Friday, July 7, 2006

Apple Video iPOD, the 10 minutes user experience.

I recently bought a 60 Gb Video iPOD.

First of all let me state that I believe the product is a piece of extremely high quality electronics and that Apple really got this one right: the device is slick, attractive, made of high quality materials and works really well. The display is amazing and the quality of the audio very good. The Volume is powerful and you don't have to worry about being in a loud place and try to listen to your music. You can crank it up and hear very well in most conditions...

...I could go in many details but you'll find much better product reviews elsewhere and I am not going to attempt writing one here. In this post I will concentrate only on my impressions of the user experience during the very first 10 minutes after you get home with your brand new iPOD still in the box and a wallet that feels $400 + TAX lighter...

Let’s get started. You already went to your favorite electronic store straight to the dedicated Apple section. You asked for Video iPOD... the teenager you asked to opens the glass cabinet that stores 3 or 4 iPODs and hands you the box thinking "you bastard! I want one of these for myself!". After checking out all the accessories (and perhaps picking up some) you went to pay for it, felt guilty for spending so much money on an luxury electronic toy, jumped in the car, ran home.... are finally sitting at your desk, turn on your computer and look at the brand new shiny box staring at you and begging to be opened. Here is what you are going to think:

The product comes in a very small and slick package. If you are like me the thought that you paid too much for such a small box will cross your mind. Don't worry, that thought won't last long.

The package contains the iPOD, CD with iTunes + iPOD drivers, a bag with various things including the earpieces and the USB connector and a very tiny manual. The manual may seem too small to be useful, but amazingly you don't need anything more than that. I didn't even look mine. iPOD is truly easy to use. Good job Apple!

The package is well done, however you need to be careful because the device itself is not secured in any way to it. When you open it up it will fall off the package on your table (or floor) if you don't keep the box horizontal. With the $400 still in your mind that won’t be a pleasant surprise. Apple should either secure it a bit better or change the design of the package to avoid the problem.

The parts with wires (USB and earpieces) are inside a sealed opaque white package. Such package can be hard to open. You would be tempted to open it with scissor with the risk of cutting the thin wires inside. A transparent bag, or a bag with an easy to open mechanism, would have been a better choice.

The ear piece foam covers are very thin and over packaged. To take them out the package you are supposed to rip the package along an especially made cut. If you do too quickly (still shacking for having dropped your iPOD on the floor) you would rip the ear piece too. You need to use you scissors or you need to be extremely careful. Apple should review the choice of packaging here. A small transparent plastic box that you can use to store these delicate parts would seem like a much higher quality choice.

Even if you succeed in taking the foam covers from the bag without destroying them you’ll eventually find that they are useless; too thin and flimsy. They come off the earpiece way too easily; they cover the “L” and “R” labels on the ear piece and they are just annoying.

I guess I have small ears because the ear pieces don't fit in mine; they fall right off. To solve the problem I had to buy a third party attachment (made by Griffin) that allows me to select a smaller dimension. I recommend such attachments if you have the same problem. Given that I'm the only person I know that seem to have this problem I believe that Apple has no reason to worry much about it.

The pouch that comes with your iPOD is cheap and doesn't have any pocket for the ear pieces. Not big deal but for the price they could have done a bit better.

In order to install iTunes you are asked to type-in the serial number of the iPOD. That 11 characters alphanumeric code is printed in the back of the iPOD and is WAY too small. I mean, tiny! If you have any eye sight problems you'd never be able to read it. You may need a magnifying glass, no kidding! I don't have any eye sight issues and I struggled. Apple, can you please print that darn code a little bit bigger? Please? It’s not going to cost much, I promise!

If you use Windows you need to reboot your machine after installing iTunes. Oh well. I am used to it… but still annoying. I bet this is Microsoft fault, and not really Apple.

iTunes really wants to get a credit card number from you, even if you just want to download something free from the music store! Why do they want to get that number from me? I don't like that at all. Apple, if you have free stuff and that’s all I care about, can you please not ask me my CC number? Thanks!

If you download something free Apple will send you an email that looks like the confirmation of an order with balance $0. I personally don’t like that. Every time I get such email in my inbox it makes me think somebody used my account to buy music in my name using my CC.

Overall the iPOD is an awesome device but still find that lack of attention to the details of the user experience in the first 10 minutes of the purchase is something that requires very little for Apple to fix and that could make an OK customer experience into an almost perfect customer experience.

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