iPod sUcks

I was at the gym this morning, happily logging 20 miles on the elliptical machine after hoisting several thousand pounds of iron. Oh wait, I fantasized that part. I went to the gym and did what I usually do—listen to a lot of music and try not to think about exercising.

I’ve gotten pretty good at zoning out lately because I finally got rid of my iPod and replaced it with an el-cheapo Sony. No longer am I among those sweating gym rats you see with wrinkled brows staring bewilderedly at tiny non-functioning screens. My Sony actually plays the songs I download, shuts down when I want it to, has a hold button that can be operated with fingers thicker than a pipe cleaner, and a volume button that can’t be turned to the “make-my-ears-bleed” setting by accident. Best of all, it doesn’t break down, freeze, or decide that I only wanted the first 40 seconds of a song.

I entered the iPod world last year because my wife gave me one for my birthday. It was a thoughtful gesture and the machine was sexy—sleek, metallic, and red. And, like so many Apple products, it was a triumph of clever marketing over function. Now I’d be the first to admit that Apple’s computer operating system is superior to Microsoft Vista (and so is an abacus) but let’s face it, Apple sells toys instead of tools. (Did anyone but me notice that the one-hour rollout video for the new iPhone never actually showed how to make a phone call?) Apple loads up on the gadgets, most of which are engineers’ because-we-can features. And the more they add, the greater the likelihood that something will go wrong and bollix the one thing you bought the product for in the first place.

That’s what happened with my iPod. I spent more time trying to get iTunes to download tunes correctly than in listening to them. My screen froze more often than a river in Buffalo. A single wrong flick of the finger meant going through endless screens to reset my preferences. It broke down randomly in ways that never repeated when it was sent back for servicing. But every other day I got an email offering me some new groovy accessory or offering a software update. My favorites were those that would improve the video interface because who among us doesn’t want to watch “Gone with the Wind” on a two-inch screen?

When you spend more time at the gym fiddling with your tune box than working out, in Thomas Paine’s words, “T’is time to part.” My fifty buck Sony is far superior to the iPod, especially in the most important way: sound fidelity. Supposedly it has most of the same geek features as the iPod, but I’m not going there. Just give me the music and make me forget about my aching muscles.

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