Okay, So, it’s about time for me to weigh in on this topic. Before going any further with this post, I would like it to be known that up until about two and a half months ago, I’d never actually used an iPod before, and that I really didn’t have too much an urge to throw down for one. I would even go so far as to say that I was skeptic of the machine as a worthwhile investment. These are my opinions of the device, pre-and-post ownership.
For a kickoff, I’ve been using my trusty Palm Tungsten 3 as my MP3 player for the longest time now. Afterall, I had every reason to… seeing as I’ve got SD cards aplenty, and It’s kinda nice to integrate another device into the same unit. Fine, so all’s well in the world, and I’ve got hours on hours of horrible underground hiphop jams to ruin my earholes with whenever and wherever I am. But about six months ago, I’d begun to really notice the poor sound quality that’s produced by the 3.5MM jack on the side of the unit, and the effect of prolonged use of it as both a music player and PDA has taken out on my battery life. I decided that I needed a dedicated MP3 player so that I could use the device while exercising without fear of my batteries being drained and my data going straight to hell.
I did tiresome research into different players, and went through a great deal of them… The Sandisc Sansa, the Creative ZEN, the Archios Jukebox… the list goes on and on for miles. There seemed to be a great many players on the market, made by companies that are very reputable and respectable. And as my list grew longer and longer, I finally got down to the iPod. “Oh god…” I thought to myself, “…everybody and their mother has one of these.”.
And that prompted me to think: “Why IS this thing so popular?”. One could easily say that the unit simply possessed superior technology, and therefore came out on top… but the skeptic inside me rationalizes that if products succeed simply on technological merit, we’d all have owned Betamax-es during the 80’s/90’s. “Okay then, It must be the marketing” I figured, and that’s party true. I couldn’t tell you what the hell the last commercial for a Chevrolet truck, or laundry detergent was like, but I damn well can tell you what the last iPod adverts I saw were like. They really did stick needles in my memory, and remind me of the said advertisement whenever I heard a song that was featured in it. I figured, at this point, I’d gotten it all down pat. The iPod is such a roaring success simply because it was marketed well, and Paris Hilton owns one because of that. Therefore, I concluded, it’s more a fad than a useable device - Fine, off the list it goes.
So. With a pair of headphones, my mental lineup of nifty MP3 jukeboxes, and my best pair of scrutinizing goggles on, I headed over to my local Best Buy, to give each of my contending MP3 players a shot. I had the sales clerk plug each one of them up, so that they could be listened to, and prepared myself to make judgments on them. By the end of that shopping trip, I’d tried six different models, and was really saddened to find that each and every one of them I had tried suffered from at least one major gripe that hindered the joy of using the item (IE: the Creative Zen’s truly moronic touch-sensitive button layout, or the Sandisk Sansa’s unfathomable menu navigations, even the Toshiba Gigabeat’s slow and dimwitted interface was something that infuriated me). I felt totally gypped, and was about to simply say “Screw it, I’m just going to stick with my Palm”, when the sales associate suggested that I try out the new 5th Generation iPod.
So I did. And honest to god, from the second that I picked it up (even while still being attached to the security system), I could tell that this device had absolutely nothing in common with the clunky and unrefined players I’d trifled with earlier. Everything worked. Everything worked exactly as I thought it should have. Every menu and every option was so cleverly simplified that it’s almost as if I somehow had previous knowledge on how to use the thing the whole while along. In just a couple of seconds, everything I’d ever wanted to know about operating, playing, and managing the machine fell into place. The design is fantastic, the quality of the sound was surprisingly good, the ergonomics of the player are perfect, and best of all… you’re given what’s most likely the world’s single greatest control interfaces to have ever graced any gadget since the advent of the touch-screen. After taking half the time I’d spent previously dissecting the other unit’s features, and asked the sales clerk to hand me a 30 gigabyte model, in black.
Two and a half months later, I’m still totally content with my purchase. And yeah… sure - I’ve got some bones to pick. I’ll be the first one to admit to you that I was put off by the popularity of the thing, the shiny metal backing scratches all too easily, and that I was (and still am) somewhat miffed by the limitation of iTunes. Hell, I’ll even go so far as to say the Apple White color looks Flash Gordon silly (which is why I bought mine in black). But none of that really even matters at the end of the day. After all this time, I finally understand why the word “iPod” is synonymous with “MP3 Player”. It’s not just because the thing has some supposed “Supreme technological innovation”, or solely because of its flashy marketing… it’s because it just works so well. I really struggle to find a serious gripe, from when I pick it up to when I put it down, and while it works so well… it even manages to do it with finesse. Suddenly, I can honestly say that I’ve stopped caring that the new advert features that rotten Eminem song, or that Paris Hilton owns one and for all I know, probably did some hideous promotion for the device that involved creative use of her breasts… But past that, I recall that she owns and operates a McLaren-Mercedes SLR, and her ownership of such that doesn’t make it a bad vehicle by any stretch of the imagination.
In the end, I gave the iPod a far-and-square chance, and it dominated over everything I’d tried previously in every single aspect. It cost me more than the Zen or the Sansa, or any of the other devices… but I don’t regret choosing it over them. It’s really hard for myself to believe that the player I once thought of as to be nothing more than a trendy accessory really could be worth buying, and that for once, the teeming masses of people actually ended up being justified in it’s love of the little Apple iPod