Notes and Observations Regarding Apple’s Announcements From ‘The Beat Goes On’ Special Event, Which, Inexplicably, I Didn’t Bother to Publish Two Weeks Ago When They Were Relevant

iPod Shuffle

Interesting that they didn’t change a thing other than the colors. No price cut, no additional storage. My interpretation is that competitors aren’t even putting pressure on Apple at the low end.

iPod Nano

The proportions on the new Nanos seem awkward to me. The old Nano form factor certainly wasn’t appropriate for video, but it was far more elegant than the new ones. The killer feature, form-factor-wise, is how thin they are. It’s more like a thick credit card than a thin gadget. They’re going to sell a zillion of these, but I can’t help but feel that the traditional fundamental iPod design — horizontal screen above a click wheel — is on its way out.

Interesting that the Nano now has games available, but the iPhone and iPod Touch do not.

iPod Classic

For the first time since the iPod debuted, there’s no white model anywhere in the line-up.

160 GB is more storage than many personal computers offer. Fill it up with typical MP3 or AAC audio, and it would take three months to listen to it all. The appeal though, is that you can just sync your entire library every time you connect with iTunes, without worrying about specifying a certain subset to carry on your iPod.

iPod Touch

This is the “iPhone sans phone” iPod I expected Apple to announce. And until iPhone fever hit me in early June, the one I planned on waiting for in lieu of getting an iPhone. But having used an iPhone for nearly three months now, if I lost my iPhone today I’d buy another iPhone, not an iPod Touch, because I actually use and enjoy nearly-ubiquitous EDGE access to the Internet.

There’s more missing from the iPod Touch compared to the iPhone than just the phone/SMS/EDGE — a lot more than I expected. Roughly in order of usefulness, none of the following apps are on the iPod Touch: Mail, Maps, Camera, Notes, Weather, Stocks. (Weather and Stocks are cool iPhone apps, but are easily replaced with web sites.) Not to mention the seemingly spiteful absence of event creation in the Calendar app on the iPod Touch.

Clever bit of Jobs keynote jujitsu during the iPod Touch segment of the event: He does a whole big run-up to revealing that Safari is included, by emphasizing all the Wi-Fi networks that require a web page sign-in before letting you on. So the pitch is that you need Safari. It was a sleight of hand to draw attention away from the question of what do you do when there are no available Wi-Fi networks at all? What a browser needs is a network, but Jobs pitched it as the network needing the browser. It’s silly if you think about it: if it weren’t for Safari, the only thing you’d be able to do on the iPod Touch with Wi-Fi is watch YouTube and buy songs from iTunes. Plus, presenting the inclusion of Safari as a sort of “boy, isn’t it cool that we did this” feature draws attention away from the exclusion of Mail. There’s been a lot less bitching about the Touch not including Mail than I expected — I think that’s at least partly attributable to the way Jobs presented the inclusion of Safari.

Curious that on the Touch, Apple moved Safari’s icon from the “dock” at the bottom of the home screen. On the iPhone, the four apps in the special spots at the bottom of the home screen are clearly the four most important apps: Phone, Mail, Safari, iPod. I see no reason why the Photos app on iPod Touch would be used more often than Safari. If anything, the Photos app is less useful on the iPod Touch than it is on the iPhone, because the iPod Touch doesn’t have a camera. It’s not like Safari is hidden up there in the top-left, but I think it deserved the spot in the bottom row occupied by Photos.

Two rules of thumb: (1) it’s easier to lower prices than to raise them; (2) it’s easier to add features than to take existing features away. Apple got burned by #1 with the iPhone price cut, but, still, it’s the exception to see a major price cut treated as bad news. The point is, if they weren’t sure what the optimal initial price point was for the iPhone, they were better off guessing high than guessing low. As for the missing iPhone apps on the iPod Touch, clearly these decisions were made to firmly establish the iPhone as the superior device, the current king of the iPod hill. It would be easy for Apple to add some of these apps and features to the iPod Touch — like, say, Mail and Calendar editing — if they feel like the iPod Touch needs a shot in the arm, sales-wise. On the other hand, it would have proved disastrous if Apple had shipped the iPod Touch with more of the iPhone’s features, then decided it was too good compared to the iPhone, and then tried to take some of them away in a future software update.

But in addition to the iPhone apps the iPod Touch is missing, it’s also not as good of an iPod as the iPhone. The killer feature of the iPhone-as-iPod is the clicker on the headphones. Hit play, lock the screen, put the iPhone in a pocket, and you’re set — just click the headphone button once for play/pause and double-click to advance to the next track. Without this, I just don’t see how the iPod Touch can be used while in a pocket.

One last note regarding possible future feature upgrades for the Touch: Apple has stated as a matter of record that iPhone sales are being accounted for on a subscription basis over 24 months, so as to allow them to ship additional features in free software updates. Apple has made no such statement regarding the iPod Touch. If they’re not going to use subscription-based accounting for the iPod Touch, then I don’t think they plan on shipping new features in free software updates. I don’t think we’ll learn the answer to this until Apple’s next quarterly financial statement in October.

Games for iPhone and iPod Touch

It struck me as off-key in the immediate aftermath of the announcements that the new Nanos now get games, but the iPhone and iPod Touch don’t. Weird in that the iPhone and Touch have larger screens, touch-based interfaces, and Wi-Fi.

Then it struck me that, if Apple does in fact plan to release games for the iPhone and iPod Touch, it’d be a sweet thing to unveil a few weeks from now. A nice way to generate new buzz without releasing new hardware.

iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store

Interesting that they put “Wi-Fi” right in the store name. It’s a big “fuck you” to the mobile network carriers, a way of emphasizing that this store is Apple’s, not theirs — and that it only works over Wi-Fi, not the phone network. Also note the word “music” — that translates as “video isn’t available here — yet”.

The Starbucks Deal

Based on the description on-stage during the event and from the press release, I remain unclear whether this means all Wi-Fi access at participating Starbucks will be free for iPhone and iPod Touch users, or is it just free Wi-Fi for use with the new iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store? The former would be cool; the latter seems lame.

Given the lack of a straight answer, I’m going to assume it’s the latter. Ooh, free Wi-Fi that I can only use to buy music from you. Thanks!