iPod round-up

Introduction

Apple updated its iPod at the end of April. This third generation of the world’s best-selling digital-music player was the most dramatic yet. iPod 3 featured a reshaped, slimmer case, repositioned ports, and a recharging and synching dock. The mechanical controls around the touch-wheel were replaced with four solid-state buttons. Apple has now tweaked the lineup, replacing the 15GB and 30GB iPods with 20GB and 40GB models. Prices and technical specifications remain the same. For our full technical review of this iPod generation, see Macworld July 2003. In comparison to the 2002 iPod, the touch-sensitive buttons will appeal to many, the screen and backlight are enhanced, the case is slimmer and smoother, the dock makes the synching process smoother, and the separate remote/headphone jack is neat. On the software side, the 2003 iPods feature On-The-Go playlists, a clock that displays at the top of the screen, an alarm clock that can wake you with a beep or a song, two new games (Parachute and Solitaire), and the ability to view text files that you’ve dragged to the Notes folder on the iPod. The only downer is its reduced battery life (down significantly from ten to eight hours, compared to the 2001-2002 iPods), caused by Apple using a smaller battery to allow the slimmer case – I’d have taken the larger case for the extra juice. The 40GB model will appeal to all owners of 2002-era 20GB iPods, like me, who skipped on the 30GB because the capacity jump didn’t justify the £400 upgrade outlay. Now that it’s twice as large, it’s time for the old 20GB models to be handed down to family or sold to offset the price sting. 5GB iPod owners who’ve waited this long are either very patient, or have not been upset about travelling with a fraction of their iTunes library. If you’re new to the iPod, these models offer such high capacities that it’s a perfect time to buy. Try telling that to someone who bought a 30GB iPod for £399 a few weeks ago. Some you win, some you lose. Capacity is king with the iPod. I bought and filled a 5GB iPod, and upgraded to a 20GB a year later. I’m now restraining myself from going out immediately to buy the 40GB, as Apple’s announcement came just two days after a dialog box pinged onto my screen informing me that my iTunes library would no longer fit on the iPod. Horror! Of course, I could create myself a 20GB playlist, and set the iPod to link to that rather than my vast library – but the whole point of the iPod is having all your music with you all the time. That’s why you should try to skimp and save for the highest model on offer. At £400, the 40GB is going to be beyond the pockets of many – but I urge you to at least spend the extra £50 on the 20GB iPod rather than penny-pinch on the 10GB. For that £50 extra you get the carry-case, the wired remote, and the dock – each of which would cost you £29 to buy separately. For a fifth of the price again, you get twice the capacity and all the trimmings. If you’re interested enough in music to consider an iPod you’re almost certain to fill a 10GB model after a year or so, so do yourself a favour and buy big now.
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