My intention is not to make this an MP3 player blog, but I had to tell you about my first encounter with the new iPod, which just arrived at the San Francisco Apple store this afternoon. (So far, just 30GB, white models.)
Rarely is a product really as nice as the hype makes it out to be. This is one of those rare occasions. The 2.5-inch, 320-by-240-pixel display is one of the loveliest things I have ever seen – actually as pretty as in the pictures on Apple’s Web site. It was so beautiful, in fact, that I almost cried. (No kidding!)
Photos and a movie trailer that I viewed looked incredibly sharp, and the colors were amazingly rich. Trees appeared dark green, skies were deep blue. And in a photo of a red barn, the barn was actually red (not orange). I remember, not that long ago, when desktop LCD monitors didn't look this good.
And the viewing angle is superb – especially compared to the competition. While working on a story about digital music for the Times, I played with an Archos Gmini 402. Its 2.2-inch, 220-by-176-pixel LCD looks pretty nice if viewed from just the right angle, but appears murky in other cases. Like any LCD, the iPod's screen dims as you turn it away from you, but it remains bright enough to view comfortably at up to about a 30-degree angle in any direction – which is plenty enough for a handheld screen.
I WILL be buying one of these players, but I'm waiting for the black model. That's not only because I think it looks cooler, but also because a panel with a black frame appears to have higher contrast - which gives photos and videos that "pop off the screen" effect.
The main selling features for me now are the greater hard drive capacity (allowing me to store MP3s ripped at higher bitrates) and the ability to display photos well. (The color screen on the previous iPod was rather lame.)
I'm not that interested in video yet, but I will feel differently in a few months. Like it or not, Apple has a way of making its wishes turn into reality. Critics have pooh-poohed video because content is scarce, but that will change. iPod owners make up a fanatical market that no smart businessperson can pass up. If Steve builds it, they will come. Video podcasts are already appearing. (I'm sorta getting into these skateboard movies.) And that's just the beginning.