Wednesday, May 06, 2015

We bought another Apple

This is a small reflection on Apple, Paranoia and even OCD

Not The Apple Watch
Of course the title does not refer to Apple Shares.  Nor of course to the Apple Watch, certainly since this is not available in Switzerland of course.

No, I am talking about one of the last old skool, good value Apple products left

The Apple Nano   (generation 7)

Our Requirements
To Marcus and Agata exercise and sport are integral components of our healthy lifestyle.  We listen to at least 2 hours of spoken word or music per day via a music player or  Smartphone.  Whilst exercising or participating in an ultra race  you need a music player that is

- Small, lightweight

- A display to allow you to change your music selection to something you know about!
- Ability to pause and resume music
- Ability to change tracks
- Ability to change music whilst on the go, without stopping and using a touch screen
- Usable in the wet  (no touchscreen!)
- Usable in the snow (no touchscreen since gloves)
- Usable whilst cycling (no touchscreen, button controls)
- Water resistant would really help
- >12 hour battery life would really help

Couch Potato Requirements

Sure, you know if we never ran, or participated in any race or ultra competition.  If we never went on endurance cycling competitions. Then our requirements would be more mainstream. In short if we were pretty sedentary and could get by with just a Smartphone for music, then we surely would.

We realise that our segment slowly becomes irrelevant to Apple  (even though they proclaim to be health conscious, they really don't current cater to athletes even amateur ones).

Our Continued Fears

Apple had its first Apple to Windows crossover success with the iPod.  It was a game changing device not only for playing music but also to entice Windows users to try the world of Apple.

But the painful neglect that the iPod range has sustained in recent times has convinced Marcus that it's irrelevance will soon lead to the big CHOP.

Painfully Expensive?

In Switzerland I often relate technology items to the cost of weekly food essentials.  A single Avocado costs 02.60 CHF at the supermarket, for a weekly spend of over 20CHF.  So an Apple iPod  (from Digitec)  is less than 9 weeks of Avocados.  Basically nothing.

The OCD Angle

Mr Monk and the Computer

Agata told me that my pre nano failure purchase is reminiscent of Mr Monk's purchase of multiple table lamps.  Just in case.  Well yes, of course it is!

What continues to make the iPod Nano top dog?

Well, for athletes:

- size: It is really tiny

- Weight: only 44 grams including the clip

- Physical Buttons:  I can pause, resume,  track back and forward all without looking at the screen.

- Interface with iTunes:  iTunes brings unparalleled Podcast support.  And seamless position reporting across any device supporting it.   Once a Podcast is listened to on the iPod it's set to auto delete on the PC iTunes.   There is no equivalent on DoubleTwist which I use and paid for on Android.

- Bluetooth: Connection to any Bluetooth Headphones.  Phenonimal considering the iPod age.

Some Alternatives

SmartPhone / iPod Touch

For Android you can use DoubleTwist or BBC iPlayer  or even Google Play Music.   But none handle Podcasts excellently and for Marcus this is an issue.

Regardless of the Software the Smartphone can't be adequately controlled without screen interaction (or use of special headphones), and it's use in Competitions is just not practical.

A bevy of Sony Players

Sony, the original inventors of the cassette Walkman that changed the face of the portable music world now retails several high quality music players.

The Sony NW-ZX2 is the most bonkers with a price of over 1000 USD.  Its characteristics are

- Bonkers expensive (> 1000 USD)

+ Good form factor
- Huge
+ Ultra High Quality Playback
-- Couldn't I just use a Smartphone instead?
- No interface to iTunes
+ Plays lots of formats including FLAC: AAC (Non-DRM), AIFF, ALAC, DSD, FLAC, HE-AAC, Linear PCM, MP3, WMA (Non-DRM)

Pono Player

- Expensive  (400 USD)
- Large clunky shape
- No interface to iTunes
+ Ultra High Quality Playback
+ Plays many formats FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, AAC (unprotected), MP3, DSD

Samsung Players et al

I investigated numerous other manufacturer music players. Nothing convincing was found.

Totally missing the Point

Both Sony and Pono rather miss the point.  Even as an Audiophile I don't register the audible advantages of a portable player except if I use them inside a quiet environment with Studio class headphones.  If I'm outside running a Marathon or descending a mountain pass at 50Km/h on a bicycle ... well I could not hear the difference.

An Apple Watch Solution

Using an Apple Watch for Music

For those of you with deep pockets I can sketch the outline of an all Apple solution which I must admit could be compelling when the Apple Watch platform becomes /more mature/

- Ditch my Android phone and buy an Apple iPhone 6x

(Of course I'd miss the superior Android with CyanogenMod but hey)
- Fly to the UK
- Buy Apple Watch Sport
- Use Apple Watch with Bluetooth only for music (!!) replacing Apple Nano
- Use existing Garmin 920XT watch for race tracking on other wrist (since Apple Watch has no GPS)
- Use the iPhone to send the Playlist to the Apple Watch (currently not seamless, and not for Podcasts, so actually not good enough for use just yet!)

To Close

Abba: Thank you for the Music

I rely on the Apple iPod Nano (gen7) as my daily music player for Music and Podcasts and Audiobooks.  I use it for leisure activities and competitions and for all things except Swimming (where we use Finis ).   The iPod Nano still brilliant, and now I have a spare one.


A day with the Apple Nano gen7
Apple Nano gen7 part2
Nano alternatives in 2013
Apple Nano hard case

Pono Player
Sony NWZ-A player
Sony  NWZ-A17 player
Sony NW-ZX2 audio player
Finis Swimp3 player