iPod UI: Love it or hate it?

iPod UI: Love it or hate it?

Summary: I struck a nerve earlier this week with a comment I made about the iPod user interface being tired. The problem I have is that while the hardware has evolved, the iPod's UI hasn't changed much in five years.

ipod-interface.jpgI struck a nerve earlier this week with a comment I made about the iPod user interface being tired. The problem I have is that while the hardware has evolved, the iPod's UI hasn't changed much in five years.

One of the reasons that the iPod is so successful, it can be argued, is because the interface is drop dead simple. So simple in fact that young children and seniors alike can pick it up with ease. This is a point that I'm willing to concede, but if the iPod is going to continue its ascension to the heights of consumer electronics legend, new features need to be added.

For starters, the interface itself is mostly black and white, with the exception of the My Rating stars, the battery icon, progress bar and the album artwork. It would be great to have a couple of Apple designed skins to choose from with different themes. It would be even better if Apple provided an SDK so that people could design their own themes.

It would be great if it were easier to create and edit playlists on the iPod and I'd love to be able to delete a song or playlist on the fly. Scrolling through long lists of artists and songs can be arduous on a full iPod. A search function or type-ahead using a virtual keyboard and intelligent auto-complete would be a great way to easily find a needle in the haystack.

The iPod's "now playing" interface needs an overhaul too. I'd like to be able to customize it to show whatever ID3 tags that I want (BPM, for example). And now that all iPods (save the shuffle) have color displays they should be able to show full-screen album artwork. I know that it could be a battery issue but displaying iTunes visualizers on the iPod would be great too. What about scrolling lyrics?

Meta data is king and I'm a huge proponent of using ID3 tags to organize my music but there's no way to edit this data on the iPod itself - short of changing the rating. I'd like a virtual keyboard that pops up allowing me to edit any of the ID3 tags at any time. Currently I'm forced to change the rating of a song to remind me to correct the ID3 tags later.

I was optimistic back in February when Apple filed a patent for a touch-screen iPod interface. Apple's application shows a landscape-mode iPod running a mini version of iTunes which would be the ideal replacement for the drill-down interface that the iPod currently uses.

What would you change about the iPod UI? Or is it perfect as it is?

Topic: Apple

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  • Ipod Upgrade

    Both for ipod and itunes - I'd like to be able to make layers of playlists. I have currently something like 30 playlists on my itunes, half of which I continue to transfer to my ipod - if I was able to have layers (ie - Master Playlist: Lounge, then sub-lists below that, like dinner, poolside, etc) I would only have like 10. Less clutter, better grouping.
    • Nested playlists - agreed

      I think that this is more of a feature for iTunes, but nested playlists are something that I've been asking for for a while.

      It could be as easy as a simple folder with a reveal arrow next to it.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Mostly insane...

    Some of these ideas are good, but for the most part Apple's REALLY lucky that you are not employed in their iPod UI department.

    Easier playlist creation

    Possibly use more color in the UI elements

    Easier scrolling through long lists - perhaps a preference that could be set by the user so that when "Artists" (for example) is selected, you then scroll through "A-Z", pick the first letter in the name of the artist you're looking for, and then scroll through (for example) all the artists that start with "S" (Slayer, Sinatra, etc). This would be a bit quicker than starting at AABA and scrolling...scrolling...scrolling...scrolling...OOPS! I SCROLLED TOO FAR, BACK UP!...scrolling...scrolling...to Tom Waits.
    iTunes Visualizer display? FREAKIN' AWESOME!

    Skins (from Apple or custom-built)? Are you out of your mind? Skins are LAME. d00d, go make a custom skin for your TV set. Leave the iPod alone.

    Virtual Keyboard? BLAH. That would SUCK with the current size iPod screen/scroll wheel combo. Maybe it would work on a larger-screened device.

    Customizable metadata display? A solution in search of a problem. Who cares about beats per minute other than some DJ's perhaps or some sort of psychotically organized exercise freak?
    • Get used to this kind of post...

      ...from Jason.

      He's prone to long lists of the products and features he wants
      from Apple, but rarely does he consider the ramifications those
      features might have on the product or the users.

      If he wants it, he thinks it would be good for everyone. Know
      this, and the posts will make a lot more sense.

      Seriously...skins? "Now no one knows how to use my iPod but

      "It's the simplicity, stupid!"
    • Virtual Keyboard not "lame"

      I disagree with you nolaMatt. A virtual keyboard would be great. In addition to editing meta data on the fly and adding notes to songs it opens up entirely new functionality with the iPod's Calendar and Contacts applications.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Clutter

    I do like some of your ideas about customization of displays, but much of what you want is unecessary clutter. The best thing about the iPod interface is the simplicity, clarity and user friendliness. Piling a bunch of other junk that very few people are interested in using would not be a good thing.
    tic swayback
    • no clutter if it's only an option

      I agree that these additional fields could clutter up the interface, but not if they're off by default and enabled via a preference.

      Best of both worlds!
      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
  • Love it!

    I tried other players that have some of what you're requesting from Apple. What I found was going back to using the iPod was refreshing, because of its simplicity and clean UI. But that's just me!

    Front Row's UI as an option maybe?
  • Hate it - iPod that is!

    Why not just dump the thing and change to a real multimedia device like the Archos AV400.

    This device can do anything.

    It could even play iTunes songs, if Apple wasn't such a closed shop with restrictive practises!!
  • appealing but not effective

    I like the iPod's interface for it's APPARENT simpleness.

    But it's not a simple interface. Using the iPod at home or in the car is not easy. Test it! Try to move your finger in a circle! Try to change the song and hit the "next song" region on the round thingy without doing anything else on that multifunctional button. Any device with big simple push-buttons and turn-knobs is far easier to use.

    I am now using a CD/MP3(CD)-player with simple normal buttons, for lots of my "recreational" music listening. I prefer that user interface over the iPod's interface.
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