Backstage Opinion: Is the Click Wheel right for you? | iLounge Backstage


Backstage Opinion: Is the Click Wheel right for you?

picTwenty-four hours ago, it seemed like no one cared whether the iPod mini’s Click Wheel controls were superior to the touch-sensitive Scroll Wheel and button controls of the third-generation iPod. But now that Apple has discarded the Scroll Wheel in the fourth-generation iPod, readers have been asking whether the design change is a good or bad thing.

Dennis and I have talked this one through repeatedly since the release of the iPod mini, and mostly agree that the Click Wheel is great. Dennis has been a strong supporter of the Click Wheel since its inception, citing both its superior ease of use and smaller control footprint on the iPod’s face. It’s the economy of the Click Wheel (and loss of separate buttons), he notes, that could give a future iPod’s face enough space for a larger screen, or permit the casing to be shrunk even more. He seems to have been proved correct in Apple’s fourth-generation iPod design, though not in the way most people were expecting.

I agree with all of Dennis’s points, and both love and admire the Click Wheel’s simplicity, but one thing detracts from its utility in my personal life at night - the actual clicking part. While it’s great that the mini’s buttons are tactile, their clicking sounds have a way of waking up the person sleeping next to you. (Danger Sidekick addicts have reported the same problem with their significant others.) For this reason and this reason only, I don’t use my mini at night, and have my fingers crossed that the 4G’s new Click Wheel will be as whisper quiet as the 3G iPod’s touch-sensitive controls. If the extra sound isn’t an issue where you live, the Click Wheel is unquestionably a slam dunk of a design - one of Apple’s best ever - regardless of whether the company fine tunes it further.

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I, for one, welcome our new Click Wheel overlords.

I go to school in Chicago. In the winter, I would not even consider leaving my dorm for the half-mile trudge to class without my (thin yet incredibly warm) leather gloves. This leaves me with very little exposed skin with which to operate my 3G’s touch-sensitive next/previous and play buttons. I have the remote, but the cold stiffens rubber so much that any additional wire makes it more likely the the stiff white rods that dangle from my ears will torque the earbuds right out.

Eventually, I figured out that I can avoid frostbite (yes, I’m a weakling) by pressing the buttons with the tip of my nose. Needless to say, this looked rather silly, and I was glad when early spring and just-a-coat weather came around.

The dilemma: do I find someone to offload my old iPod onto just to get a slightly smaller one with a click wheel?

Posted by Big Jim on July 18, 2004 at 12:36 AM (CDT)


i still like the scroll wheel…

plus, i like how the control buttons were back-lit with the red leds.

Posted by jared on July 18, 2004 at 6:17 AM (CDT)


So am I to understand that this “Clickwheel” is the scroll wheel with 4 pressure sensitive buttons around it? I would have thought that the “buttons” were just touches in those locations, like the “touch” buttons on the 3G iPod.

I love my 3G iPod, I have dropped one so far and immediatly went out an bought another one to replace it. I would hate to drop this one and have to replace it with something “completely” different again.

Apple seems to love to change their computers almost as much as I like to change the look of my website. I wish, for once, that they would leave well enough alone!

Posted by Dave M. on July 18, 2004 at 8:19 AM (CDT)


I’m all for the Click Wheel. As a matter of fact, I purchased an iPod mini for the Click Wheel and size on June 22nd.

Posted by SFNE Freak in CT on July 18, 2004 at 11:25 AM (CDT)


I like my 3G buttons maybe I am in the minority here but I like the idea of touch sensitive buttons.  Going back to an analog rock plate just seems like a step backwards to me.  Plus as it was mentioned the baclighting on the buttons is cool.  I show my friends my iPod and they ooh and ahhh, but when I turn the backlight and the buttons on they think it is the coolest thing in the world.  Then again maybe I long for my lightbright days ;)


Posted by mike on July 18, 2004 at 11:39 AM (CDT)


I have yet to get my hands on a ‘click-wheel’ equipped iPod, but from using the 3G in stores I have to say I prefer the layout of the original iPods - that is, a scroll wheel surrounded by the control buttons - and the ‘click-wheel’ almost goes back to this layout.

Posted by MadPict in UK on July 18, 2004 at 11:50 AM (CDT)


I prefer the touch-sensitive buttons far above mechanical buttons. we forget that with the 3G ipod, the hard drive is the only moving part. With mechanical buttons, there is a whole lot more that can go wrong.

Posted by Griffin on July 18, 2004 at 2:08 PM (CDT)


I’ve been waiting and waiting for Apple to go back to the original iPod interface - I have a 1G iPod and love the button positioning. The 3G was a disappoinment and I have waited with baited breath to see if the design would return to the classic iPod look and feel. Yippee! Gotta get one

Posted by CDN Guy on July 18, 2004 at 4:20 PM (CDT)


Yay!!! Hated that ugly row of buttons.
Now if it just has a Firewire port

Posted by -M on July 18, 2004 at 4:52 PM (CDT)


I’m also concerned about the “whole lot more that can go wrong” with the mechanical buttons, but truthfully I don’t have any statistics to show the failure rates of the mechanical ones versus the touch-sensitive ones. The 3G’s controls may fail more often, or worse, all fail/deteriorate in performance at once, for all we know.

I’m purely guessing that the four iPod buttons are similar to modern video game joypad buttons or computer keyboard buttons, and therefore won’t wear out too easily. It’s hard to tell for sure from the autopsy photos at , but the buttons don’t resemble the cheap membrane insides of, say, older Nintendo joypads. Regardless, it seems very unlikely that the mechanical buttons would all fail at once.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 18, 2004 at 6:27 PM (CDT)


How quickly we forget. I have, and still use daily, a 5Gb original iPod which has a mechanical scroll wheel and four mechanical arc buttons making up a circle around the wheel. The new, more compact version, is certainly even better (and much better than reaching up for the 4 horizontal buttons).

Posted by old timer on July 18, 2004 at 8:46 PM (CDT)


i think the case designers will be pleased with the click wheel design, especially those that already have a mini case. i always preferred the look of the older g1/g2 cases since they only had to ‘reveal’ the screen and wheel - the four buttons made designs too busy.

wonder who’ll be first off the rank with the new 4g case LOL!!

Posted by yinyang on July 18, 2004 at 8:54 PM (CDT)


Bet you wish you had those new servers installed today…. ugh… 68 second load time on a T3 connection!  :D :D

Good luck!

BTW… go clickwheel!  I just spent $2600 on my dream powerbook, but it looks like I have another $400 going away this week!

Posted by Jerrod H. in TX on July 19, 2004 at 10:51 AM (CDT)


i saw in the software update that you can play the click through the earphones so your problem seams solved

Posted by BIGP in Texas on July 19, 2004 at 12:30 PM (CDT)


here is the link

Posted by BIGP in Texas on July 19, 2004 at 12:32 PM (CDT)


I tried the Mini and it’s 1000% easier for me to use. Simpler layout, tactile feedback. And maybe the biggest thing: the Mini’‘s matte-finish wheel was easier to glide along than the “sticky” glossiness of the 3G iPod wheel.

And I’d say there are MUCH more sensitive mechanical issues in any iPod than the clickers. Such as the HD, hold switch, and connectors.

Posted by Nagromme on July 19, 2004 at 12:38 PM (CDT)


BIGP: Actually it’s a separate click issue. The “Clicker” is Apple’s sound effect to let you know you’re navigating through menus, and can be turned off or on, whereas the clicking sound that wakes people up is a physical click of the buttons. We’ll have to see whether the second one’s fixed too.

Jerrod: Yes… new server is so close, but yet so far away. ;-) Congrats on the PB… I dropped similar cash on mine a few months ago. Now don’t you wish you were in on the $200 rebate dealie from Apple?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz on July 19, 2004 at 1:06 PM (CDT)


on the above link to the apple store, it also says that the click sound can be turned off. d’oh

Posted by shammy on July 19, 2004 at 1:23 PM (CDT)



Indeed… it’s a darn shame that both the PB and iPod have to be purchased together, as both of my purchases fall within the Cram & Jam time “window.”

Posted by Jerrod H. in TX on July 19, 2004 at 3:08 PM (CDT)


ill get the new one as soon as vaja ivod makes cases for it

Posted by halleluwah on July 19, 2004 at 3:40 PM (CDT)


So can you still scroll with the new click wheel buttons?

Posted by Spiffy on July 19, 2004 at 11:11 PM (CDT)


Some people are saying the “buttons” on the new click wheel Pod are lit as well.

Anyone know for sure?

Posted by Nate on July 20, 2004 at 2:39 AM (CDT)


Nate, the buttons on the click wheel are NOT lit.

Posted by V@rix on July 21, 2004 at 7:51 PM (CDT)


No, I’m pretty sure the buttons ARE lit…I’m almost positive. :)

Posted by PK on July 23, 2004 at 1:09 AM (CDT)


i much prefer my 3G 40GB control set.. for so many reasons..

and, though I am a diehard Apple freak/lover (ask anyone who knows me), I’m actually quite upset at a few other issues on the 4G front..



Posted by Jeremy on July 23, 2004 at 9:01 AM (CDT)

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