Image: Apple iPod
Paul Sakuma  /  AP
An Apple customer uses an Apple iPod at an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 6/28/2007 12:51:43 PM ET 2007-06-28T16:51:43

The iPhone drop date is like Christmas morning for gadget-heads, and while opinions are bound to vary, most folks will find their new toy thrilling. And why not? Apple put its best face forward breaking into this new market, ensuring that the iPhone becomes the every-other-smartphone-killer.

For instance, back when a few grumbles broke the prerelease buzz, Steve Jobs announced upgrades long before the first consumers even had their hands on the device. Worried about a scratch-prone screen? Fixed! Dreading a short battery life? Not a problem! It was a smart preemptive strike on probable flaws. Who could possibly complain about that kind of response? I could.

See, the grumbles still thrive in the old market — you know, the one Apple already has the lock on. While the shiny, new iPhone gets ready for its close-up, tech forums sag under a load of old complaints from iPod owners. With no big pod-fixes promised from Jobs & company, I can’t help wondering when my pocket-sized constant companion will score its overdue upgrade.

Enough with the iPhone already, it's time to fix my iPod!

The truth is, I’m jealous. There, I said it. The smartphone cool kids are getting all the attention. Where's my durable, scratch-resistant glass screen? My video-capable iPod currently resides in a hard acrylic case, which fits nicely in a leather-like wallet (‘cause that acrylic scratches, too) and finally, when not in use, it's gently placed in a padded, fuzzy Hello Kitty knock-off pouch.

OK, that last part speaks more to my personal malfunction than screen sensitivity, but you get the idea. And despite all of that clinically obsessive diligence, a big honkin’ scratch stretches across the display, taunting me. It’s just a lone mark, but let’s face it; every scratch counts when you take your movies mobile on a 2.5-inch screen.

 

Speaking of the tiny visual real estate, it needs a boost, too. The unmarred portion of the matchbook picture may be bright and crisp on my 5.5G, but I want to see Johnny Depp swashbuckling in full widescreen glory. Is that too much to ask? Apparently not, as the iPhone dwarfs that viewing area, sporting an extra diagonal inch with its multi-touch widescreen display.

I know I’m venturing into “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” territory here, but dang it, if a phone can have a spiffy touch-sensitive interface, a pod can, too. Even though touch control is almost a given when the next iPod generation rolls around, most speculation points to a virtual scroll wheel. Why not give us some of those iPhone-esque color menus in addition to scroll features? Besides, as it is I routinely manage to fat-finger the standard wheel (No! I wanted ‘playlist,’ not ‘artists!’). I can only imagine the nightmare of faux-wheel-only navigation for those of us who lack stylus-like digits.

No portable device rant would be complete without the obligatory moan for some bonus battery time. In fairness to the powers that be, the 2006 5.5G update delivered a little more juice, but it was hardly the promised balm. Video playback time of “up to 6.5 hours when fully charged” translates to 4.ish hours in my real-world trials. I rarely get through two full films before landing in the red.

Of course Apple could make all the iCustomers, old and new alike, cheer with one little change: a removable battery. Just think of it. Having back ups on hand for those long trips. No more sending your gizmo out when the old battery gives up the ghost. As great as that sounds, I’m not holding my breath. So long as battery flop leads to service dollars and replacement product purchases, it’s not likely to happen.

But the rest of these gripes aren’t the stuff of pipedreams. In fact, it’s a safe bet that the long-rumored iPod 6G will address almost everything mentioned here, and probably a slew of other treats I haven’t even thought of. So what’s my real beef? I don’t expect the solution to come anytime soon.

It’s a case where taking care of the old could hurt the new. Introducing the 6G now would chance the type of sale-softening, in-house competition that Apple won’t risk. They’re relying on more than just the smartphone crowd to seal the deal for their latest offering. Apple’s banking the longsuffering pod-lovers to buy the iPhone in a rush to enjoy the upgrades they’ve clamored for, even if those improvements come shackled to AT&T and offer only a fraction of the storage space they’ve grown accustomed to. Personally I plan to hold out and wait for my iPod fix. Maybe. For now.

Despite all the bellyaching, Ree Hines still has a massive crush on Steve Jobs.

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