R.I.P iPod Touch, Welcome Creative Zen Stone.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Let us bow our heads and mark the untimely passing of the beautiful iPod Touch. Touch, you were with us for such a short time – a mere 7 months – yet your sleek looks and remarkable screen resolution made you a treasured part of life. Your 16GB of flash memory for music and podcasts, your ability to store and view photos and videos, your quick and seamless integration with Gmail, and most of all your stunning web-browsing ability quickly made you indispensable. Who could have predicted that a short tumble onto the mat at the back door would cause such tragic damage?

And when you came to life after the accident, I still loved you – scars and all. You were damaged, but still functioning. I could live with your cosmetic flaws – you were my Touch. But alas, I could not know these were merely your death throes. The next morning your screen grew jumbled, and I held you in my hands as you sputtered out those last garbled flashes. And then, it was over. Rest in peace, Touch.

So yeah, I dropped my freakin' iPod Touch, and the screen cracked and it died. The DAY BEFORE I was due to leave town for ten days. And only 7 months after I paid almost $400 for it. I'm pretty crushed about this, especially in light of the “6 Things I'm Allowed to Spend Money on Rule”. A new iPod Touch definitely does NOT fall into any of the acceptable categories. This will be a true test.

To replace the iPod, I bought a Creative Zen Stone Plus (with speaker), a cumbersomely named but clever little device.

It's advantages are these:

  • It's bigger than an iPod Shuffle, but still really small.

  • Even though it's really small, it has a screen for keeping track of what's going on.

  • It doesn't require iTunes and can be loaded with a simple drag-and-drop interface that works fine with the Eee's Linux operating system.

  • It came with a silicone case and a belt clip, so it's already equipped for use while running

  • It has an FM radio, a microphone and recorder function, a clock and a stopwatch.

  • It's rechargeable and charges from a USB port, or from my existing AC iPod charger (which supports different voltages).

  • And best of all, the built-in speaker, though tiny, is remarkably functional, and will fill a small room.

It's disadvantages are:

  • You can load music in folders, but it won't support a complicated folder structure – all the folders on it appear in alphabetical order, regardless of how they're nested when they're loaded onto the device.

  • It plays files in alphabetical order, so if you want things to play in a specific order, you have to modify the file names accordingly.

  • As soon as you turn the device on, it starts playing whatever file was last selected.

  • The menus are annoying to navigate and not very intuitive.

  • The play/pause button is very small and inconveniently located.

  • The screen blanks out very quickly, so to play or pause a track you have to hit play/pause once to wake up the device and then again to actually do what you want

  • And, worst of all, the device doesn't seem to remember your place in a file if you navigate away from it. This is a huge problem when listening to audiobooks or podcasts, which make up the vast majority of what I listen to. In fact, this problem could be a deal-breaker.

What it comes down to is this: I love the speaker, but I hate hate hate the “go-back-to-the-beginning” problem. I'm now on the hunt for other options. Maybe I can find another non-iPod device with a speaker, and without the reset problem. Or maybe I should take a lower-end iPod (a new iPod Touch would just beg to be stolen). I suspect I could find an appropriate Linux-based substitute for iTunes, in which case I could stick with the Linux operating system, which is my preference. I could couple this with the tiniest external speaker I could find, though this is adding more devices to carry, charge and lose. More research is required and suggestions are welcome.


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