Friday, May 13, 2022 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Music Unitasker

Riccardo Mori:

Listening to music with an iPod shuffle is still (and can still be) a fun experience. You can create the digital equivalent of a mixtape, load it on your shuffle, clip the shuffle to your shirt/jeans/jacket, and then you can go out and listen to music without even having to touch the device, unless you need to change volume or skip a track. It’s basically a hands-free device that disappears on you. If Apple made a new iPod shuffle with Bluetooth, the invisibility factor would be even higher, since you wouldn’t even have the earphones’ cable around you to remind you that you are wearing an iPod. It would still be a nice device for commuting, or jogging, or during a workout.

Sure, you might say that these uses are now taken over by the Apple Watch or other smartwatches, but for an Apple Watch you’ll pay a minimum of $199 up to more than $1,000. An iPod shuffle would be a $50 device. If you’re a casual user who just wants to have some music while out and about, jogging, etc., and don’t use a smartwatch, a little wearable device like the iPod shuffle could still be your cup of tea. But maybe wanting from today’s Apple a fun, inexpensive, wearable, colourful device is asking too much. Here, have an AirTag instead.

Tyler Hall:

With all the shit in the world in the last few years, listening to music has become even more of a refuge and safe space for me than it ever was before.

But, for me at least, the incredible technological convergence of every single use-case into a deck of cards-sized pocket super-computer means that when I do want to only listen to music - there are a million beeps, boops, and badges fighting for my attention.

An underappreciated feature of the iPod (because it wasn’t a feature you could market during its heyday) was that it was only an iPod. Not also a mobile phone and internet communicator.

He bought a Sony NW-A105 Walkman running Android.

For all the amazing interactions touch screens have given us, until I clicked to the next track without taking this Walkman out of my pocket, I had forgotten how nice it is to control my music by touch - and not by voice or by first waking my phone from sleep and tapping a button I can’t feel.

Previously:

10 Comments

Joshua Ochs

Any product requires a certain amount of investment, and an expectation that the revenue from it will recoup that investment (ideally, a lot more). High-end products can be more niche because they bring in a lot more money per unit; an inexpensive product as envisioned here does not. While such a device sounds nice (and is certainly something they want), I think this massively overestimates the market for such a thing.

Also, as to blocking notifications et al, I find this argument hard to stomach seeing as the only physical "button" on the iPhone beyond power and volume is the mute switch. Mute switch + DnD focus and nothing bothers you unless you want it to.

I doubt Apple will or should make another iPod again. But maybe they’ll add some flash storage to their AirPods on day?

iPods are not well suited for selling more services. Even stand alone music library functionality on both iOS and Mac is degrading all the time. Just listening to some of your music seems to be the thing of the past for Apple.

Coincidentally, I took my old iPod Shuffle out of mothballs last week, shortly before all the iPod nostalgia write-ups and comments hit the web. It is indeed a delight to use.

I also have three click-wheel-era iPods, one of which I still regularly use for podcast listening, and for just about all use cases, the experience of using only my thumb to blindly control playback/pause/skip/jog while the iPod is in my jacket pocket is still unmatched by any other control scheme Apple has since come out with.

I try not to introduce additional levels in my data, so I have never used a music library, and iTunes never offered Apple-grade ergonomics. My workflow:
1. I drop audio files from and in Finder into the Foobar2000 music player on my iPhone 7
2. I use the remote buttons on my Etymotic headphone cable

> Sure, you might say that these uses are now taken over by the Apple Watch or other smartwatches, but for an Apple Watch you’ll pay a minimum of $199 up to more than $1,000. An iPod shuffle would be a $50 device.

But that's exactly why Apple isn't interested. They don't want to make a $300 Mac or a $50 music player.

> iPods are not well suited for selling more services.

I don't see why not. Add Wi-Fi, and you can add Apple Music support at home and work, with offline caching for on the go.

They could've done a $200 iPod like that. They just didn't see the market for it, especially when you can get an Apple Watch at the same price anyway.

The people I know most serious about cataloging and listening to their music have dedicated players -- and those all run Android these days, because that's all there is.

Apple bragged that the iPhone was 3 devices in 1. They mocked the very concept of "unification", while simultaneously delivering a unified device I never asked for. If you went back to the 1970's and asked people if they wanted their phone, hi-fi, and PC "unified", I think you would have gotten a lot of blank stares.

@Sam
"If you went back to the 1970's and asked people if they wanted their phone, hi-fi, and PC "unified", I think you would have gotten a lot of blank stares."

Just like, before the advent of the car, if you asked people what they wanted they would have said 'faster horses'.

Or if you asked IBM president Thomas Watson, in 1943, about selling computers: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Case for dedicated player: does nothing else, terrific tactile interface.

Solution: tactile input controls on (Bluetooth) headphones, dedicated "Focus".

Honestly, while I loved the iPod Shuffle I still own, I'm more bummed by the death of iPod Touch, which arguably embodied the general-purpose spirit of iOS vastly better in a device that was low-cost and long-lasting and whose absence of cellular connectivity was more than sufficient to bring out the simple joy of offline mobile content that could be augmented whenever Wi-Fi was available. (It was rather nice to be accidentally included by virtue of sharing the same tactile and audio interface as everyone else, though.)

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