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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Is Apple Going to Recall the Nanos and Reinstate the Minis?

It always starts with a presentation by Steve Jobs. If you haven't seen him selling his products yet, I highly recommend this video. This guy can sell ice to Eskimos. He is one of the best CEOs/Evangelists alive. Of course it helps when what you are selling are some of the coolest and most amazingly designed products on the planet.

Not so long ago (9/7/05), Apple announced the iPod Nano. Jobs called it impossibly small and magic. And that’s true, I ran to the nearest Apple store and held one in my hands and sure enough it’s magic. I love gadgets and even though I already own two iPods, I almost bought this one (I am not the only one). Well, I am glad I didn't. Here is why.

- First of all the impossibly small device is also impossibly delicate/fragile. There are so many reports out there of people cracking their Nano screens or scratching them. Just Google it or go to Amazon.com and read the reviews. People are mad! Here is an example: "I have only carried it in my small pocket in my shorts and nothing is in there to scratch it. I still can't figure how the screen looks like it has been rubbed with sandpaper. My screen has scratched up so badly that all the images are starting to become distorted."

- What made the iPod Nano so famous is actually my main problem with it: SIZE (62% smaller than the now-discontinued iPod mini). For me it's way too small/thin. If I put it in my back pocket (and I can because it fits everywhere) and I sit on it, it's gone! Okay, the fact that I weigh 200 lbs doesn't help. If I don't sit on it I can forget it in my jeans and stick it in the washing machine. So its size makes it easier to brake but also easier to lose or misplace (I know that women reported having difficulties finding it in their purse). I truly believe the iPod Mini's size is the ideal size for me, I don’t recall complaining about its size or hearing anybody saying they needed an iPod smaller than the already compact Mini.

A couple of suggestions for Apple:

- Reinstate the iPod Mini and let people who can afford to buy the Nano every time they break it, lose it, or scratch it so bad they can’t even read the screen; have at it!

- Put all the great Nano enhancements in the truly sturdy and proven iPod Mini (Apple sold more Minis than any other iPods). Some of the features I like about the Nano are the color/bright display and the flash memory which, unlike the miniature hard drives used by the Mini, have no moving parts and this makes the device less fragile and more reliable. I am not so much into pictures on my MP3 player (or my phone for that matter) for the same reason I don't need a toaster imbedded in my DVD player, I use both but not at the same time. Who can enjoy pictures on a 1.5-inch screen anyway?

One last complaint and then I'm done; I promise. If you haven’t noticed it yet, one important reason Apple wants you to own an iPod is the sell iTunes. This is great, a bit like the Gillette model, cheap razors as long as you buy the blades. Or the HP model, cheap printers, expensive ink cartridges… Except that iPods are everything but cheap. I am a little disappointed with the fact the Apple makes it very difficult for us to move our MP3 music in and out of our iTunes/iPod. My analogy still holds, HP cartridges cannot be used in Cannon printers, etc. The reality is that encoding schemes such as AAC and Apple Lossless don't have the wide support that the MP3 format has. So Apple limits you in terms of what you can do with your music outside of iTunes and the iPod. Every iPod can play MP3 and AAC files, but Apple Lossless works only on iPods with a dock connector. If you use a non-Apple MP3 player, you're even more limited: they don’t support AAC or Apple Lossless. Likewise, many newer car/home stereo systems can play CDs containing MP3 files, making this a great way to store long music mixes for a road trip or a party. But if you burn a playlist as an MP3 CD, iTunes skips over AAC and Apple Lossless tracks.

I hope Apple takes some of these interoperability issues into account for their next products/releases otherwise I may switch to a competitor even if it will never offer me the same design quality and user experience I get with Apple products.

[Update] Check out this hilarious video posted on the NY Times.

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