Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nano and Classic - Inferior?

A friend of mine took some time to look over the new iPod Classic and iPod Nano at Bic Camera in Shinjuku today. His comments were a bit surprising, but not unexpected.

He sent me a phone message saying that the new iPods were very sluggish, with a 1 second delay when trying to browse via coverflow. I sort of expected this new UI would tax any processor, but assumed Apple would use the appropriate components to avoid this. I asked him for clarifications on sluggishness with Coverflow turned off and this is part of the email he sent me. Keep in mind that this was someone who was set to buy a high capacity classic after seeing the product introductions on the 5th.

"Now that I've had a day for the new releases to sink in and actually touched 2 of the 3 new releases, I think this was a very poor, if not terrible set of updates. The nano is pretty much unusable, especially with my man-sized hands. The scroll wheel is very narrow, and slick, and unresponsive, then add in the frequent delays even in non-graphical menus like settings, never mind when you are looking at album art and other stuff, and you get a very poor user experience. Cover flow is just one option once you click on Music, along with the usual albums, artists, songs, etc. The edges on the nano are razor sharp as well, not something you want to hold and fondle in your hand like the 4g iPod and all earlier versions."

Wow! I don't think he will be the only one to have this impression on the UI and reponsiveness. If this is the case, Apple has made a huge boo-boo. Perhaps some of this can be addressed via an update to iPod firmware.

I'm also surprised about the click wheel. I don't have big hands, but fairly thick fingers and I can use my 1G Nano's click wheel easily. Did Apple use a smaller click wheel on this fatter Nano? He goes on about the edges on the Nano and the Classic.

"I read an article online by some guy who said one of the big subconscious reasons why people wanted an iPod so much was that it was so comfortable and sexy to hold with it's totally round and smooth edges. I love that feature of my 4G iPod and that was one big reason why I was unmotivated to buy a 5G, sharp edges.

The silver classic looks great, like a true Powerbook accessory, but again, has rough edges. And the UI is possibly even slower on the classic than the nano, also the clickwheel is very unresponsive and slick, but at least its a decent size.

I put hands on both classics on display, both sluggish UI's, and one nano, also sluggish..."

I kind of like the shape of my 3G iPod too, but I never had a 5G or used a 5G long enough to have an opinion about the edges. My 1G Nano has sharp edges and I sort of like that form factor more than the 2G Nanos. I'm very surprised to hear that the Classics may be more sluggish than the Nanos. You have to wonder what Apple has done here. Maybe these new hard drives' access speeds are not all that great?

He goes on to disparage what others did about the 3G Nano even before they were released - the shape.

"The nano fatty just looks bad. In person it looks like a horrible square. In hand it feels cumbersome. The rectangle is the ideal shape for an iPod. They've screwed themselves now with the nano. It has a silver metal back as usual, I read somewhere it was all aluminum like the 2G nano and mini, but that's not true, highly scratchable steel on back as always."

If someone like him (a Mac guy) dislikes these new iPods, I can't help but wonder if others feel the same way. Combined with what I feel are awful colors, maybe Apple has lost its aesthetic edge.

If others have seen these units in person - let me know.

I had a chance to look at new Nano and Classic at an electronics retailer in Machida. I have to second the comments above. UI is sluggish with both iPods, worse for the Classic. And the edges are definitely uncool, unpleasant even. You won't want to hold these for long. The problem is the bevel on the front - the corner is just awful. It gives these iPods a cheap, unfinished, poorly designed feel. I can't understand why Apple would do this. I'm hoping that the Touch has a nicer feel to it.

I also spoke with my brother (Windoze User / Mac Hater) about the Touch to get his impressions. He didn't pay attention to the event or even bother to look into these units. When I explained a few details about the Touch, he sounded impressed with the screen but was very disappointed about the storage limitation. He wanted to know why Apple couldn't at least make the thing upgradeable with flash memory cards or something like that. You see this in plenty of phones these days, and some mp3 players had slots for this. I can see his thinking - but wonder if compatibility issues with flash cards (like I have with my SD card) are one reason for omitting these slots.


Jason said...

So you found the UI sluggish too? To me it was immediately obvious, but I've yet to see anything posted on a major Mac site about it. Maybe other people find it acceptable?

I'll give them another in store try soon to see if the UI has improved at all. And as I wrote, not a single song on any of the iPods, so I want to see how scrolling through a list of thousands of songs goes.

Guess nothing can be done about those sharp edges though.

umijin said...

I played with a Classic again today, after I stopped at Yodobashi hoping to see an iPod Touch. The Classic's scrolling was still sluggish, even without coverflow on.

As I moved my thumb around the scroll wheel, I wondered, though, if it was hardware or software. Gotta be software - maybe scrolling speed can be adjusted? And I was just scrolling through menus...