At $49 for an iPod, Resistance is Futile

For over six years, we stood steadfast in our determination not to join the hordes who fell under the sway of Apple’s iPod music player.

Launched in October 2001, the iPod has achieved iconic status in the U.S.

It’s everywhere – in the subway, in the bus and in the mall. Apple claims to have sold 140 million units so far.

Despite several tries, Microsoft has made nary an impact in this space. Its latest attempt – Zune – has failed to gain traction.

The iPod comes in four flavors – iPod Classic, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle and the iPod Touch with Wi-Fi capabilities. The Shuffle is the entry-level product and cannot play videos.

Even as the iPod became the darling of the literatti, the gliteratti and even the hoi polloi, we held our ground. We told ourselves that we were above temptation.

And it seemed we were.

Until Tuesday, February 19, 2008 when Apple slashed the price of the entry-level iPod Shuffle from $79 to $49.

Finally, we succumbed. More out of curiosity to understand what this device contained that had millions singing its paeans.

So, we headed to Circuit City where the price tag still showed $79. After persuading the sales rep that the Circuit City web site had already started selling it for $49, we walked out richer by a blue iPod Shuffle but poorer by $49.

The iPod Shuffle (1GB version) holds up to 240 songs and can supposedly play music for up to 12 hours. An upcoming new 2GB version should hold nearly 500 songs.

The iPod Shuffle is really tiny – half a cubic inch in volume, weighs half an ounce, features an aluminum design with a built-in clip and comes in blue, violet, white, green and red.

Back home, we quickly installed iTunes software (version 7.6) from Apple’s web site, which took less than three minutes to download on our fast connection. iTunes is required to buy music from the Apple music store and to get the songs from your CD collection to the player.

The whole iTunes installation process took about five minutes on our 8 Gbps Internet connection.

It actually took more time to get the tiny music player out of the plastic box than to get the iTunes software on our Toshiba Windows XP laptop.

We quickly went about charging the Shuffle. Charging is done through a small dock that connects to the USB port on the computer. Apple recommends charging the iPod Shuffle for four hours. But we were restless and took it out after just 90 minutes.

The iPod Shuffle has few controls on the tiny flat device – Volume (up and down), fast forward, rewind, play/pause, off/on and a control that lets you shuffle the songs or play them in order.

As the iPod was charging in the dock, we had pulled out some Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangheshkar and Asha Bhosle CDs from our collection and quickly imported them into iTunes on our laptop. 

To Apple’s credit, the iTunes software is fairly intuitive and we were able to get going in no time. Then from iTunes, we dragged and dropped our picks including old Bollywood classics like Dum Maro Dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), Acha To Hum Chalte Hain (Aan Milo Sajna) and Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hain (Kati Patang) into the iPod Shuffle.

We did not buy any songs from the iTune store, which has a fairly decent Bollywood collection. The songs are 99 cents each and rather expensive in our view.

We popped in the earphones and listened to Asha Bhosle singing Dum Maro Dum as images of a stoned Zeenat Aman flashed before our eyes.

The sound quality in the iPod Shuffle is alright but nothing exemplary. Well, for $49 we were not really expecting a Bose effect on our ears.

To some extent, the iPod Shuffle was a bit of an anti-climax for us in view of the mass following the music player has developed all over the world.

But at $49 for the iPod, there really is not much to complain about and resistance is futile.

Here’s our overall take on iPod Shuffle

Compact, easy to set up, decent iTunes software, a snap to copy music from our CD collection to the player

Cons (not really for $49)
Sound quality is good but not out of this world

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