Will iPod Step It Up?


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?



I would like to be able to skip an album when I’m listening in shuffle albums mode.


I like the idea of current song jumping, but I won’t hash on that, too many people already have.

The main thing I’d like to see (as previously mentioned by a few) would be the ability to manage playlists directly on the iPod itself. As of now, all you can do is create an on-the-go playlist. What I would like is if you could create/delete/modify playlists on the iPod without having to sync with iTunes.

A new interface would look nice too. I’ve grown somewhat tired of the plain white and black text with blue highlight. Maybe its just me, but I think it would be fun if the iPod interface was more customizable (sp?) with themes or something.

Lastly, I’ve had three iPod’s replaced now because the battery just doesn’t last. Maybe I listen to it too much. If so Apple can ignore this. If not, I think there should be some serious work/research done in the battery department. Like I said, I’ve now had three iPods replaced for free by Apple because the battery fails to cooperate with me.

Alex Charyna

* How about foldering of playlists?

* How about a choice in “Smart Playlists” to select Art or no Art… right now it’s kind of a pain, and can’t be done dynamically. (this is a request for iTunes)

#13, if you manage your iPod manually, you can create smart or regular playlists via iTunes. No, it’s not doing it via the iPod, but it is possible.


make the interface more cool
and incerase the number of applications which can be run from an windows computer without releasing another model
just update the software
better do it quick or everyone will migrate to zune

Chris Perdue

I really think working smart playlists and smart playlist creation on the ipod itself would be amazing. My other suggestion would be syncing your ipod ratings and playcounts everytime you sync it, the fact it does not keep that info synced already is just sad.


Branching off on the ‘go to artist’ idea, if wi-fi is implemented, how about browse artist catalog on ITMS, go to artist wikipedia entry, browse on amazon etc. Much like the latest version of foxytunes can do with current track.

Integrate movies with the imdb and rotten tomatoes, perhaps youtube browsing? doubt that’ll happen though, but would definately sell it to the teenage market


“…the enhancement I’d love to see would be the ability to jump straight to the current song’s artist catalog, or album list”

Exactly! I’ve been thinking this too, but thought it was just me. :)

I’ve also been thinking about how Apple could implement such a feature in a way that would be least disruptive. Right now, when you’re in the Now Playing screen, and press the center button of the scrollwheel, you bring up a series of screens. What I’d like to see is a screen that provides menus based on the track info–for example, like this:

September Gurls >
Big Star >
Radio City >

Once you’re at this screen, you would switch among these items by using the scrollwheel, and select one by pressing the center button. By scrolling to and selecting September Gurls, you would be taken directly to a list of all the songs on your iPod, with “September Gurls” highlighted. You could then scroll to another song. The second item, for the current artist, would be the one I would use most often. By clicking on it, you could display all the songs by that artist, just as if you had gone back up and then down the menu hierachy to Artists and then scrolled down to Big Star. But oh so much faster. Clicking on Radio City would take you to a list of songs in that album.

Obviously, this idea could be extended by including “shortcuts” based on other types of track info, like Genre or Playlist. An item that could take you straight to the very top of the menu hierarchy would also be handy.

Nick Santilli

Gabe – I assume you know about the on-the-go playlist creation capability? It is rather limited, but does allow you a little bit of custom control on the go.

Burhan – Yes! It would really be nice to have the power to manage the songs to some extent while you’re on the go. It’s a time when your attention is fixed on the songs. I always forget by the time I’m back at my computer to actually update my library the way I wanted while I was on the road.


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.


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


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).


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.

Christopher Miles

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…


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)!!!


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!)

Tyler Kieft

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.


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.


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.

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