Microsoft’s “iPod Killer”, the Zune is the topic of many a conversation lately. While it doesn’t initially appear to be a huge threat to Apple’s iPod, it’s no time for Apple to rest on its laurels. Amongst the endless rumors surrounding Apple’s products, there’s the widescreen […]

Microsoft’s “iPod Killer”, the Zune is the topic of many a conversation lately. While it doesn’t initially appear to be a huge threat to Apple’s iPod, it’s no time for Apple to rest on its laurels. Amongst the endless rumors surrounding Apple’s products, there’s the widescreen iPod we’ve been hearing about for months. Logically this would’ve dropped for the Holiday season, but that hasn’t been the case. Maybe come the MacWorld expo in January…

Whenever the iPod-with-Video’s successor drops, I’m of the opinion that it had better bring with it more than just updated casing and screen. The Zune has the ability to create ad-hoc wireless networks for music sharing, which is a neat idea that’s definitely ahead of the current iPod’s capabilities. But what are some realistic changes we could hope to see in the next iteration of Apple’s most popular product?

Hardware-wise, the public has made it known that they’d like a wireless technology such as Bluetooth to make an appearance. Wifi could clearly also bring some interesting capabilities with it. The rumors keep alluding to a widescreen format with touch screen controls. All cool stuff, but given Apple’s incremental release history for the iPod, I think seeing all these things at once would be a long shot.

The thing I’m most hopeful for is an update to the user interface. The menu system and navigation has been ground-breaking with its simplicity since the iPod first came along. With the exception of some small enhancements (album art viewer, ratings, additional hardware controls such as brightness, and so on) to the software, the interface seems to be getting a little stale. I’m sure I’ll catch some heat for this opinion, but oh well.

Before I propose my ideas for an enhanced interface, I should explain how I arrived at the idea. More often than not I’ll be listening to some vast playlist I’ve created, or even just the general music library on shuffle. Inevitably, a song will play that jogs my desire to hear more from that singer/band/album. So the enhancement I’d love to see would be the ability to jump straight to the current song’s artist catalog, or album list. This way it would be a matter of a button press – or two – to access all the related songs. Currently I’ve got to back up 3 or 4 levels, scroll down, drill down, scroll down, etc, etc, etc. It’s not the type of action I like to attempt while in the car. And honestly, it’s almost more effort than I care to exert even when sitting idly. Maybe I’m just lazy, sue me.

Regardless of what I want or say, competitors such as the Zune are going to continue trying to chip away are the iPod’s market share with added functionality, convergence, and plain old bling. Admittedly, the iPod is all about simplicity, but it’ll need to step it up from time to time if it wants to remain the undisputed champion. That’s just evolution.

What sort of software enhancements do you think would be welcomed from Apple on their beloved iPod?

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  1. Your interface issues are mine as well, I constantly find myself in a broad playlist wanting forward movement into the artist or album that has come up. While I don’t expect to see such changes, they would be nice. Otherwise, all I want is Bluetooth 2.0 embedded into the new nano with an increase in capacity (10GB would get me there, but 15GB would be ideal, enough room to have more than I need, but not so little that I have to be specific in my paring down) and I would be happy. I have no use for video enhancements and the Zune wireless sharing is a crock with the limitations on it and any such social networking would have to include such limitations to appease the record labels, so they can ditch that. And I love my computer more than my iPod, and listen on it more as well, so computer-less downloads are worthless to me as well. My desires are simple, the same as my desires for an Apple cellphone, Bluetooth and a sizeable flash drive, and I am happy.

  2. You’re a wise person my friend. Great analysis on the current state of the iPod and it’s competitor. Every idea that you proposed for the next release of the iPod, I agree with. I’ve been so tempted to purchase an 80G iPod but because of MacWorld taking place in January, I’ve been reluctant to just in case of any announcements.

  3. There are some albums that I have listened to so much that I know each and every song in order – especially the ones that are meant to play gapless. I’ve often listened to my iPod in shuffle mode and heard the beginning of an end-of-song transition which triggers a desire to hear the next song on the album. I wish there was a simple one-button way to switch to listening to the current album without a gap.

    Right on with some of the other suggestions – increased capacity and minor features can’t keep carrying the iPod line.

  4. i turn on my ipod, shuffle is on, randomly spin the dial to a song, play. that is it. for me this is perfect. let what comes up play… Be in the Moment. Wireless connection .. bah humbug. i don’t wish to connect to other’s doggrel nor do i care to let others connect to mine ;-) But having Bluetooth and be able to sync to my laptp or my desktop or even better to me .mac address book over the web…. now we are rocking! Also to be able to connect to iTunes store to top with a song or album here and there…now that would be magic! (So yes some form wireless yesb ut not as some cool candy thingy but as real workhorse usable tool!)

  5. I do agree that the ipod is in need of an updated interface. I think that it should remain simple like it is but with a little more visual interest to it (like a slight zoom on an object when you highlight it, and/or a customizable background), also my opinion on the wireless option on the zune is that the limitations make it useless, i think that rather than actually sending songs, that, like in itunes, you can listen to someone else’s library over bonjour (not only other ipods with this functionality, but libraries on computers as well), (buying off the ipod doesn’t excite me, but maybe someone else though)… also Grant is right, a 10gb or 15gb ipod would be perfect, it would be less video-sized and more nano-sized…. that said, I LOVE MY IPOD (5g video)!!!

  6. Christopher Miles Friday, December 15, 2006

    I’ve long wanted a feature that allows you to quick jump to all the songs by the currently playing artist or from the currently playing album, nice to know I’m not alone!

    People might think I’m crazy, but audio feedback on when scrolling through artists and albums would be really helpful in some situations, ie. if the iPod could read aloud (through headphones) the letter of the you’re scrolling through, artist/album title, song etc… so that you don’t have to take the thing out of your pocket to see what you’re doing…

  7. Top two features on my iPod wishlist;
    The inability to create a meaningful directory structure and browse the files from the ipod. And the ability to create and save playlists on the device itself.

  8. I totally agree – that would be a killer feature. Implementing a new interface should not be that hard – we already have it on all new Macs. Front Row.

    Think about how elegant that would be. I am totally smitten by the Front Row interface – 4 icons, black background, getting you wherever you need to be (videos, photos, music, etc.). Now that I think about it – make it however many icons the user decides they want to show on the “main menu” – same procedure as in today’s ipods.

    THAT, and only that, would get me to buy a new iPod come MWSF (current 5g).

  9. edit to previous comment:
    change “inability” to read “ability”

  10. I’ve often thought the same thing. As wel, sometimes I’ll be listening to a tune that I just don’t want to keep anymore. I wish there was a way to mark it’s star rating as a “-1″ or something of the like that will, during the next sync, tell iTunes to delete the song.

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