Posted Friday, June 20, 2003

iPod 2.0.1 Software: A Closer Look at What's Fixed

Yesterday, not long before an apparently careless Web mechanic made us all drool, Apple released an update to the software for the newest iPods.

Apple is often frustratingly vague in describing the problems that are fixed in its updates. "This update addresses issues, enhances functionality, and improves compatibility with certain peripherals" -- that kind of non-information isn't all that helpful.

The new iPod 2.0.1 software is similarly documented -- eight bullet points provide only the vaguest view of the new version (which, by the way, is a whopping 30MB download). Here are those eight bullet points along with some commentary and elaboration.

• Better support for Asian languages -- Okay, I have no commentary here; if anyone can shed light, I'm all ears.

• Enhanced On-The-Go playlist functionality -- I love the iPod's new On-The-Go playlist feature, which lets you build a playlist on the fly. (See the free, 18-page update to The Macintosh iLife for lots of details on this playlist.) But there was a problem: If you were playing the playlist and you added a song to it, the song appeared in the playlist but wouldn't play back. This problem is fixed. Unfortunately, you still can't sync the On-The-Go playlist back to iTunes.

• Improved playback performance -- Vague enough for you? Perhaps this means the iPod doesn't lock up occasionally, a problem I encountered now and then with my 15GB model. Or maybe it refers to the ticking sound that some users heard between songs. Or one of several other quirks that some people encountered. (By and large, my experience with a third-generation iPod has been a happy one, but some folks have apparently not been as fortunate.)

• Improved handling of MP3 VBR songs -- I use VBR (variable bitrate encoding) for my MP3 tracks, and hadn't noticed a problem. But some users did -- the iPod would apparently simply stop playing a VBR-encoded MP3 track and then skip to the next track. Version 2.0.1 will hopefully fix their problem.

• Fixed artist sorting -- With iPod 2.0 software, artist names would sometimes be sorted incorrectly. Version 2.0.1 fixes this.

• Improved backlight -- Here's an interesting one. Install the 2.0.1 update, and your iPod's screen will look slightly different. On Apple's discussion board, one user puts it this way: "I think my backlight is now emitting a more blue-ish light and, with the backlight on, the text is a definitely a LOT clearer and crisper. Weird but true!"

• Improved alarm clock -- The version 2.0 alarm clock feature had some weird idiosyncrasies, which are now fixed. Unfortunately, you still can't choose to have the On-The-Go playlist play when the alarm goes off.

• Fixed left/right channel swapping -- With the original iPod 2.0 software, the left and right channels would sometimes be swapped when you pressed the Pause/Play button. Ooops. This is fixed.

And finally, Apple has removed the recording function from the iPod's diagnostic mode. This recording function, first reported by, was virtually useless anyway, but it did indicate that the new iPods have the ability to record, hinting at some potentially exciting future capabilities.

If you have any additional insights on version 2.0.1 of the iPod's software, please write. And don't forget to get your 18-page, full-color update to my book: full coverage of iTunes 4, iTunes Music Store, and new iPods. Of course it's free. Scroll down to learn more, or get it now.