Friday, September 26, 2008

My Dinner with John Chow and Shoemoney!
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New iPod Introduced!

Photo Courtesy of CNET:

Big News! Apple computer's Steve Jobs introduced the new iPods at Apple's Annual event today.

It has only been one year since Apple's iPod citizenry was dazzled by the iTouch. The Wi-Fi capabilities and touchscreen interface was received as so much more than just as an .mp3 (.mv4) player. Although the iTouch lacked desired features such as e-mail, stock quotations, access to maps, weather, and creating an electronic note. At that time, external volume controls and speakers were not provided.

When you updated your iTouch software on iTunes, the additional applications available for the iPhone brought the same capabilities to the iTouch. One feature added was external volume control. Another was external speakers. The case is now slimmer, and the edges of the case have been rounded as well. It some what resembles the current 3G model iPhone design.

The price for the iPod touch has been slimmed down as well. Where the 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB iPod touches once cost $299, $399, and $499 respectively, the latest model can be had in these capacities for $229, $299, and $399. They also ship with the latest iPod touch 2.1 software.

New Volume Controls

The iTouch’s new external volume controls perform just as they do on an iPhone. Press the top of the rocker switch and the volume goes up. A press at the bottom of the switch causes the volume to decrease. As on the iPhone, applications that bear volume sliders reflect the change in volume by moving up or down as you press the switch.

Speaking of iPhones, if you have the headphones that accompany the iPhone—Apple’s headphones that carry the Play/Pause switch and microphone—you’ll be pleased to know that the Play/Pause switch works with this version of the iPod touch. (It doesn’t on older iPod touches, even with the new 2.1 software.)

New External Speaker

The new external speaker is nothing like the iPhone’s existing speaker. This speaker is designed for momentary listening. In fact the sound from this speaker can only be described as 'weak'. Unlike the iPhone’s better-quality speaker, which sits on the bottom left of the device and is somewhat directional, the sound from the iPod touch comes from no particular location—it seems to eminate from within the device itself.

Testing the External Speaker

I attempted to watch a video clip, Jack-Jack Attack, while listening to the audio through the iPod touch’s built-in speaker, and the dialog was muddy, not crisp as expected. Another issue was the volume, I could not turn it up loud enough to hear much of the program.

Attempting to watch a movie using the external speaker while in an airplane or train would be problematic. With all of the other sounds in the environment, hearing your iTouch audio would be nearly impossible. There is no excuse for Apple taking shortcuts on the speaker. Some of the polyethelyne speakers available today can provide a very punchy sound.

The speaker settings can be accessed using the Sound setting ie 'Sound Effects' on the original iPod touch. You will find some new menu entries including'New Mail', 'Sent Mail', the Calendar feature alerts, 'Lock Sounds', and 'Keyboard Clicks'. There is a new camera-shutter- sound when you take a screen-shot of the display by pressing the Home and Sleep/Wake items.

The iTouch Display

When the iPhone 3G shipped, Some will notice that the original iTouch display had a yellow-colored appearance than the original iPhone. The new iPod touch’s display is yellower still. Placed side by side with an original 16GB iPod touch with the brightness cranked up on both, the new iPod’s display appeared slightly 'less-contrasty' in comparison. Take the old iPod away, however, and you quickly adjust to the look of the new one.

In the photo above, the new iPod touch display (center) is clearly yellower than the original iPod touch (left) and today’s iPhone 35(right).

Genius Playlist Feature Added

When you first view the Genius playlist you see a list of all the songs on your iPod touch.

This feature is also included in the new iPod Nano. The Genius playlist is a method for selecting a track in your iTunes library or iPod and permitting creation of a unique playlist of genre-similar music.

You just tap the 'Music' icon at the bottom of the Home screen, tap 'Playlists', and at the top of the Playlists screen you see a Genius entry. When you tap that selection a list of all the tracks on your iPod appear. Tap on a specific track and the iPod creates a list of twenty-five similar tracks and starts playing the track you first selected.

There is an option to create a different Genius playlist based on that first selected track. When you tap on the 'Refresh' and the playlist is created, if you like what the Genius has suggested, you merely tap on 'Save' and the iTouch saves that playlist using the name of the original track, for example, 'Fly Me To The Moon' is listed it in the Playlists screen, and puts the Genius icon next to it to indicate it’s a Genius-generated playlist.

When you sync your iPod with your computer, any Genius playlists you’ve created are synced to the computer and appear under the Playlists heading in iTunes’ 'Source' list.

After creating a Genius playlist you can even edit the playlist with new tracks based on the same song or start over with a new playlist by tapping on 'New'.

Playlist's can be re-editedby tapping on the 'Edit' button. When you do, a screen scrolls up that reads 'Refresh Playlist' and 'Delete Playlist'. The key to how much the playlist is refreshed depends on the tracks on your iPod. If the Genius feature feels it doesn’t have much to choose from you’re going to see a lot of the same tracks appear in the refreshed playlist.

The Genius function is also available from the Now Playing screen. When playing a track, simply tap on the display to reveal the timeline panel. Below the timeline you’ll find the Genius icon. Tap on it and you create a Genius playlist based on that track. This playlist works exactly like other Genius playlists.

The software

You can easily create a Genius playlist by tapping the Genius icon on a Now Playing screen.

The new iPod touch includes the iPod touch 2.1 software update—a free update for those who’ve purchased the 2.0 software update and a $10 update for those running the older 1.x update. In addition to adding Genius playlist creation, Apple claims this update fixes some annoyances in the original 2.0 software.

Software updates appear to load and install faster. Selected applications installed using the updated software had no issues, and seemed 'quicker'.

Battery Life Issues

A big issue with the iTouch was battery life. With all of the cool features in the design, the batteries would be used up fairly rapidly in the first generation of iTouch players.

Apple computer is now stating that the new iPod touch offers better battery life than the original iTouch. According to Apple, thirty-six hours of audio, or six hours of video are possible with the new iTouch. We will have to test this claim over time to validate the accuracy.

Overall, despite the lame external speaker, the new software provides even more of what current iTouch user's find compelling. Time will tell if the sales continue as high as the initial introductions made.

With iTunes 8 just released, we will see what features trickle-down to the legacy models of iPods.

Please leave me a comment below if you liked my review of the new iTouch!

Respectfully, Nicholas