Posted Sunday, July 18, 2004

The New iPod and Your Old iPod: What Apple Should Include in an iPod Software Update

Newsweek magazine has details on a new, fourth-generation iPod as part of a cover story on the -- hold your nose -- iPod Nation.

The quick skinny:

Same white case, and about the same size (about a millimeter thinner).

The four control buttons are replaced by a clickwheel, the lovely and versatile controller that first appeared on the iPod mini.

Menus have been reorganized, with Shuffle playback control making its way to the main menu.

Longer battery life betweeh charges -- up to 12 hours of playback time, thanks to better power management, according to the Newsweek article.

A C-note cheaper: 40GB for $399, 20GB for $299.

Some cool new features. According to Newsweek, "you can create multiple on-the-go playlists and delete songs from those ad hoc mixes. And audiobooks are not only easier to find, you can listen to them at normal speed, slower or 25 percent faster, without its sounding like a Munchkin."

So it looks like another solid step forward for the leading portable music player: a better user interface, better battery life, cool enhancements for audiobook listeners, and more options for creating and working with playlists while on the road.

Well and good. Now what about that third-generation iPod in your pocket?

It'll be interesting to see how many -- if any -- of these new features come to older iPods through a software update. Prediction: few if any. The real-time playback speed adjustments almost certainly require signal-processing hardware that only the 4G iPods will contain.

And while the revamped menus and enhanced on-the-go playlists would seem to be something Apple could give to owners of older iPods as a small obsolesence consolation, the company may want to withold these welcome additions to encourage upgrading. We've seen signs of this with previous iPod software updates.

I hope I'm wrong and that Apple releases an iPod software update that adds the enhanced menu and playlist features to 3G iPods and the iPod mini.

Prediction #2: Expect to see more iPods on eBay.