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Its about time Apple paid a bit more attention to function

August 13, 2010

Its no secret that Apple put a lot of effort into the look and feel of their products. This is a very good thing. There is no excuse or reason for technology to be bland and boring.

The problem is, Apple now have a form over function attitude that affects usability and this particular Apple customer is not at all impressed.

My first Apple product was a 2nd generation iPod Nano. Well, its not mine, its my wife’s. She had a need for a small MP3 player, and having done as much research as I could to find a reason to get a non-Apple MP3 player, I decided that an iPod was actually the best option.

So the Nano was bought and iTune installed. I ended up using iTunes regularly, since I was working from home a lot those days, to listen to podcasts while I worked. iTunes worked great on my PC and the Nano worked great for the wife.

Roll forwards 5 years and several new versions of iTunes.

Needs have changed and I now use the Nano, while the wife has a 5th generation iPod Classic. I loved using the Nano, it was small and light and had enough space on it to store the latest version of all of the podcasts I listen to. All I needed to do was hit play and it would cycle through all the podcasts in sequence and I could just forget about it sitting in my pocket when I was out and about or on the train to work (no longer working at home, boo!). If I was driving I could just drop it into the MaCally FMCup transmitter and set off.

iTunes, however, is not such a pleasure. Video podcasts no longer play smoothly on the same PC I have always been running iTunes on. When iTunes checks for and downloads podcasts updates, my PC grinds to a halt while the iTunes process dominates all system resources. The same happens when syncing the iPod and the wait for it to display podcast pages is agonising. What happened to the slick and performant iTunes that I installed all those years ago?

Thinking it was my PC that could be at fault, I wiped the disk, installed Windows XP fresh again, installed iTunes on the clean install, played a video podcast and got exactly the same result as before; unwatchable poor performance.

Then there are the constant crashes. I have now given up importing my music library into iTunes and I only use it for podcasts. Since then I have not had a single iTunes crash, I just have to live life without my music library being in iTunes.

However, I still want to view my video podcasts, and this is where my life spiralled into a the hell of Apples serious idiotic iPod features. Someone really does need to take the developer team to one side, pull out their earphones and give them a jolly good slapping, before sending them off to a usability seminar.

Since I can’t play video podcasts on the PC anymore I decided to hijack the wife’s new iPod Classic and use that for my commuting pleasure.

The extra space on the iPod Classic has allowed me to drop all unplayed podcasts onto it, which is nice, but not really essential. I could throw a load of music at it as well, but since I am loath to import my music back into iTunes again, it’ll just be podcasts for the moment.

My first major disappointment came when I hit play on the iPod Classic and dropped it in my pocket.


Gone is the feature I took so much for granted on the Nano. I had to find each podcast individually and if there were more episodes they would get played back to back, except they were listed most recent first so they played in reverse chronological order. Not exactly ideal.

Some research on the web revealed that you now had to generate playlists and sync those to the iPod Classic and then select the playlist you wanted to play though. While its nice that you can sync playlists if you want to, I don’t like being forced to do it when what I want is to play everything, just by hitting play.

So, playlists created and synced, only I can’t select them. Scrolling down to playlists on the iPod Classic lists the number of playlists I have, but it won’t actually let me select any of them. Lots of trial and error later and I work out that I actually need some music on the iPod Classic. So I am forced to import a single song into iTunes and sync that to the iPod Classic in order to be able to access my podcast playlists.


The iPod Classic still has one more surprise for me. When it gets to a video podcast it does not play the video, I am greeted with the audio only. The only way I can get the iPod Classic to show me the video is if I select the podcast directly. So I have created very complex playlist rules so that all video podcasts are excluded from the podcast playlists.

Seriously uncool Apple.

So lets recap, things that are wrong with the iPod Classic and that Apple really should have had sorted by now.

  • Can’t simply press play to start playing through all iPod Classic content.
  • Podcasts must be in a playlist if you want to play different podcasts back to back.
  • To select a playlist there must be music on the iPod, even if the playlist is only for podcasts.
  • Podcast episodes are listed in reverse chronological order so you can’t play podcast episodes in sequence back to back.
  • Video podcasts will only show the video if the podcast is selected directly, if the video podcast is in a playlist only the audio will be played

The only possible reason these issues can exist is lazy programming by people who are too pre-occupied form and don’t give a care for function.

  1. Good point, but I still love apple. There are a minor mistake (and mal function) on some products. I mean iPhone 4, but I do believe in Steve Jobs. He will fix, and change the world (again) shortly.

  2. limey permalink

    I like your confidence Bob. Maybe he will save the world one day. The trouble is, pretty doesn’t save the world, functional does. So he really needs to get his quality control sorted out. Lets hope the world can survive until he does. 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Its about time Apple paid a bit more attention to function « A limey’s ramblings « Chicago Mac/PC Support
  2. More iPod Woes « A limey's ramblings

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