Nightmare with Apple iPod Shuffle

I know many people swear by Apple products, the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone, but my first introduction to Apple products went very badly. Maybe some Apple fans can set me straight.

I was looking for a small mp3 player for jogging and working out in the gym. Because I heard so much about iPods but I never had one, I wanted an iPod to have that Apple iPod experience. I went to Apple’s web site to see its product lineup. The iPod Shuffle looked like the answer. I watched its video demo. The controls are built into the earbuds? Whose brilliant idea was that?! What if the wire breaks or I don’t like their headphones? I can’t use it with a different pair of headphones? Fortunately they are still selling the older model, the so-called 2nd generation iPod Shuffle. I saw it doesn’t have a LCD screen for selecting tracks. For jogging and the gym, I’m OK with that. So I bought one.

After I got my iPod Shuffle, one surprise came after another. Perhaps I’m not up to the Apple experience. I plugged in the Shuffle and I wanted to drop some podcast mp3′s onto it. What, no drag and drop? I have to install iTunes? Why? I just want to put some mp3′s on it. I don’t need to buy any music right now. I already have what I want. Apple says no. Got to install iTunes. I reluctantly obliged.

iTunes didn’t come alone. It came with a friend called Bonjour for unknown reasons. It didn’t even ask me if I wanted it. I have no use for it. I had to go through the trouble uninstalling Bonjour. iTunes also added an iPodService and an iTunesHelper which run on my computer all the time. For Christ’s sake, I just want to add some mp3′s to my player once in a while. I don’t need them running all the time!

Finally I was able to put some music on my player. When I plugged it in to my second computer, I had to do the iTunes and Bonjour business all over again. Then Apple threw me another loop. It said my player was tied to the first computer and I had to "Erase and Sync" if I wanted to use it on the second computer. Why can’t I use it with both computers? Apple must be insane.

The surprises never end. The last one came when I tried to charge the battery. I plugged it in before I went to bed for the night. The little light was still blinking orange the next morning. A Google search found out that I have to run iTunes when I charge the battery if I want to see the green light for the full charge. Run iTunes for charging the battery? Apple really is insane.

Sorry about the rant. This is what I get when I trust a brand without looking at the product. I still don’t understand what’s so great about Apple products. These are what people have to put up with? It’s worse than Microsoft! I hope their other products are not as crazy as the Shuffle. There may be 3rd party software that get around the hurdles set by Apple. I don’t feel like I should have to resort to 3rd party software though. Very disappointed.

Experienced iPod users please help me. I thought my needs are very simple. Plug it in. Put some files on to it or charge the battery. Unplug and go. How can it fail at such basic tasks?

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Comments

  1. TIE says

    TFB,

    I feel your pain. In many ways my iPod experience is an improvement over my prior Sansa MP3 player experience. However, I do feel captured by Apple, and the tie-ins are annoying.

    We’re experiencing the consumer disutilities of a two-sided market. Apple, through the iPod and iTunes is an intermediary between consumers and content providers. Profit maximization under this model requires the imposition of some constraints on the consumer. Apple must have concluded that those constraints must yield higher revenue than Apple would get in their absense even though it causes some consumers to walk away in disgust (and to trash them on blogs).

    My recommendation is that you return your iPod and get a generic MP3 player. That should be cheaper and you’ll be less constrained.

  2. Jules says

    You aren’t forced to use iTunes if you have an iPod – you can use Songbird or one of many other utilities out there to copy music back and forth. So I don’t see how you’re locked into anything. Even if you buy songs on the iTunes Store, the tracks are DRM-free and can be used on any AAC player.

  3. says

    Yes, Apple products are over hyped. You should never buy an Apple product to get the “Apple Experience” – not worth the premium price as you found out the hard way. So many other “generic” mp3 players are easier to use, cheaper, and more convienient.

  4. says

    I’ve always veered away from the iPod product line just because of the price as well as some of the ‘Apple specific’ things that I had heard existed as well. I’ve had two Creative MP3 players and they’ve worked out great. The first one was about 40% cheaper than the comparable iPod at the time, and the second was bought in their clearance section and was about 75% cheaper than the similar iPod. I wore the first out after three and a half solid years of usage. The second one is plugging along just fine.

    My Creative’s may not look as sleek or have the ‘cool factor’ but they’re worth it because they have a much lower price plus they have an FM radio built in, so I can listen to the game or some on-air music if I so choose.

  5. Helixso says

    You’re exactly right that using an iPod is an experience. PC users are used to modular parts that are designed to fit together well. Apple, on the other hand, designs their products to fit into the Apple system. While Apple items tend to work well together, they’re not created with the larger community in mind. Once you’ve bought one of their products, it’s very difficult to leave it at that.

    While I haven’t looked at MP3 players recently, there was a long period at the beginning of the decade where iPods really were the most user friendly and the only ones worth considering if you could afford their higher cost.

  6. dsowa says

    You have done the mp3 equivalent of handing your money to a full service broker and hoping for the best. A bit of research goes a long way to finding a device that fits your listening style. Many utilities exist to tame the ipod beast and http://www.dapreview.net is a good place to learn about the many ipod alternatives that exist. Just reading the wikipedia entry on ipod would give a good starting point.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for your sympathy and all the great comments.

    @Jules – I will checkout Songbird.

    @TIE – I read the Wikipedia entry on two-sided market. Very interesting. It says in a two-sided market, one side is subsidized by another side. In this case, which side am I on, subsidizing or being subsidized? I don’t see how I’m being subsidized.

    @dsowa – You hit the nail in the head. “You have done the mp3 equivalent of handing your money to a full service broker and hoping for the best.” That’s exactly right. Fortunately my mistake is only on a $50 gadget.

    Never buy anything just because of a name. I’m keeping this iPod Shuffle to remind me the lesson I learned the hard way.

  8. anonymous says

    Welcome to the Apple Experience. If you’re willing to change your lifestyle to do things exactly the way Apple wants you to do things, it can be moderately pain-free.

    But if you want to do things your own way, honestly you’re better off with the less expensive options. Sansa, etc..

    Despite this, I own several iPods and an iPhone. I’m pretty happy with iTunes, particularly its playlist management, so I don’t mind the tie-in. But I make sure to keep all my music in MP3 format, so as soon as Apple goes too far I can easily jump ship.

  9. geoff says

    I respectfully disagree with a lot of the above comments. Call me an apple fanboy if you’d like, but I’ve had zero problems on any of my apple products. Of course, ipods/itunes run much better on my Mac, but they run fine on my PC.

    TFB- I think you should give it some time and it will grow on you. I was slow to come around to iTunes as well, but ultimately it’s made life much easier.

  10. Dave says

    Try MediaMonkey – http://www.mediamonkey.com – I’ve been using an iPod Classic 160gb for about 18 months and have opened iTunes exactly 1 time and was not impressed. MM is free (there is an upgraded version that costs $20 for a lifetime license) that gives you all the flexibility one could ever want, including autmatically downloading your favorite podcasts and syncing them according to whatever preferences you choose. Good stuff!

  11. TIE says

    TFB,

    Re: Two-sided markets. I can’t answer your question. I am fairly new to the concept myself. I have some reading up to do on it.

    Both the Wikipedia entry and a paper I have on my desk (but haven’t read yet) say two-sided markets apply to health insurance: patients and providers, with the insurer in the middle. But here, again, who is subsidizing whom? When I read that paper I may have more insight as to how to think about cases that are less obvious than, say, broadcast TV, paid by advertisers, free to viewers.

    My speculation is that with the iPod the up-front cost of the device to the consumer (you and me) is subsidized by the revenue from the content. Apple is willing to charge less for the device because it expects to make more from selling songs. On the other hand, the device is quite pricey, perhaps because one gets access to iTunes. So, I really don’t know for sure how it goes.

  12. Carolyn says

    I love my iPod. I have 60 gb of music in iTunes on my work PC (we often work with headphones). I can recharge with my laptop and don’t need the hassle of a 2nd ‘music’ machine.

    You should try their new Genius feature. They use data-mining techniques to build great playlists of “songs that go great together”. You pick a tune of yours, they crunch through lists they’ve downloaded from users and build a playlist of your own music. It sounds dodgy I know but the playlists are so much better than the old boring ones I built myself.

    http://bigtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/09/12/itunes-genius-feature-is-pure-genius/

    I’m a Unix fan. Better Apple than Microsoft….

  13. jc says

    If you want to look at other players, check out the Creative Zen. I have 2 8GB models and they’re great! Dell sometimes has a very good price. The Creative software isn’t that great, but I use MediaMonkey which is.

    Hope that helps!

  14. Texan with anMP3 says

    I bought the Creative Zen 8 GB because it was cheaper than Apple products AND it gets radio.

    HOWEVER – the website does NOT give you explicit instructions on how to download a podcast. I know, it’s called a “Zencast” with this product, but whatever. And when you load their software on your comptuer it takes you to their website so you download their stuff.

    I had just assumed I could plug in my MP3 to a USB drive on my computer then do a save – as feature to save radio shows and things onto it. I guess because that has been my experience with thumb drives and it seemed to make sense.

    I had to do a bunch of internet research to figure out how to get audio files saved onto my Zen. It wasn’t a Zen experience!

    I now use the Zencast software and once a week have it download to my PC all my favorite NPR shows. Then I plug in the MP3 and transfer the ones I want. The Zencast software does provide me with good descriptions of the shows (This American Life, etc.) so I can decide which ones to download onto my player.

    Unfortunately the makers of MP3s do not gear their websites toward those of us middle aged working folks who didn’t grow up with this stuff.

  15. Paul says

    I can’t even figure out how to get mine to playback. Does iTunes even let you add MP3′s from your computer onto the device? I can’t seem to find the media management function within iTunes anywhere. Useless device/Software. Very dissapointed.

  16. says

    Paul – You have to add the mp3′s to iTunes first (File -> Add Folder to Library …). Then add the album or tracks to the device (click on Library, then drag the album or tracks to the device).

  17. Carolyn Sorensen says

    The ipod can also be configured with PortableApps (available from Sourceforge or http://portableapps.com/apps/music_video). This lets you choose among several open source music players, all of which let you use more than 1 computer to store your music. I haven’t tried this myself since I am OK with iTunes for now, but if you search around PortableApps you will find a number of messages/tutorials describing how to do this.

  18. ronxrony says

    i have decided to buy a apple ipod shuffle,but now i am shocked after read some of your comments,please can anyone inform me better idea about apple ipod and creative zen,and which is best. . . ? my email id – ronxrony at gmail dot com or you are also welcome in ronx.rony/facebook.com

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