Archive for iPod tag

iPod refresh and ring-tones

iPod shuffle

New colours. Zzzz.

iPod nano

iPod nano really is just a smaller version of the iPod now, full video and games (Vortex and two others included plus others available to buy) on a full metal stubby device that has a large 200ppi 2.0″ display. Now available in $149 4gb and $199 8gb models. Yummy.

iPod classic

Thinner than the old video iPod but with new UI, full metal enclosure, 80gb and 160gb models and with 30 and 40 hour music playback battery life respectively. Nice, would probably make a great backup device in that 160gb format in fact has more storage than my laptop…

iPod touch

Essentially a cut-down iPhone that retains WiFi and the Safari browser (including “made for iPhone” sites), YouTube videos and iCal on top of the traditional iPod music, video and photos and unlike the iPhone is available worldwide with a 22 hour battery life.

The real new feature here is the buy directly from iTunes music store over WiFi without a computer. The clever bit is next time you dock it the sync will add it to your computer – bi-directional music sync!

Curiously they have partnered with Starbucks so that when you walk into a store you get an extra tab showing you what they are playing in-store and the last few tracks and then directly buy-it… It’s a little odd but will probably extend to other stores especially if they are getting a commission. Shame you can’t order coffee with a couple of taps and bill it to your iTunes account ;-)

There are a few disappointments – the storage options are $299 8GB and $399 16GB which prevent it from being a real high-end music or video player. The other disappointments are the stripping back of the notes, maps, stocks and weather applications and the complete removal of the built-in camera.

iPhone

Dropping the 4GB model and cutting the 8GB model from $599 to $399 and adding the iTunes WiFi store. I guess they managed to persuade AT&T and other forthcoming providers that buying music has nothing to do with the mobile provider (or perhaps are giving them a cut?)

With the iPhone being so much richer in functionality and only costing $100 more than the equivalent iPod touch 8GB you have to wonder who will be buying the 8GB touch at least within the USA.

Those who already paid $599 may be lucky – Apple offer a 10 day price match so you can get a credit to the tune of $200 if you bought one within that time frame. Failing that there is a 14 day returns policy that would net you a $160 credit after the $40 restocking fee. Some people at TUAW are having luck with Amex price matches and AT&T offering line credits.

Ringtone rip-off

Quite how a seemingly endless number of people are prepared to pay 2-3 times the original cost of a song for a few seconds of it when they own the original has always amazed me.

With Apple moving away from DRM with iTunes+ and now producing a mobile phone this was always going to be an interesting development but sadly Apple believe the “your music how you want where you want” doesn’t extend to using a song as a ring tone and instead will charge you another 99 cents on top of the original price of the song to use it as a ring tone.

Sadly the music selection seems to be limited to specific songs and they don’t seem to want to let you use any music you required elsewhere, e.g. your own CD’s and legally acquired MP3’s. Thankfully there are charge-less ring tone makers available for the iPhone.

Where next?

Sadly I find that there is nothing in the line-up for me and it seems I’m not alone.

If the iPhone had GPS, 3G, 16GB flash and was available here in Guernsey (fat chance) I’d buy one. If I’m going to carry a second device alongside my phone it better have great storage (32gb+) but the iPod touch doesn’t. This leaves me with a choice of iPod nano or iPod classic and as my current iPod photo has just died what now but neither has a screen suitable for wide-screen movie viewing.

It is strange how the devices in Apple’s line-up with large wide-screen displays that would make them great portable video players don’t have the capacity to match.

[)amien

Seven ideas for topping up your iPod

It’s been almost two years since I last blogged on what content I was feeding my iPod so here’s an update on what’s keeping mine fresh.

Music you don’t know the name of

If you get a song in your head you’d like but don’t know what it is then Midomi might be what you are looking for.

The site takes 10 seconds or more of your attempts at singing or humming the track and then tries to match it against the songs it knows about. The catalogue isn’t particularly comprehensive right now but it has a reasonable selection of tracks. You can also help it improve results by singing a fragment of a song that it will use for matching providing you don’t mind anyone being able to listen to it.

Educational tracks for free

This May Apple launched iTunes U – a section of the iTunes Store featuring free educational content from various US colleges and universities.

The tracks are mostly unedited and lack polish but some of the content covers everything from philosophy to economics and technology so there should be something to interest you.

Audio books for free

  • Simply Audiobooks have a small selection their library available for free as well as a rental club and purchasing options that ship physical media. The download club option is not compatible with the iPod. (Microsoft’s PlaysForSure is worst name ever – it doesn’t play on the iPod or Microsoft’s own Zune)
  • LibriVox use volunteers to record chapters of books available in the public domain and put the completed audio books up in mp3 and ogg formats. The quality of speaker can be variable and the content spans classical literature.

Podcasts for free

The podcast scene just keeps growing but finding what suits you can be tricky. My favourites currently include:

Improve audio quality with iTunes Plus

Apple’s plan to remove digital rights management (DRM) whilst increasing audio quality on iTunes gains momentum with music publishers each day – no doubt enticed on by the increased margin and ability to get an extra few pence or cents from existing owners.

Besides the crisper sound and larger file sizes the other noticeable difference is that iTunes music sharing works with these tracks (Sharing protected AAC involves an authorisation landmine).

Head to the Tunes Plus link in the Quick Links box at the top right of the main store page. You should see an option to upgrade your library if any tracks can be upgraded but bear in mind it’s an all-tracks-or-nothing deal that costs £0.20 per track.

Watch your DVDs

Why not take a DVD you like, or better yet one you haven’t yet seen, with you on your iPod Video.

There are a number of tools to help you with the job of copying from DVD into an iPod friendly format but Handbrake is free, cross-platform and easy to use. As a bonus it also includes presets for other portable video devices such as the PlayStation Portable.

Watch YouTube

Why should iPhone owners have all the phone when the iPod Video is perfectly capable of watching YouTube content providing you upload it to your iPod before you set out.

There are a number of tools to do the download & conversion job but DVDVideoSoft’s one for Windows works quite well. For the Mac the latest 1.9 version of Squared 5 would appear to do the job but I haven’t yet tried it.

[)amien

Apple Macworld misfires

So the Apple TV and iPhone are finally announced and visually impressive with a very refined user interface – but some of the technical specifications aren’t quite there.

Apple TV

First off the Apple TV tops out at 720p high-def – what!? For less than Apple TV’s $299 I can get an Xbox 360 that does video & audio streaming at 1080p. Sure the 360 is missing HDMI and the slick software but it does play state of the art 3D on-line games.

Video scaled up to 720p by the device and then scaled up to 1080p by the TV is ugly.

iPhone

Apple’s iPhone is supposed to be state of the art but GSM really isn’t good enough. The world is moving on to 3G and UTMS is essential in the likes of Japan and important even in the USA. Other manufacturers do it, why isn’t Apple?

Secondly this is supposed to be state of the art Internet? Where the hell is instant messaging? You’ve got the UI with SMS but what if I want to talk to iChat, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN Messenger users? Zip.

Thirdly where is the SDK/API? Initial reports are indicating that it is a closed platform.

Hello?

Phone users seem to fall into one of two groups. People who want a voice phone with maybe a few extra features who won’t be prepared to pay $499 (plus the cost of a 2 year contract) and the second are existing smartphone users who often need to install additional applications and maybe even games. No mention of J2ME, no mention of an SDK. Nada.

It’s a slick product but for now is just functionally incomplete compared to what I have. Smartphone + iPod all the way.

Finally…

Jobs also thinks they are going for 1% of the massive mobile market share. Funny as ex-Apple’s Kawasaki puts this goal at number 11 of his Top Ten Lies of Entrepreneurs.

My god who decided to let the Cingular CEO on stage to read their corporate brochure.

[)amien

Apple’s Showtime and the disappointing iTV

Today’s Apple Showtime event showed some great products, and some disappointing ones.

iPods

The tiny new iPod Shuffle G2, the fantastic looking iPod Nano G2 with the return of the iPod Mini aluminium casing and 24 hour battery life and 8GB flash option weren’t to be sniffed at.

The iPod got… downloadable $4.99 games and an 80GB model. No sign of the long sought-after wide-screen touch-screen model with the virtual wheel.

iTunes

The expected downloadable movie announcement was made with movies at 640×480 – that’s 4x their existing TV-show/music video size and now on-par with the resolution of PC’s circa the late 80’s.

Job advises us this is “near DVD” which is kinda true DVD being 720×480/576. DVD given good quality source material, careful encoding and decent equipment can look pretty fine even blown up to 120″ on your wall.

What I couldn’t find out thought was how they intend on fitting widescreen movies into their distinctly non-wide-screen resolution.

DVD’s resolution is a little wider but more importantly it has an anamorphic mode where rather than waste pixels on the black bars the picture is stretched vertically before being encoded on the disk and then stretched horizontally on the way out of your DVD player – much the same way as widescreen movies were shot on non-widescreen film albeit with anamorphic lenses.

Jobs didn’t elaborate on whether they’ll have such a mode or something better…

Thanks to the complex licensing agreements between studios worldwide movies are a US exclusive so the rest of the world will have to sit and wait anyway.

iTunes 7 & Software Update

Add’s support for movie & iPod G4 game downloads and the user interface may well be a taste of things to come in Leopard. Flat blue gradients where aqua bubbles previously existed (equalizer, scroll bars).

Also introduced is a couple of new ways to view your local library using high quality rendered album cover art (like FrontRow) and a sort of mixed up mode (like Windows Media Player 11).

It’ll also now helpfully grab album art for albums you ripped from your own CD’s and show the breakdown of the disk usage of your pod by content type (movie/art/music).

What is interesting is iTunes 7 introduces “Apple Software Update” which looks curiously like it’s Mac OS X counterpart…

iTV

Towards the end of the announcement came the one last thing…. code-named iTV (I can’t imagine they’ll get the rights to this name in the UK where ITV is one of the big TV stations).

The announcement itself was a little unusual – it’s for a new hardware product they haven’t finished and won’t be available for months. I can only conclude they are airing the product to help shift downloadable movies with users knowing they can play it back on the big-screen.

I’m sure neither Apple or the studios want another Sony UMD disaster.

When I heard the words “Mac Mini” and “TV” I thought this could be the answer to my home entertainment hub… alas no. Rather than extend to the mini with support for DVB-S/T/C or UHF tuners and PVR functionality they abandon the hard disk entirely… and the DVD-ROM drive to boot.

Which leaves iTV with no TV support in the traditional sense. If you want content it’ll have to come from iTunes and unless Jobs and his pals add illegal DVD ripping that means buying everything again from the iTunes Store, sticking with your DVD player or buying a more capable media centre.

Would the iPod have been such a success if you couldn’t link in to your existing content but had to pay for all your music again?

Very doubtful.

The final icing on the cake is that the box will set you back $299. That’s exactly the same price as the Xbox 360 which will also stream media from a host computer over a network. The difference being that the 360 will play DVD’s and let you play state of the art games for that price.

iTV? More like Apple Cube 2.

[)amien