The Tear-down of the iPhone: iPod

by rmtwrkr

I have been thinking about doing this review for a few days now. The problem is (or was) that for the most part the iPhone’s ‘iPod’ is well…like an ipod. Which most people already know about. So rather than go over the feature-list of the iPod, I have decided to just talk about the main differences between the iPhones player and a traditional iPod: The touchscreen UI, and the sound quality.

The first thing that grabbed me as radically different to my previous iPod Nano or my Nokia E61 was the way you interact with the iPod functionality. The first ‘wow!’ function is the built-in Coverflow. In practical terms, this offers nothing above the more traditional ways of navigating your music. It’s just that it presents itself a whole lot better, and gives a familiar feel to people who have got used to iTunes Coverflow view. It IS really slick, but generally I don’t use it as I just want to select a track or artist, and stick the iPhone in my pocket, not caring about album artwork in this case. The quickest way to get to what you want is either through the Artist or Album lists, which work just like the Contacts menu on the phone. Flick/Scroll or use the A-Z slider to get at what you want. Tap it, and away you go. Once a track is playing you have the track artwork displayed on the screen, with Play/FFWD/REWIND symbols at the bottom, and below that the volume slider. At first it wasn’t apparent how I could move around within a track that was playing: tap the artwork once, and you get another slider to scrub forward/back in the track. Double-tap the artwork, and you get a list of tracks associated with the track you are playing (album tracklist). Ok. So anyway thats the way you do stuff in the iPod player. Of course it also plays video and podcasts (synced from iTunes) the same way.

So what about the sound?

On my older iPod Nano (1st gen) the sound quality was excellent, although I sometimes depending on the headphones I was using thought it could be a little louder. Happily, the iPhone’s output is much louder than my older iPod, and the quality is the same. I have tested this using the same encoded AAC files on my iPod Nano and the iPhone hooked up to various headphones (studio quality, and ‘consumer’ quality) plus I connected directly to my active Behringer Truth B2031a Studio Monitors, and it sounded as ‘truthful’ as the output from my 24bit Powerbook analog output. So, it’s definitely good enough. And a million miles better than the sound output of my Nokia E61, regardless of audio codec, headphones, or connector cables. The E61’s audio was AWFUL. And Nokia’s own earbuds+remote that I bought along with the E61 are simply total rubbish in comparison to the already-not-excellent stock iPhone earbuds. Clearly Apple has quite a lead when it comes to music player ease-of-use and sound quality. Oh, and don’t forget kids: If you put rubbish in, then rubbish will come out. So try to get the highest quality encoding for your music (I use VBR AAC+ at minimum 256kb) 128kb MP3s just don’t cut it, its not 1996 anymore!

Overall I enjoy the convenience of having a great Phone and a lot of my favorite music in good quality with me at all times. The iPhone gives me this, and now I cannot imagine being without it…

The next in the series: the PIM side of life (Calendar/Contacts/SMS/Notes)