Apple recently updated its popular iPod music players making them thinner and adding great new features that make it worth considering an upgrade for old iPod users.
There are three iPod models -- 10, 15 and 30GB. The 15 and 30GB iPods $299 and include software for use with Windows or Macintosh systems.
The new iPods are about half as thick as the older ones, and there is a dock for the 15GB and 30GB models. Instead of connecting via a Firewire cable to charge the battery or download music, the new iPod slides easily into its rectangular dock, which is connected to a power source or to the computer.
The new controls are backlit and touch sensitive, which means there's no longer a spinning wheel that collects dirt. There's also a great new feature called the On-The-Go playlist. Previously, if you wanted to listen to a particular group of songs on the iPod, you had to make a playlist in the MusicMatch for Windows or iTunes for Macintosh software provided with the device. With the new On-The-Go feature, you can click on a song in the iPod and add it to the playlist without having to hook the iPod to a computer. The playlist is cleared when the iPod is connected to the computer.
The new iPod includes an alarm clock function, and new external sound means the alarm sounds even if the iPod isn't hooked to a stereo or headphones.
There are a lot of extras on the iPod. The equalizer is back with more presets to bring out details of your music. A calendar is available, and the notes feature lets you drag text notes and messages to the iPod when it's used by the computer as a hard drive. Contacts can also be added to the iPod using vcard-formatted contact information. There are new games to play, including solitaire.
The new iPod comes with features found on old iPods, such as earbud headphones that offer great sound and a sliding button on top that locks the controls. This keeps the iPod from accidentally being turned on.
As for the battery, the built-in device charges quickly and drains slowly. On average, I got about 6-7 hours of use out of the device on a single charge.
To complement the iPod, Apple has introduced the Music Store. The store offers songs for 99 cents each and some albums from several music genres. The only downside to the Music Store is its limited audience. For now, it's only available to Macintosh users with iTunes 4.
While there's room for slight improvement, the new design is impressive overall. The backlit control is great to have, even the On-The-Go playlist. The device offers great sound, whether through headphones or a full stereo system. The Music Store complements the iPods nicely, though it would be nice if Windows users could take advantage of the online song database. But at least Windows users have iPods.