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Backstage: iPod, iPod, iPod, iRiver

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2004
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picEven though the site is named iLounge (hint: the slogan’s “All things iPod”), I try to write a feature story at least once a month dealing with new and potentially competing technology developed by Apple’s competitors. Having owned a handful of iPod competitors and quasi-competitors, and as someone who has used both PCs and Macs over the past 20 years, I still take great interest in what’s going on outside Apple’s fishbowl, and have no hesitation to discuss good new ideas regardless of who is responsible for them.

More than a few comment threads and reader e-mails have posed a good question to me personally: “what do you think about iRiver?” For those unfamiliar, iRiver’s a Korean electronics manufacturer that offers MP3-compatible devices with good looks, features, and value for the dollar. And to answer the question squarely, I like iRiver’s products. The lower-end ones are cheap, small, and pretty functional, while the higher-end ones are made to appeal to people like me: people who like digital music, digital photography, tons of menu options and music encoding standards, plus frills like color screens and the occasional built-in camera feature - in other words, new technology for the sake of new technology. In my opinion, given their embrace of cool ideas and open standards, they’re a far better music competitor to Apple (and others) these days than Sony, a company that gets way too much credit from casual journalists.

As I’ve said to people before, I’ve purchased iRiver products and even mentioned them in a few iLounge pieces where relevant. But unlike 99% of the companies (their competitors) we’ve contacted, their U.S. arm hasn’t responded to product-related inquiries. A British journalist recently opined to me that iRiver’s U.S. operation may not be as responsive as their European arm, and mentioned that “their products would do very well if only they were better promoted and supported.” I completely agree. “If only.” So until they respond, I won’t have much more to say about iRiver, but at least you’ll know that I’ve been trying to get them to play ball here.

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Comments

1

I’ve seen repeatedly in reviews that iRiver falls short in the ease-of-use department when compared to iPod: its interfacse is overly complex and cluttered. In a “neat” way to people who like gizmos and gadgets with tons of options (I might even like it myself) but not as useful for the primary pupose: listening to and locating music.

Many of their products seem to be pricey too—with measly Flash players costing more than an iPod.

But I’m not in the camp that says Apple should keep the iPod simple by sticking to music. Competition is good, and Apple has already added a long list of non-music stuff to the iPod. (Notes Reader with hyperlinks being the hidden gem, in my opinion.) The iPod SHOULD stay simple for music, but that’s easily dealt with: put “the rest” under Extras where it complicates nothing.

Posted by Nagromme on July 21, 2004 at 10:40 PM (PDT)

2

Easy of use on gadgets? Do you really need to go to school just to learn how to operate a MP3 player. Even dumbass could use one without reading the manual. All of MP3 players arent complicated as using a computer. THEY ARE ALL EASY TO USE. Even retarded could use it,

Posted by me on July 23, 2004 at 3:05 AM (PDT)

3

The question isn’t whether an obvious genius like the previous poster can use a given MP3 player, but whether the average person - say, your grandmother - could do so without hours of training. The iPod is in a league of its own in this regard.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 23, 2004 at 8:27 AM (PDT)

4

One shining feature that iriver has is that it doesnt tether you to software to upload/download.  I like the idea of being able to use it as a hard drive, dragging and dropping music through windows explorer.  There is no need to separate files and music.  I can therefore transfer my music collection very easily.  Not to mention it comes with a remote…

Posted by Lothar on July 27, 2004 at 6:24 AM (PDT)

5

wow, iRiver, wow. What can you say. I have used iPods before, but while they are, simple to use, I think you have to be simple to buy one as well. I am an avid iriver fan, and I am about to buy my third, and biggest (as in most expensive) iRiver product, the new H340.

People who say they are complicated, don’t know what they are talking about. It is like saying apples taste like pears because you have eaten fruit. There is no comparasion to be made, because they use different systems. The iRiver product may seam “complicated” to the lay person who has not owned an iRiver product, but once you get used to it (and that does not take long, it took me about 20 minutes to learn all the important features, without the manual) the device is as easy to use, if not easier then an iPod. Navigation on the H and iMp series is very simple.

When it comes to features, does the iPod even come close? I don’t think so. The iPod is the rock while iRiver products are more the bows and arrows, they are far more advanced and generous then iPod. I will never buy an ipod, whose only real advantage over iRiver is exterior design.

All that said, the only problem, and it is a Major problem, is support. It dosn’t exist for the Englisg speeking world, that said, I have had problems and have had to send my unit back to get replaced, and it was all taken care of effeciently and effectivley.

Posted by MunkiFisht on August 1, 2004 at 10:11 AM (PDT)

6

iRiver people don’t seem to get the point… an clean,easy-to-use interface makes your everyday life much easier.

If I want to play an album, I go to to Music::Albums, scroll to the one I want to hear, press the center button, and listen.  That’s it.

If I want a particular song, I go to Music::Songs, scroll to the one I want to hear, press the center button and listen. 

If I want to make a playlist, I find the song I want (browsing by any combination of artist, album, song, playlist, etc.), hold the center button and repeat.  Then that playlist is ready to use, and it even gets uploaded to iTunes where I can name it or fine-tune it a bit more.  That is ####### simple.  And it’s enjoyable.  The interface and features don’t get in the way… the music does, and that’s how it should be.

In summary, you iRiver people need to get over yourselves.  The iRiver is a bloated piece of crap, just like the Windows you load songs onto it with.

Oh! But the iPod doesn’t play FLAC… try

for i in *.flac; do flac -decode “$i” -  | lame—abr 128 “$i.mp3”; done;

Then you have MP3s you can put on your iPod and forget about.  OSX + iPod win hands down over anything else.  Sorry, dumbfucks.

Posted by jrockway on August 5, 2004 at 3:28 AM (PDT)

7

I’ve used both an iPod and an iRiver and while the iRiver’s interface is definitely more complex, it does *do* a lot more than the iPod. When you add in the EQs, the recording, the FM, and the pitch settings then you have a more complex device.

The iPod can afford to be simple because it does a lot less. But by the time you have added a bunch of add-ons to the iPod, you have a clunkier device with an interface that’s groaning at the seams to support all the new features.

Posted by iRiver Interface on August 5, 2004 at 5:21 AM (PDT)

8

jrockway,  you need to get to know your iRiver a bit more. Use the Moodlogic software included on the CD or website. It scans the files, then separates into Artist, Album, etc. The menu is totally changed.

Kinda funny. I too can use the joystick, click on the artist, and just click the artist name and “Select All”, and gee gollly, what do you know!! IT PLAYS! I wouldn’t call us “dumbfucks”

This is my theory. If you don’t use iTunes a lot, get the iRiver. It’s the same price as an iPod, with the same features, and a lot more. (I’ll explain later). However, if you use iTunes or have a Mac, I would get an iPod right away. I love the iTunes, and I love the IPod. It’s just that I don’t use iTunes too incredibly often. if you are a big iTunes user, you want the IPod because of the ease of compatabilty, and if you don’t have the iPod, burning a CD then ripping is not good for quality.

Also, the iRiver has the easisest compatabilty of any player on the market. It works on freaken anything. Plug it in to Mac OS X, Windows, Any linux distro,a nd it detects it right away. no software or drivers necessary.

On-the-fly playlist is coming in the new firmware, coming this August.

And also, while not as totally stylish as the iPod, it still looks pretty sharp, and is just as thin (2 cm wider I think at the top) as the iPod. It features Digital In/Out for you audiphiles. You can record from any external source through the LIne/Digital In/Out. I already recorded some of my brother’s vinyls with it, and they sound pretty darn good (can record up to 320K sound). Again, 16 hour battery life (I did a test, and mine lasted 17 hours). It has SRS Surround mixing, which can simulate surround sound in music. It’s the same SRS Labs that they use for Monday Night football in 5.1. While nothing can be truly upconverted from stereo to 5.1, it’s pretty good at separating channels. Also, the H series of iRivers are very ...configurable. You can do a lot of modding to them, like changing grahpics and stuff. Of course, if you screw u, then it’s your own fault. But it’s pretty neat.

Okay, finally. I give the iPod and the iRiver probably both 9/10s. Neither of them are perfect, but they are damn close to it. I just think that if you don’t use iTunes extensively,  it’s worht it to spend the same price and get a product on par or perhaps better.

Not a big iTunes user = iRiver
ITunes user = ITunes

Posted by mscbuck on August 5, 2004 at 7:51 PM (PDT)

9

i am not going to use itunes and i don’t care how it looks!
i just want to know if one sounds better
or will last longer?
that said please help

Posted by pigebear on August 20, 2004 at 1:34 AM (PDT)

10

Well, I’ve never used either. But I’m planning on buying the iRiver 2 weeks from now. The iPod has great marketing. All for a reason, of course. The iPod has a very easy-to-use UI, looks cool, makes you look cool, but I don’t really wanna be stuck with iTunes. iTunes is nice in that it syncs, kinda like a PDA. But I’d rather just drag and drop my songs via the Windows Explorer. I don’t believe the UI could be that complicated for me, since I’m a geek. Plus, easy firmware upgrades, a built-in FM tuner, line-in encoding, and the color black…nothing beats the iRiver for me.

Posted by sushi on August 31, 2004 at 12:06 AM (PDT)

11

oh my god….i never heard of people saying that iRiver products are actually “HARD"to operate…..

Posted by dumbamericans... on September 23, 2004 at 8:06 PM (PDT)

12

Okay…  EphTunes software for iPod is alternative and superior to iTunes.  iTunes sucks, everyone acknowledges this.  EphTunes is superior, and there is another alternative software out there that has a windows explorer extension so, as you said, you can drag and drop.  The problem with that software is that it’s like thirty bucks which would bring my iPod mini too close to costing me three hundred dollars.  I’ll stick with EphPod.

Posted by Rodney Spencer on October 7, 2004 at 1:04 PM (PDT)

13

sushi - you can manually drop tracks into an iPod using iTunes in manual mode.

And what’s hard about Apple’s iPod software?

Posted by Aggedor in Melbourne, Australia on February 24, 2005 at 1:27 AM (PDT)

14

can i download ephtunes for free??! plz help!

Posted by Liam on August 19, 2006 at 5:01 PM (PDT)

15

where you can you download ephtunes.. i googled it and all i came up with was this page

Posted by lily on November 8, 2006 at 5:19 PM (PDT)

16

Hey
I was wondering what my wife should do.  She had one of the original ipods.  Then in 2005 or so I received one as a gift.  Since I had no extreme interest in it like she did.  I gave it to her as an upgrade.  It is an ipod 80GB.  Her original came with a downloadable cd/dvd.  The newer one never did.  She went to a site to download it.  Now since our computer crashed, everytime she tries to download the program it does not identify her as purchasing the ipod.  I guess you can only do it once or i am afraid it will erase her library.  Do you have any suggestions as to what we can do to not only save her current library, but be able to add more to it as well?  I am sorry this is so long.  Thank you for taking the time to read.

Posted by J Romanishin on December 9, 2008 at 6:31 PM (PDT)

If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.

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