As posted earlier, since a few days, I am the proud owner of a 60GB color iPod, which as of today is already obsolete. Nevertheless a few impressions.

My previous mp3 player was a shitty Philips 128 MB memory stick with even worse software (tip, don’t install it at all). The only nice thing about it (at least conceptually) was the fact that the volume controls were integrated into the flat chord you use to hang the thing (or yourself) from the neck. That was a slightly geeky, cool thing. Of course 128MB was way too little and the insistence of the thing to not keep track of what song you were playing and to play the first song of an album last was especially shitty.

The iPod on the other hand lives up to its reputation as a genuinely cool thing. What I was worried about most (the menu system) turns out to be a well designed, easy to use tool that does exactly what I want: expose my music which is organized on artist and albums as such and allow me to play albums from start to finish, the way the artist intended them to be played.

It came in some well designed packaging. Everything about it just looks cool. No cheap plastic but nice minimalistic, elegant design. Everything about the package screams: this is an expensive designer thingy and you know you just gotto have it. Once you open it the experience continues. The contents of the box are well designed. No styrofoam in here but nice white cardboard and again functional use of the available space in the box. Packaging is something you throw away but this packaging had me impressed as being elegant, beautiful and almost a waste to open and discard. If Apple understands one thing it is that the first experience matters.

The hardware itself looks really nice. It has a shiny chrome body with a nice white front. Except from a lock button on the top, right of the headphone connector the only controls are the disc in the center. The disc is a touch sensitive control with a round button in the middle and four buttons under it north, east, south and west. The north button is the menu/back button, the center button is the ‘ok’ button, east and west are next and previous and south is play/pause.

Navigating the menus works like this you stroke the dial clockwise to scroll down and counter clockwise to scroll up. The center menu ‘selects’ an option, the menu button backs you out of nested menus. So you stroke down to artist, ok, the pixies, ok, doolittle, debaser, ok and you are listening to one of my favorite albums. While it is playing you can go back to the menu by clicking menu four times and then navigate to settings, eq and adjust the sound.

Now one thing had me puzzled for a while: where’s the volume control? It took a manual to figure it out: while the song is playing, stroke the wheel to change the volume (clockwise for up, counter clockwise for down), easy and intuitive but people won’t figure this out by themselves the first time.

That’s the good part. Now the bad part: the photo feature of the color ipod sucks. I have a nice photoalbum at photos.jillesvangurp.com. Mirroring this to the ipod seemed like a good idea so I pointed iTunes to the root of my photo directory which contains well over a thousand large jpeg photos. Problem #1: the photos take up more space on the ipod than on my harddrive. Apparently everything is copied full resolution to the ipod + some thumbnails. Problem #2: the iPod screen is tiny and not very suitable for viewing photos. The screen on my camera is smaller and much better for this. Problem #3: the ipod is incapable of recursive directory structures characteristic of well organized photoalbums. The first time I tried this, all my photos ended up one huge folder. Navigating from 1999 to 2005 took quite a while ‘stroking’ the disc. Problem #4: it doesn’t use the meta information attached to the photos.

Clearly the first generation color iPod is a missed opportunity in doing anything useful with the color screen. Other than that, I am really happy with it. The sound quality is good, the head phones are decent. I connected my sennheiser headphone to get a better impression: excellent, clear sound.