Thursday, September 27, 2007

iPod's Surprising Lack of Usability

I'll keep a running list here of what I perceive to be shocking lapses of usability in the iPod. I find these on a weekly if not daily basis. Of all devices I've recently purchased, this has been such a disappointment, and frankly, a complete surprise given it's commercial success. Feel free to comment away.

1. Lack of a true shuffle.
  • It has TWO shuffle settings in two different menus. One setting can be set to "Shuffle OFF" and the second can be used to override it and start shuffle mode. But the first setting will still display "Shuffle OFF"
  • Shuffle doesn't truly shuffle randomly. Instead it hits every song once in the set. And if you put it on repeat, it repeats the exact same set again instead of reshuffling. It's the most simplistic shuffling algorithm possible.

2. No purpose-built tagging facility. Oft-mentioned on the web but still a huge pain point.
  • From iTunes desktop app, one needs to overload an existing field in order to tag.
  • Can't tag from the iPod player where most are likely to listen from.

3. Can't continue listening to music while browsing for new music.
  • When listening to music in the iTunes app, if you browse in the music store to an album or artist page, the player will stop, even though you haven't selected a sample track.
4. Can't move songs from iPod to desktop iTunes app.
  • I don't buy the piracy argument. There are ways of making this non-batchable that it would limit wholescale transportation of music. Besides, keep the precious DRM on the tracks and allow me to move them. I'm (grudgingly) willing to authorize another desktop to play the music if you'll just let me move my songs between my two laptops.
5. Can't sync iPod to two computers.
  • Palm has done a wonderful job of allowing sync between multiple computers, figuring out how to just Do The Right Thing. Apple can't? Not so hard to set a dirty bit, figure out which copy is most recent, etc.
  • There is increasingly a need for this. How many of you have different personal and work computers where you wish you could maintain not just your music but your meta information (smart playlists, play counts, unfortunately-ghetto tagging, etc.)
More to come, but for an audience who are passionately in love with music, iPod has sadly fallen short on so many opportunities.
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