Opinion » Cybernaut


What Apple didn’t do



One Whistler blogger basically called me out on the fact that I’m always complaining that I don’t have the money to buy the latest tech gizmos, which may or may not have merit. Let’s just say that cash flow is a very real issue for me, and that I’m not about to throw away any money on any new technology unless I’m sure — 100 per cent, no doubts about it positive — that it’s the exact technology I need.

When Apple announced a new line of iPods last week I hoped against hope that they would take a page from other companies like Creative, Samsung and SanDisk and include two small features that apparently don’t cost all that much. One is a built-in microphone — something I can use to do interviews for work without buying a third-party stereo microphone for another $50 that I’ll probably end up breaking or losing. Another thing I hoped for was a built-in FM tuner — something they’ve given away in cereal boxes for Pete’s sake, and that SanDisk managed to squeeze into a 2 GB MP3 player that’s about the size of a pack of gum along with the voice recorder. (Check out the Sansa Express video at www.anythingbutipod.com , and consider that this player costs the same as the iPod Shuffle.)

Far from announcing anything groundbreaking, Apple kind of gave us more of the same.

The iPod Shuffle now comes in five colours, which is important if that kind of thing matters to you.

The squished down iPod Nano now plays video on a bigger screen, and is available up to 8 GB — again, in five colours.

The regular iPod, now dubbed the iPod Classic, can now store up to 160 GB, which is quite impressive. That’s 40,000 songs, 200 hours of video, and who knows how many photos, games, and files.

Newly released is the iPod touch, which is kind of like the iPhone without the phone capability but built-in WiFi to search the web and download remotely from iTunes. Both 8 GB and 16 GB models are available starting at $329. It’s actually pretty slick, but again it doesn’t really do the two things I need it to.

The iPhone is still not available in Canada, so it really doesn’t matter what I think. However, Apple announced plans to cut the purchase price by $200 — many believe because of lackluster sales — which pretty much kneecaps all the people who bought in when the phone was released all of two months ago. Apple is giving the early buyers a $100 rebate, but still…

Maybe Apple should have just produced a phone without tying it exclusively to AT&T service plans, and let people use it with whatever cell provider they want — which would make it available in Canada and dozens of other countries where Apple doesn’t currently have a partner. After all, hackers and modders have already figured out how to unlock the iPhone with a bit of soldering and some illicit code in the short time since the phone was released (again, all of two months ago).

If you’re just looking for a music player, and one that plays videos, then iPod is probably the best you can do. They look good, they sound good, and the iTunes software pretty much trumps all the other music download and organization software that’s available. Even Sony packed in their online music service, unable to compete with the iTunes music store.

But I’m not convinced yet, and can’t understand why far cheaper players can still do so much more than iPods. For a market leader, Apple is really behind.

To see the new iPods, visit www.apple.ca .


The iPod alternatives

Although you wouldn’t know it from the tech media, there are a lot of good players out there that aren’t being made by Apple. For the most part they are cheaper, accept more video and audio formats, and offer more features than Apple. The fact they don’t have anything as good as the iTunes Music Store is not an issue, because there are other ways to archive music and download television shows and movies.

A couple places to shop include www.futureshop.ca (play close attention to any customer ratings), Engadget ( www.engadget.com — type in the name of the player you want to learn about), and C/Net ( www.cnet.com ) under the Reviews tab. AnythingButIpod ( www.anythingbutipod.com ) is obviously not a bad place to look and has videos that show the features of other portable audio and video players.