Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Is An IPod The Best mp3 Player Choice?

Apple is incredibly dominant in the mp3 player market - it has over 80% of the US market for example. Why is this?

Firstly because iPods still lead the way for music playing capabilities - they just sound great. Secondly, the iTunes is the best music management software. On top of that, the iTunes music store is the easiest to use and has the greatest choice.
And last but certainly not least iPods are just such amazingly sexy devices!
There are currently 3 iPods in the model range.

iPod The latest iPod is often called the 5G (standing for 5th generation). It is a lighter, thinner design (10 percent thinner than the fourth-generation 30GB iPod), available in white or black.

It comes with a choice of 30GB or 60GB of internal disk storage. This means you can keep about 7,000 or 15,000 songs respectively, plus up to 150 hours of video (on the 60GB iPod).

The 5G iPod has strengthened its support for photos and video with its 320 x 240-pixel, 2.5-inch QVGA color display. You can use the optional iPod A/V cable to play videos and photo slideshows with music on your TV.

You can also use the new Apple Remote with an optional iPod Universal Dock to control your music, videos and slideshows. There is of course a huge range of third party accessories with similar capabilities to the Apple ones - sometimes even better than Apple's and often at lower prices.

In summary the iPod is still better than the competition, but its video capabilities are not yet complete. For example it is slow at transferring photos directly from a camera and it is not yet a fully capable portable video player.
You cannot convert your own video content for iPod playback - iTunes gives you an unhelpful error message if you try this. To get videos ready for the iPod, Apple says you need to buy an add on called QuickTime 7 Pro, although free software to do this is now starting to appear.

iPod nano Apple's tagline for the nano is "impossibly small" and it certainly is incredibly small and light. It is currently available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB sizes, which hold about 240, 500 and 1,000 songs respectively.

The nano has a 1.5-inch colour display, so you can view album art as you play your music, or browse up to 25,000 photos on the 4GB model.

Because it is so small and light, Apple emphasises the nano's wearability. You can easily wear it around your neck or keep it on an armband.

iPod shuffle The shuffle is the entry level iPod model and is even smaller than the iPod nano - about the size of a pack of gum and weighs less than a car key.
The shuffle doesn't have a display so its playlist control is fairly basic - play, pause, skip, repeat, hold and shuffle (random).

It is easy to hook up to a computer - just plug it directly into a USB 1.1 or 2.0 port, or use an optional Dock. You can sync a specific iTunes Playlist, or drag and drop individual songs or albums from iTunes into the iPod shuffle. The shuffle also automatically charges during syncing.

Summary Apple still holds a clear lead over other mp3 music player vendors. The iPods sets the pace in most aspects - storage, packaging and even price. There is a huge 3rd party add on market that gives the iPod owner a wide choice of accessories.
Apple has now made a strategic move into video and it looks like it will also dominate in that space.

Really, from the position it now has, Apple has to make big mistakes or just get complacent to lose its #1 market position.

The author is a hi-fi enthusiast who likes to take his music with him wherever he goes. Get the facts about the best accessories for your iPod from