The Apple iPod and why I think people go mad about them
Anyone who knows me and reads my blog knows I’m what they call a Android “fanboi”. If given the choice over iOS and Android, I’d choose the latter every time. It’s boggled my mind how people can be so strong for Apple products when, for what they are, they are severely over-priced, have poor sound quality, lack connectivity, limits you to use proprietary software, and promotes slave labour.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a “2nd generation” iPod Touch available for sale, second hand, for £30. It was only an 8Gb model – the lowest of those available for sale – and it was scratched and battered. Assured by the seller that it was in full working order, I decided to take the leap and buy it. I figured that it’d give me some proper experience with an iOS device without spending all my money, as well as give me another medium on which to test the Country Attire website on. At the very least, I could stick some music on it to listen to while I walk to work, saving vital battery power on my (Android) phone. The point of this blog post is to outline my experiences with (albeit, an earlier) iOS and share my conclusion.
I jumped in the car and drove over to Chapel-en-le-Frith where the seller of the iPod was. Upon arrival, I examined it to find it wasn’t in as bad condition as the photos made it to be. There were scratches in all sorts of places, not to mention a few heavy-handed dents, but all-in-all it was solid and the screen was still easily visible. Money exchanged hands and I was soon heading back to my house. As soon as I got it home, I tried to install Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a whole variety of things on it. I’d had hoped I’d be able to use it not just as a music player, but also as another alternative for social media. To my dismay, I found that all these, seemingly simple, apps required at least iOS 4.3 but the iPod Touch 2G can only take v4.2.1. This was quite a kick in the teeth. Within minutes of getting home (and going through the burden of installing iTunes on my laptop), I found out the single most important reason why iOS device owners insist on upgrading their products so soon. It’s clearly because Apple only want to focus on their newest devices so consumers have to continually, year-on-year, replace their iOS devices so they can continue to upgrade their apps to the latest versions. What’s even more frustrating is the Apple App Store appears to have no facility to provide the “most up to date” version of apps for your specified device. It’s rather different with Android and the Google Play store. It only lists apps that are compatible on the device being used so there’s little confusion, and even though some apps only work on Android v4.0 (ICS) and above, the vast majority will still work on your older devices even today. I’m sure in the past that Facebook and Twitter worked on a 2G iPod Touch (heck, the mobile versions do). Anyone who wasn’t as technologically-minded as myself would think they have to fork out another few quid to keep their devices working each year. With Android, you can have a much older v1.6 device and still get the latest Facebook app updates today… and Android STILL outsells all iOS devices!
I figured that, since the 2G is no longer supported (probably the reason why the seller was selling it), I’d have to jailbreak it in order to get “older” versions of popular apps installed on the device. I spent the evening exploring all the options but, suffice as to say, I ended up bricking the iPod. For the life of me, I couldn’t get a custom firmware installed on it. It completely baffled me, since I’d rooted both my Android phone and tablet with ease, and installed many different custom firmware updates on my Android phone without any desaterous effects. Many of the instructions I found online stated I should let the iPod die and then start from scratch, so I decided to leave it for at least 3 days to die before trying again.
Over a week later, I decided it was time to try and restore it. I came across so many different error messages in the process (most of them were 1601) but after a couple of hours of white screens, black screens, terminal screens and so on… I finally revived the iPod to it’s former glory. “Finally!”, I thought, “I can explore this device and put it through it’s paces”. Sadly, since I restored an official v4.2.1 firmware, I was still bound by it’s previous limitations, so I decided for the time being to see it purely as a music device. Naturally, the first thing I thought of was putting music on it, which lead me to use iTunes.
I imported a vast variety of music from my network drive, mostly unsorted MP3s, into iTunes and waited for what felt like an eternity for it to process, clean up, calculate gapless playback, and so on… and this is before it’s even synced to the iPod. All the while I was thinking to myself “By now, the MP3s would’ve been on my phone or on my MP3 player”. After much waiting, it finally sync’ed, so I played some of them back using the headphones that came with the iPod. Straight away, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the sound. The official Apple ear-buds seemed to escape more music than channel it down my ear canals. I really wanted to be more open-minded and try and figure out why so many people go mad over iPods, iPhones and so on, but so far I was having great difficulty in seeing it. That said, when have I ever been impressed with headphones that come bundled with a device? The headphones that came with my past Nokias weren’t all that impressive, and the ones with my Galaxy SII weren’t that great either. However, an iPod touch is supposed to be a portable music player, music being the focus of the device, so you would expect the headphones to be of decent quality… especially when you might’ve forked out a small fortune for one. Luckily, it has a standard 3.5mm headphone connector so I decided to call it a day and try my own pair of headphones in the morning.
The next day came, and I got myself ready for work. The headphones I decided to use are the same ones I use on my Samsung Galaxy SII, which are better shaped for my ears and have excellent sound quality. I stepped out the door, popped the earbuds into my ears, and pressed play. By the time I got to work 15 minutes later, I’d already come to a conclusion. I listened to a variety of different songs, from acoustic ballads to heavy metal, and they all sounded too trebel-heavy and didn’t have enough bass. I even played around with the equaliser, putting on the bass booster, and it didn’t improve matters. I could also hear audio artifacts throughout some of the songs. I can’t be sure if this is because iTunes converts my MP3s or not, but all of my music is in the highest quality (320kbps) in order to avoid this problem. Maybe it would sound better if I re-recorded my CDs directly into iTunes but, if you’ve got a large music collection, you’re not going to want to do that in a hurry.
When listening to the iPod on the way home I found there were a lot of songs on there I didn’t want, so I spent that evening removing songs I didn’t want from iTunes and adding new ones. I even added album covers to as many of the songs as possible, even though a vast majority of my songs already had album art on them (why iTunes didn’t pick up on them is beyond me). Literally, it took me all evening to remove about half the songs and add more. It was such… a… farse!!! Finally, everything was how I wanted it and I felt a small sense of achievement at the end of it. Of course, it would’ve been much simpler if I could just drag-and-drop my music onto the iPod, like you can with any Android device or portable MP3 player. The next day I was informed of iPhoneBrowser which can let you do exactly that, but a lot of people aren’t going to be aware of it’s existance.
Later in the evening, over a cold drink, I thought I’d explore the other aspects of this iPod Touch. After all, it’s not just a music player, but also an all-round portable entertainment device. Baring in mind I still couldn’t install apps on it, I thought I’d try out the Safari browser and some mobile sites. I explored Facebook and Twitter, and even pinned the bookmarks onto the home screen. The way it does this makes it look like the apps are actually installed on the device, so I was rather impressed with it’s consistancy. Another thing that surprised me was the short battery life of it, which is inconsistant with other Apple devices I’ve used (Battery life is one pro point I can give to most Apple products). I’ll let that go though, since it’s an older device. It’s natural it’s battery life will shorten over time. With this in mind, I found myself browsing eBay and Amazon looking for charging docks for it, so I could just pop it on the dock to charge overnight instead of fiddling about with USB cables. Whilst browsing the docks I thought that, maybe, I should get one with speakers on it so I could listen to the music propely while it charges… It was at this point that I made a realisation!
Let me paint the picture, in case you skipped ahead to the conclusion: I’ve not been a fan of iPods, iPhones, iTunes, and so on. The iPod Touch I’ve been using has lived up to all the faults that I’ve always been banging on about, the two biggest being disappointing sound quality and the annoying proprietry software. I spent hours and hours trying to sort out the music on this thing, and I’ve been unable to install apps onto it due to the way Apple monopolises their app store and, by the looks of it, force developers to upgrade their apps to use the latest versions of iOS (Admittedly, this is an assumption, but if it weren’t necessary then shouldn’t I still be able to install new apps on my iPod Touch?). I was starting to feel, because I’d put so much effort into getting as much as possible out of the iPod and sorting out the music with it’s ghastly software, that I should try and take as much advantage of it as possible, such as getting accessories for it. Many others will have even gone as far as to upgrade their Apple devices, at huge expense, in order to keep their apps up to date.
THIS… I feel… is why Apple “fanbois” go on and on about them: it’s because they’ve worked long and hard and spent lots of money to get their Apple devices the way they want. They want to milk them for every penny they spent (for some, hundreds or even thousands of pounds!). They feel the need to validate the money spent and the effort they’ve put in, so they’ll scream about it from the rooftops and – especially – on the Internet, saying how “fantastic” and “wonderful” they are. In so many words, they’re in denial!… and when anyone steps up and points out the obvious problems with the iPod/iPhone/etc, the fanbois get on the defensive and cause a huge uproar. Why? Because they know that the argument is valid. They know that they’ve wasted a lot of money and a lot of their time, but don’t want to admit it.
This could also explain why the Android community is much quieter. I’ll admit, I’ve spent time configuring my Android phone and tablet, getting them set up the way I want them, but never once did it ever feel like a chore. It’s been like any other device I’ve bought: buy it, play with it, set it up, and then simply USE it. It’s possible many other Android users feel the same way and are also happy with their purchases, so they don’t feel the need to squabble with others about it and metaphorically take a dip in the sea of denial. Only once have I been disappointed with anything Android-related, and that was Samsung messing all their customers around with the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Galaxy SII. Sure, I made a whole blog post about it, but never once did I blame Android. The whole scenario was entirely Samsung’s fault and could’ve been dealt with much better.
In conclusion, getting this iPod Touch has basically confirmed everything I’ve thought about iOS and Apple but, at the end of the day, I’ve spent some money on it so I’m going to use it. I’m not spending more money on it getting accessories and docks and extra chargers and such. It’ll simply be a music player to listen to when travelling between work and home. I’ve been lucky with my purchase and had gotten it 2nd hand at a fraction of the RRP (and, as it’s 2nd hand, Apple didn’t even get a penny of my cash!!). The sound quality may not be up to par and the battery doesn’t last a day, but the most important thing is it saves battery power on my phone. Since it’s only going to be used on my walk to and from work, then it’ll do.
Now that I’ve posted this, I know I’m going to get a lot of hate from the iOS community. I’m not telling people what to choose. Everyone is free to choose either iOS or Android, or anything else for that matter. At the end of the day, I’m voicing my opinion, and my opinion is this… When the iPod first came out, it was considered to be the same big hit that the Sony Walkman was to the cassette player in the 80’s and 90’s. I’m sorry but, from the experience that I’ve had, it certainly isn’t.
I’ve had the iPod for two months now, and every day I’ve struggled with the terrible battery life. Thankfully, there are a number of people at work who have iPhones and iPads who’re willing to lend me their chargers so I can charge my iPod during the day. In the end, I did some more research into the poor battery. Turns out it’s down to the v4 iOS firmware. The internet is littered with many posts from people who’ve had severe problems with battery life when the Wi-Fi is on. Apparently, it’s because the device (iPod, iPhone, whatever) is constantly syncing it’s data over the Wi-Fi, which drains the battery. The best advice given is to turn off the Wi-Fi when you’re not using it.
I gave it a go. I switched off the Wi-Fi and, straight away, I noticed a huge improvement! My iPod would last a good three days – at least – before needing a charge. There’s the thing though… from what I’ve read, Apple didn’t want to acknowledge this problem. I’d like to say they fixed it in iOS5, but even more people have had battery problems with that firmware. Even if it did fix the problem, iOS5 isn’t available for this iPod so I’m stuck anyway. I wouldn’t mind so much if it were simple enough to switch the Wi-Fi on and off at will from the main screen. You have to get out of what you’re using, go into Settings, into Wi-Fi, and THEN toggle it.
A shortcut on the home screen. That’s all I ask.
But no. iOS is a rather closed platform, and Apple run the AppStore like a dictatorship, so people aren’t free to make a simple app to control it without charging £5 for the privilege. On the Google Play store, there’re loads of apps and widgets that let you control your Wi-Fi for free (just sayin’).
It would be nice for me to say something good about it though. I’ve kept my eye out for cheap charging docks for it, ones with speakers. I’ve touched upon it earlier in this post, getting a charging dock with speakers and being able to use the iPod as a makeshift mini stereo. However, the cheapest I’ve spied is £15, and that’s just ridiculous. I won’t pay any more than a fiver for such a thing.
I think I’ll explore jailbreaking this iPod again, to see if I can open it up a bit more. At the end of the day, I got it mainly to listen to music when walking to and from work without draining my phone’s battery. If I end up bricking it, it’s not the end of the world.