Having decided to wait until the cold light of day before posting a response to Apple’s 1st September media event – in order to minimise the effect of the Steve Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field – I find myself marginally impressed with the offering that was placed before us yesterday. I often find myself feeling a bit “meh” about Apple keynotes, as they never seem to deliver what they promised. However, I think they’ve done a pretty good job with their lineup this time.
So what have we got? We’ve got all-new iPods, that’s what we’ve got. A new Shuffle, a new Nano and a new Touch.
I was never taken with the third-gen Shuffle, with its lack of buttons and “voiceover” function. This, to me, screamed just one thing – “you can’t use your own headphones any more”. Being a bit of an audiophile, I had no intention of using Apple’s earbuds, so the Shuffle was off the cards. I had been perusing eBay in the hope of finding a 2nd-gen to overcome this problem, but they’re going for silly money (probably because no-one liked the 3rd-gen). Naturally, now Apple have seen the error of their ways and (sensibly) decided to put the buttons back on the Shuffle, I’m very happy. And at £39, I hope one will be coming my way this Christmas.
Onto the Nano then. Or should that be more accurately named the “iPod Shuffle Touch”? Not much bigger than the Shuffle, it now has a 3cmx3cm touch screen – just big enough to display 4 icons at once. I’m not really as convinced by this idea – it just seems too different to the original concept of the Nano. Yes, we still have a decent amount of flash storage, but over time the Nano had become a genuine competitor to the Classic in terms of its capacity and functionality. Hell, it even had a decent camera on it – which now, unfortunately, has disappeared. In an effort to make it smaller, it seems to have lost some of its “essence”. And it’s a bit pricey too. I’m sure it will sell well, but not to me.
And onto the iPod Touch then. I, personally, think Apple have done a brilliant job with this – although some will disagree. Slimmer casing, Retina display (very nice indeed), A4 chip (bringing performance on a par with iPhone4), front and rear cameras, Facetime, HD video recording, Game Center – the list goes on. So what is there not to like? Well, one of my Mac-loving compatriots has decried the Touch in no uncertain terms for the quality of its rear camera. If you were hoping for the (rather good) 5MP unit from the iPhone4, you’ll be very disappointed. The Touch’s camera manages all of 0.7MP. That sounds pretty poor (and, to be fair, is), but that does equate to HD-resolution video (960×720). In company with the iOS iMovie app, this will make a lot of YouTubers very happy indeed. And, for my money, the camera is perfectly capable of doing all the fun stuff with apps that I would want – Evernote snaps, barcode reading, Dropbox, Twitpic etc. The front-facing camera/Facetime combination is also a very pleasing offer.
As for the iPod Classic, this is the only iPod that didn’t get an update – but then, what is there to update? Massive storage, brilliant UI, plays anything you throw at it, sounds great, lovely screen. End of.
I’m interested to see whether the upcoming iOS 4.1 update makes my current iPod Touch run any better. At the moment, it’s a bit laggy. Steve promised that 4.1 will fix “iPhone 3G performance issues” so I hope that goes for iPod Touch too.
So, finally, onto Steve’s “One More Thing”, or as he quipped last night “One More Hobby” – the AppleTV. I’ve admired the AppleTV from afar ever since it was released, but I’ve never quite got round to taking the plunge. The price was a bit steep, and the implementation was always a bit half-assed and I never quite convinced myself that I genuinely needed one. However, now things are different. We now have ourselves a second-generation AppleTV. And the best bit? £99. That’s a price point I can like, and cheap enough to make it worth a try. Recently, the movie collection on my Mac has been growing (mainly thanks to the brilliance that is Handbrake) and getting those movies to my televisions has been a bit hit and miss. I bought a WDTV Live recently, and it’s very good. It’s very similar in functionality to the new AppleTV, insofar as it is able to find media on my Mac and stream it to my bedroom TV over the network. However, there are a few things I don’t like about the WDTV – the UI is ugly, its networking is wired only and it has no integration with iTunes, meaning that I just get a massive list of folders and filenames instead of the glossy artwork and metadata that I’ve painstakingly added.
The lack of purchasing content from the AppleTV isn’t an issue for me – I neither purchase nor rent video content from iTunes. I merely want this unit to plug into my TV, display my iTunes library (movies, TV shows and music) on the screen and play it. Hopefully that’s exactly what it will deliver. I’ve got my preorder in, so in four weeks’ time I’ll be able to tell you whether it does.