians should soon be able to legally download music through the store when it opens there in November. The company still hasn't announced any plans for an Australian iTunes store which means local iPod owners won't be offered the same discount on downloading U2's entire music catalogue through iTunes as their US counterparts have been.

While Apple continues to dominate the field, one of the many competitors in the music player field struggling to release an iPod killer is Sony with its 20GB NW-HD1 sold under the Walkman brand. However, Sony has been very stubborn, insisting its players only natively support the company's proprietary ATRAC3 file format -- until yesterday. The good news is that the Japanese electronics giant has finally announced the release of two flash-memory devices that will natively support both MP3 and ATRAC3 music files. The bad news is Sony has no plans on releasing the players outside European markets. It is however a step in the right direction for its music strategy as Sony starts to address compatibility issues that have plagued the company for years.

In other areas, competition doesn't look like it will die down in a hurry as we see iPod rivals being developed byToshiba, Creative, Rio, Dell, Archos, Olympus and Virgin.

Meanwhile, I know three people that have purchased iPods in the past fortnight and they will probably be kicking themselves when they hear news of updated colour versions. But, such is life in the rapidly evolving world of technology. However, I think I'll hold off until Apple invents an iPod/mobile phone hybrid -- perhaps by then there will be a Kylie-branded version with a pink front and glitter click wheel that plays re-runs of Charlene and Scott's wedding on its video-capable screen.

What do you think? Are the new iPods enough to excite you, or were you expecting more? What features would you like to see in future iPods? Let me know your thoughts below!