Your Guide to Not Buying an IPod

While most of my fellow Americans flocked to the Apple Store to pick up the iPod of the day, I decided to do a bit more research before I dropped my money on an iPod. In the end, I was extremely satisfied.

I don’t quite recall when the iPod leaked onto the scene, but it did so quietly, until it began turning up absolutely everywhere. I’m baffled at just how popular it has become, considering that with minimal research you can find dozens of better buys. I’m not here to bash anyone, but I just have to shake my head when everyone is shelling out hundreds of dollars for mediocrity. So first, let’s look at the iPod.

The iPod
In case you’ve been living under several rocks for the past 5 (give or take) years, iPods are those sexy little rectangles that you’re sure to see if you walk 2 blocks in any direction in a moderately populated area.

The Pros

The iPod features a hefty harddrive and an admittedly great look. Most other mp3 players, particularly those that were around before the iPod craze, simply were not as aesthetically attractive as the pod. It has a very sleek, shiny look, and the scroll mechanism is quite cool. The harddrive also beats most of what’s available on the market, as they generally are always above 20GB. Currently they max out at 60GB, though that’s sure to change in another couple months…And this is where the pros end. Let’s take a look at the cons.

The Cons

The first thing that comes to mind is price. iPods are the most expensive mp3 player on the market, but they are not the best. Other mp3 players offer a standard FM-radio, and many times other features such as a microphone, or a built-in mp3 encoding system (ie. you can rip songs off of your CDs and turn them into mp3s). So, what are you paying that 200+ dollars for? You’re paying primarily for those ads that you see everywhere, and in terms of product, you’re just paying for a sleek look (which is not particularly costly) and a large amount of storage space.

In regards to storage space, its importance depends largely on the buyer. Many people use mp3 players as a convenient medium to store excess computer files, and in this respect an mp3 player that doesn’t offer much more than many GBs of space isn’t a horrible idea. However, the majority of buyers are buying the iPod for the music. All that they have on their 20 or 30GB iPod is music music music! Let’s pause for a moment and consider about how many songs that is: An average mp3 song is about 3 megabytes. There are one thousand megabytes in a gigabyte. This means one gigabyte of memory will give you roughly 300 songs. Multiply 300 by 20, and you get 6000. That is Six Thousand songs.

The simple fact of the matter is that people do not regularly listen to 6000 songs. In fact, most people are content with a steady rotation of select songs from a few CDs, and I estimate that number to be about 20-30 different songs. My precision in this estimate is not of utmost important, as the main idea here is that with any more than a gig of music memory, much of that expensive storage space is going to waste. I could drag this on for quite some time, but I’ll move on.

Some Claims For the iPod

Some buyers will acknowledge that the iPod is clearly not the best on the market, and the most common support for their purchase that I’ve heard is that Apple has good customer service. Ironically, an even more common thing I’ve heard is that iPods tend to break down in one way or another after a year or less of unabusive usage. The batteries are almost guaranteed to break down after a year, and many of my friends have told me about broken scrollers, unresponsive buttons, or just some completely bizarre software malfunction. Whether or not Apple has great customer service is not particular important, as the product is known to break down merely from being used. Would you buy a car that broke down ever 5000 miles just because the company would fix it afterwards? I hope not…

So, hopefully you’re asking “Well, what else is out there?”

Hopefully. Well, if you are asking that, then you’re in luck. There is quite a bit out there, and it’s not hard to find. My particular experience was with Creative, and I will buy from them again. I owned the Creative Zen Nano (“owned” because I managed to lose it after several months of having it), and whenever I saw someone with their iPod, I couldn’t help but smile. My Zen Nano “only” held 512 megabytes, yet it offered an FM-radio, mp3-encoding, several language options, a microphone, and quality headphones (iPod, by the way, is notorious for cheap headphones). The 512 megabytes more than satisfied me, and I have quite an extensive taste in music. I rarely filled up the device, and when I did I found that it was no task to free up space, as there was already a significant amount of music that I’d lost interest in. If you do want some extra storage space, they even offer 4, 5, or 6 GB products for the same price as the iPod 1 or 2GB versions.

Some other recommendations are Rio, who currently offers the 5GB Carbon for 129 dollars, and Sony, who offers many stylish and innovative designs for a range of about 70-130 dollars.

The moral of this story?

I’ll admit it…this has not been a completely unbiased comparison the iPod. However, my goal is not to simply convince the potential consumer to “not buy an iPod”, but more importantly to get get the consumer to THINK before buying. The iPod is not a bad product, and depending on your needs it may be the best buy, but hopefully I’ve put things in perspective and a better choice can be made.

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