Ipod aesthetic concept - new classic, or aging hipster?

I’m surprised no one has mentioned it, but he new 3rd generation Ipod debuted today (not counting the Ipod mini as being in the same lineage). Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised though as visually it has almost remained the same. Which gets to my question: is the Ipod a new classic that doesn’t need to change à la VW Beetle, or is it more like one of those old bands still touring 40 years after their prime?

I’m not quite sure to be honest. On the one hand, it seems that unlike the earlier colourful translucent I-Macs, the aesthetic concept of the Ipod has not yet been ripped off. Sure, there are mp3 players that look much like the Ipod, but they rarely copy the colors and details of the original, merely the overall layout and if they are smart, the well thought out interface. Perhaps this continued pioneering has allowed Apple to continue to refine an aesthetic. On the other hand, where is Apple’s market going? I wish I knew more of this particular market to be able to guess at where it was going, but alas, I do not. Traditionally though, haven’t music oriented markets trends changed often?

What I love is that they’re still sticking with a b&w display. Any other engineering-driven company would have thrown a color display in there by now, but they’ve resisted, and I haven’t seen any complaints.

The one thing I would like to see changed is the modal navigation.
As an alternative to adding buttons (which would ruin its perceived simplicity) perhaps they could take their “click wheel” one step further and adopt grafitti-like gestural commands. Zigzag your finger to randomize, draw up/down to adjust volume, left/right to skip, draw a letter of the alphabet to jump through the artists etc.

colour displays consume more power-that might be the reason. especially if there are no complains .)

Good post…

I’m going with design Icon, although I think only time will be able to prove that… and I may wanna take this back in a year or so :wink:

But, its proportions are fantastic simple minimal and strong lines, no decorative elements that will date; it uses the ultimate neutral colour- white. All this creates a timeless finished product that holds its own while sitting in Eero Saarinen’s tulip chair or clipped to the pocket of ya Levis 501s or while blastin through the stereo (via the Itrip) of ya oldskool VW beetle or ya Audi TT.

It is innovative with it’s ergonomics/user interaction… how cool is that scroll wheel!! And it’s engineering!! 40 gigs in ya pocket!!!

And ya gotta love how it is styled on an old hand held radio (display is the tuner and dial wheel as speaker)…. SO COOL!!

OK, ok so I got one a few months ago and am still a little clucky about it, but still it makes me feel good every time I see it and use It (a lot of gizmos I get sick of pretty quick.)

And my only prob is battery life of 8 hours, but it seems they are well on there way to improving that

So yeah I vote Icon

Thank you and goodnight

It’s a classic-- not just for it’s aesthetic-- but for it’s impeccable timing. The iPod brought the perfect set of product features that other manufacturers had been overlooking (ie- Gb of storage, not Mb) at the exact time that the public was willing to accept it (and pay for it).

That said, this new iPod release is a tad anti-climactic. Apple seems to refuse to ride a product’s lifespan out before releasing a brand new design. These incrimental changes don’t really seem to do much for their product identity, and probably just end up costing more in manufacturing/logistics/distribution/etc… so why do they insist on it?

I agree with you COFFEE. It IS as much about the timing as anything else.

Although, I have to admit, I refuse to buy it until it comes with a color display. (Which has been talked about for awhile now and was expected to be in generation 4) My only other beef with it aesthetically is the exposed edge of the casing. I think this is only in the mini but everytime I look at it from the top, it just bugs me. Now that I have that out of my system… I have to vote ICON.

Definitely an icon. “iPod” is even replacing “walkman” in the vernacular!

PS, I use mine in a somewhat unusual way: as a docked office stereo replacement.

I keep it docked with the lights on and connected to the new harman/kardon soundsticks (which use a standard stereo jack, and therefore plug directly into the dock sans-computer.) I only connect it to my home PC to update its library (infrequently.) I pick the playlist I and keep it randomizing all day.

I get a lot of comments about it… Its a very alien/futuristic version of the boom-box or office stereo form-factor.

h2o- out of curiousity, why the strong desire for a color display? The cost adder woudn’t be a deterrent for your purchase?

I’d have to vote “icon”, but that classification should include the music store in the equation. Quite a tidy piece of business.

Yup-- on a recent plane trip the stewardess announced for everyone to turn off all “electrical devices, including laptops, cell phones, and iPods”.

This is just an easy modification to an aging product. Apple always does this - they offer a slightly better product in the old shell and try to make as much return as possible on it before they launch something new. If anyone is thinking about buying one I would wait - there’s something new on the horizon - probably by the end of this year. Rumors talk about a videoPOD, but who knows - and why would you want video on something that small? Even so, if you wait til the new one comes out and decide you don’t need it, the current one’s will be cheaper.

I have the 15 gig - love it - but I would change the materials, not the design. It scratches too easily.

Speaking of the scratches-easily comment, isn’t it interesting how the more expensive a product is, the less durable we expect it to be?

ie. If I dropped a $30 walkman, I’d expect it to survive, but if I dropped a $300 iPod, I’d expect it to break.

Another good example is the Porsche Cayenne. Would you REALLY want to take this thing off-road?

Does this seem backward to anyone else?

is the Ipod a new classic that doesn’t need to change à la VW Beetle, or is it
more like one of those old bands still touring 40 years after their prime?

In terms of actual ID, I think the iPod is in need of change. The easily scratched form over function casing, not being able to operate functions while wearing gloves, the inability to change playlists via the remote, the “boot up” time for simple things like powering the unit on after it’s been off for an evening, the lack of rugged design features like non-slip grips, shock mounting and moisture seals, the lack of a user replaceable battery, a studier headphone and remote plug…

Perhaps what’s needed is another model of iPod: the SportPod?

On a side note, has anyone else noticed that devices need to “boot” more these days? Companies now market digital cameras with “Fast Startup Times” as a bonus! My iPod boots and reboots more than my computer, as does my Palm handheld. Are embedded systems engineers getting worse? Does my toaster really need to run the Java VM? Does anyone remember how fast well written assembly code used to run?


Good thoughts.

cg: I agree, we do expect more expensive products to be less durable, but ironically, it is often not the case. I haven’t upgraded to an iPod yet (gasp!). I am still using my shortwave though. Before I had a $100 chinese Grundig that did break when I droped in on the floor. My newer japanese Sony that cost $300 didn’t break when I droped it from a higher height. I wasn’t testing this, but these damn shortwaves always flip over when you have a fan in the room…they stand on their narrow ends. The Cayenne is a very capable off roader. A local Quebec car show tested the Cayenne v. Hummer H2. Guess which got stuck often and which never got stuck. That’s right, the truck from Stuttgart was unstoppable. AND, it’s a well screwed together piece of kit.

Expanding on design icon status…does dependability or durability make an icon? I can think of many products that are poor quality, but design icons. Verner Panton’s single piece plastic chair was known to crack in its original version. Rietveld’s chairs will always break when actually used. Michael Grave’s teapot for Alessi included a copper whistle which would easily burn your hand if you tried to remove it without protection. I came up with 10 others just off the top of my head, but I think we all get the point.

Lastly, I am wondering if programmers are paid by line of code versus quality. It reminds me of Dicken’s novels.

Core homepage has a link to good article on iPod.

dnp607, you miss the point. The iPod is intended (in my view anyway) to be an easily scratched, dented and scuffed object in order to build an emotive connection with its user. You need to take care of it, and treat it with respect. Think of it like an old cigarette case, or a fine card wallet. It is only after much use that the object becomes your own: you can tell exactly where each dent and scratch came from. It tells a story. What the Apple ID team have done is take what would have been another throw away electronic device, and deliberately turned it into a loved addition to many peoples attire. It is the attention to material qualities and shear simplicity which strips the object of its electronic connotations and make it so wonderful. Sure, they could have used a painted injection mold, added some co-molded ribs, and thrown a few more ‘super bass’ and ‘extreme treble magnifier’ buttons on the front, but it would weaken the concept. How would it then be different from any old Japanese company’s products to be bought, used, and discarded when the next model comes along?

Even if it cost a tenth of what it does, people would still love them. This is why it will be remembered as a defining product of turn of the century consumer design.

You make an excellent point ‘me’, and perhaps the psychology of most buyers eludes me here. I agree that when a person covets something, they want to care for it. But I’m a believer that it’s possible to have both form and rugged function - I don’t see how the iPod’s lack of robustness and usability fixes enhances it as a coveted fashion piece that one wishes to own and care for. I’d like to extend the units life and thereby have it be less disposable in a real sense. It would be disappointing if it became a mega-bass-rubbermaid-clad-plasticine Sony copy with UI skins and glowing injection molded case that accepts Sprint ring tones; but I know Apple design wouldn’t let that happen…

I’d suggest that if Apple made the iPod more robust to follow it’s beauty, people wouldn’t need to cover them up in those popular aftermarket rubber/neoprene/leather condoms. I think (and this is just one opinion) the success of the iPod has more to do with the seamless integration of iTunes, it’s size, great UI and being one of the first devices of it’s kind on the market rather than any well architected design goal of it being coddled.

After 6 months of use my iPod looks like it’s ready to be replaced, whereas after 6 years of use my leather jacket just gets better. I covet the leather jacket for it’s form and function, I replace the iPod every couple of years just to keep in functional.


I would like to follow up on me’s comments as well. The limited battery life (1-2 years) on the iPod give it a short lifetime with which to build this, “emotive connection with its user”. It’s life cycle seems to be designed around annual or bi-annual replacement with a brand new unit. How do you reconcile this?

I’m not sure if this was mentioned here, but Steve Jobs has all but said that iTunes is merely a scheme to sell more iPods. I found that to be ironic, since only a few years ago the world was on its ears about everything .com. Today, the maker of 50% of mp3 players is using a .com to sell more product. Does anyone else find this satisfying?