When Jeff Barker is riding his motorcycle, exercising or facing a few hours on a cramped airplane, he relies on his super-slim, lightweight iPod nano for the music that fuels his day.
But when he’s cooking dinner, you’ll mostly likely find the Boise, Idaho-based Web designer listening to music through his larger, 30-gigabyte iPod music player, which he keeps hooked up to a speaker docking station in the kitchen.
At the home office or the car? That’s where Barker favors his brand new 80-gigabyte video iPod.
For music lovers and gadget geeks, Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod portable music player has long been a must-have accessory. But now, some of Apple’s most loyal customers are finding that one iPod just isn’t enough.
“They fit in so many areas of your life,” Barker said recently, in explaining his expanded iPod collection.
It’s hard to say how many multiple iPod users are out there. A spokeswoman for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said the company doesn’t have any public data on how many people regularly use more than one iPod, and several analysts also said it was too early to track such usage.
But analysts say there is anecdotal evidence showing that, as Apple has rolled out more and more iPod models, it has drawn in more repeat customers.
“Since we are seeing the devices themselves take on different functions related to form, it’s not surprising that people would be buying more than one,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research.
With iPods now available in a wide array of sizes, prices and even colors, Gartenberg noted that in some ways the devices even seem to be designed to encourage users to acquire two or even three.
The small nano, for example, is popular for exercising, especially when paired with specialized accessories. Meanwhile, the hip, low-priced shuffle, which can be clipped to a jacket lapel, is becoming somewhat of a fashion statement, Gartenberg said. And the bigger, pricier iPods that feature video screens might appeal to users when they want to access a larger library of songs, or watch movies.
The ultra-tiny shuffle, which weighs less than an ounce, is the iPod of choice these days for Eston Bond, a senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
But his larger video iPod — while too bulky for everyday use — comes in handy on trips, when he wants more songs and the occasional recorded TV show. Bond also keeps another, older shuffle in his gym bag, loaded only with workout music.
Bond doesn’t see anything particularly unusual about his situation.
“Most of my friends have more than one iPod,” he said.
In many cases, Bond said that’s because they upgraded to the latest iPod model, perhaps with the intent of selling the older model. But then they found that the second gadget came in handy for doing something specific, like listening to music in the car.
Shawny Chen, research analyst with Current Analysis, notes that owning more than one iPod has become much more affordable, since prices for some iPod models have gone down. The lower-end models also now come relatively cheap — the latest shuffle costs just $79.
Still, analyst Phil Leigh with Inside Digital Media said he thinks the number of people who are using more than one iPod remains under 10 percent. He also notes that some people are buying another iPod not because they want the added functionality but because their first iPod has broken.
Barker said he didn’t plan on amassing a collection of iPods. After becoming hooked on one of the early iPods, however, he found himself drawn again and again to the new, improved models. At some point, he said, “I realized that I couldn’t go anywhere without having one of these with me.”
Barker also keeps one older iPod around for storing anything from videos to old e-mails, and he recently confessed to having his eye on the latest shuffle.
“There’s no doubt that there are many people with multiple iPods,” said Jeremy Horwitz, editor-in-chief of the iPod enthusiast Web site iLounge. The site even has a discussion forum dedicated to pondering what to do with more than one iPod.
In the early days, Horwitz said he saw enthusiasts buying a second iPod so they could upgrade from an earlier model. But now, he sees more people on the site who have bought a second iPod for a specific activity, like exercising.
Not surprising, Horwitz himself has quite an extensive iPod collection. But even on the go, Horwitz said he favors the large, 80-gigabyte video iPod because he likes to have access to thousands of songs at all times.
One downside to amassing a number of iPods is that users also end up bulking up on accompanying gadgets for things like listening to the iPod in the car or taking the device out for a jog. Not all those devices work with all the iPods, however.
Bond said he tries to give away his older accessories. But although Barker recently gave a friend an older-model shuffle, he said for now many of his accessories are just taking up space.
“I’ve got, like, literally a graveyard of accessories,” Barker said.