Let me start off by making a qualifying statement:
Because I worked for a large german Apple retailer for a few years, I’ve owned nearly every iPod Apple made, starting with a 10GB 2nd Gen I bought myself all the way through to the 30GB iPod video (no, I’m not insane, most were work iPods we were given to demonstrate to customers. But we were allowed to keep them for private use as well).
So consider me a big fan of all the previous iPods.
But apart from the obvious new touch interface which is generally considered to be a huge leap forward, there are several practical improvements to the iPhone’s iPod that are less headline-grabbing, but make the device considerably more useable than its predecessors all the same.
Here are my top 5 subtle improvements that make the music listening experience on the iPhone better than on any iPod.
- The headset clicker for pausing & skipping tracks
Whilst tiny and unobtrusive, having the two controls I need most often at my fingertips is great. I can even skip songs whilst on my bike and use it to skip songs in the car without taking my eyes off the road.
- 1-tap access to repeat and shuffle settings*
I can’t remember how many times I had to drill down into the settings menu on my old iPod to change those two settings. On the iPhone, a single tap on the cover reveals both settings. (Newer scroll wheel iPods with cover-flow UI can set them by pressing the center button several times, but with 4 clicks required, they’re still a bit buried).
- Dedicated volume controls
I never really missed this on my iPod, but thanks to the buttons on the side I can even turn my iPhone up or down when it’s in my jeans pockets.
- Faster list navigation*
The scroll wheel is awesome, but I can access files with the iPhone’s alphabetic side-scrolling feature a bit quicker.
- Social music apps*
Whilst these are still very much “works in progress” and not part of the official iPod functionality on the iPhone, the ability to scrobble played songs and find similar music using my Last.Fm account & mobileScrobbler (see my earlier post for more details), lookup song lyrics with TuneWiki
(*These can also be used on the iPod touch, the other features are iPhone-only though, for reasons known only to Apple.)
However, all that being said, there are undoubtedly a number of things that traditional iPods do better:
It’s impossible to scrub accurately to a particular part of a longer track or podcast on the iPhone. You can try a few times and get to within the general time slot you’re after, but I do miss the precision-scrolling on my old iPod.
8 or 16GB gives you a size that you can manage, 30 or 60GB is a much more comfortable size that lets you auto-sync most collections though.