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December 25, 2009

notes about the iPod Touch

Filed under: Design,Usability — Tags: — see @ 7:42 pm

I guess I am what you would call an “Apple-Loathing” person ;) Anyway I had the chance (luck or doom is another question) to try an iPod Touch 3rd generation. Main idea was to use it as a highend remote control for a stereo streaming system but of course I tried other stuff and following some notes about the experience :)

  1. 1st impression after receiving it (from Amazon, quickly as always and at a good price point): The iPod in a glass coffin and it is small – the package that is. In contrast to almost all other technical stuff I ever got the actual content size compared to the containing box is not the usual 1:10 or 1:20, it is more like 1:2 which is actually quite nice. If you like the coffin design is a matter of taste. Nice but a bit too fairy-taley for mine ;) . Anyway…
  2. Unboxing: Getting the iPod out of the coffin is not that easy. You have to look on the drawing on the box as I did not wanted to break the box. Despite being a designer myself I think the whole contents of the box is almost a bit overdesigned. E.g. The “notes” (of course as with all modern equipment no printed manual) in a couple of languages is bind in a small paper clip which resembles the plastic packaging around the complete box. But I guess I am quibbling…
  3. Size: The size of the pod is somehow strange. The screensize is ok but somehow the pod does feel a little thin. I do not have small hands but not very big manly ones either ;) but it does not feel comfortable. Maybe also due to the chose material it always feels “slipping away”…
  4. What is a bit annoying though is the missing charger. Only a single cable connecting the (of course) proprietery iPod connector to a standard USB connector. I knew before but iPods can only be charged via a computer unless you buy a standalone USB charger. I guess Apple sells these too (probably for a horrendous price) but I know you can get them for a couple of Euros. Still this should be included in a product at this price point. Guess about the same annoyance as the Apple specific Mini-Displayports on modern Macbooks where Apple does rip-off people by selling e.g. a MD to VGA adapter for 69€…
  5. itunes: To actually use the iPod you more or less MUST install iTunes and if you want to use any apps or buy any music you MUST have an iTunes account. Getting one is suspicously easy AND Apple wants a telephone number (WTF?!). Also without a credit card you are lost. I don’t mind paying by CC but I know hardly any shop where you give your card details first and not later like on the first purchase. iTunes makes it much too easy to buy stuff. If you are not very cautious you might buy stuff without even realizing it. I prefer any shopping to be a bit more safe for my own sake.
  6. Affilate Marketing: I know a lot of products come with bloatware or whatever you’d call it preinstalled. iPod being no exception contains a Nike app (or whatever it is, I don’t care) and also as early as during the registration process you get ads which I find rather distracting at that point. Probably sign o’ the times but still VERY annoying…
  7. Grease: After exploring the pod a bit I noticed that after hardly ten minutes it looked like I had owned it for a year and used it during any meal I ever had… You could argue that I may have very greasy hands or that I sweat a lot (I would deny both, hell I am a desk jockey after all) but the amount of grease on the chromium backside is not nice at all. I somehow expect a glass touchscreen to get a bit smeary after some use but the back of the pod looks just awful after only a few minutes. Probably the same idiotic idea like other manufatures use highly polished surfaces on almost all products these days (DVD players seem to actually want to adduct dust or look at net/notebooks with black high polishesd surfaces where you place your hands etc etc). Looks good if you don’t use it at all, actually only if you don’t unpackage it either. This sucks…
  8. Touch (not really iPod specific): Actually the pod is more of less the first touch product I used for a longer period of time (apart from having used Wacom tablets for some years which of course is different as “touch” and view are separated) so certainly am no expert on it. On first use it is highly addictive to scroll and tap on the screen (as seen by loads of teenagers or managers sitting anywhere playing with there iPhones or other touchphones) and actually is fun. Nevertheless the general problem with touch esp on smaller screens is that you can only touch OR view the stuff under your finger ;) For example longer lists you may want to scan are actually more difficult to scan via touch than e.g. a mouse with a scroll wheel. The iPod’s initial purpose was a music player where you have long lists of music albums etc. so exactly where you need to scan something quickly… I guess for a mobile device it is quite good but depending on what you want to do another device (small netbook?) may be a better idea. My initial idea using the iPod as a (rather expensive) remote control mainly at home does work but I wonder if another device would be better…
  9. Flatland (as termed by Bruce Tognazzini): I only got about 5 apps in the appstore yet but already notice the exact problem Tog describes in his Flatland article. Look there if you want to know more, it really is quite interesting
  10. UI: Generally the UI is ok but not great. Somehow I miss more settings to fiddle with (and yes I know, most people may never view the initial settings if they don’t have to…). E.g. rearranging the apps on the home screen is easy enough (press an icon until all icons shake and simply move the apps around). But why can’t I move an app to the special bar at the bottom (this can be done but only via iTunes which is strange enough). And the general problem with small devices and typing is still present. I always feel kind of amputated. Typing the WiFi or iTunes password (mix of chars, numbers or even special chars) with 1-2 fingers is just pain. I have not used a Blackberry or other phone which has a “fuller” keyboard but heard they have a better typing experince (I guess not great either though). I guess for any longer text (or even shorter but specific ones like passwords and the like) a touch keyboard is always inferior compared to a real keyboard. Also I somehow feel the handling of the iPod is not coherent or seamless. I e.g would like that a tap on the battery status would show me the detailed status but not so. Also I find the single actual button (the home button) rather cheap in it’s feeling. When mainly using the touch screen but being forced to use the home button for some action it does kinda feel akward…

All in all I actually feel about the iPod Touch as I expected. Some nasty Apple stuff (iTunes, ads and the like), and on the other hand the handling which is not bad. Maybe I am even a bit disappointed as I expected a bit more from the touch experience.

(I guess all stuff is highly subjective so don’t start any flame wars but feel free to make comments of course. I will never be an Apple fanboy but despite some people’s assumption I don’t just hate anything from Apple and hope I have not ranted too much ;)

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