How Apple Might Win Over (Some) Hesitant Click Wheel iPod Users to Touch Devices | iLounge Backstage

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How Apple Might Win Over (Some) Hesitant Click Wheel iPod Users to Touch Devices

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Friday, July 24, 2009
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Years ago, at just about the point at which mainstream users were beginning to appreciate the value of Apple’s iPod designs, PDA application developers came up with iPod skins—basically a way to replicate the iPod’s controls and UI to make media playback easier on Pocket PC devices. pPod (shown below) was amongst them, developed by Starbrite Solutions back in 2004. Not surprisingly, Apple shut these efforts down because it had come up with the interface and designs in question, and didn’t want them to aid the sales of competing products, or prevent users from wanting the real thing.

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But what about as an alternate user interface for media playback on the iPhone or iPod touch? Or as the gap-bridging way to create the inevitable touchscreen iPod nano, which might initially be met with resistance on the grounds that it’s just not as easy to use as a Click Wheel iPod nano? Apple probably wouldn’t let a third-party app developer sell (or even give away) a iPod media player interface in the App Store, but if it released such a thing as a feature on its own, there’s no issue. For those who are curious, the mock-up image above shows the viability of the concept even if Apple did nothing more than use the body of an iPod classic as the basis for this feature: without even trying to maximize the elements on the 3.5” touchscreen, the Click Wheel roughly matches the size of the current-generation iPod nano’s, and the “screen” would have no issue being readable. With little tweaks, both the old iPod UI and the Click Wheel could be resized to use the screen’s real estate even better.

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And yes, yes, the reasons that Apple mightn’t do such a thing are obvious. Why emulate an outdated UI when the iPhone has Revolutionary Multi-Touch(tm)? And what about clicking on that Click Wheel—there’s no way to physically depress the screen? Et cetera. The answers are equally obvious: because it would serve as a nice bridge, and it could get very close to the Click Wheel with more deliberate taps to activate buttons… sort of like the screen currently replicates a keyboard, “good enough” for many users. Another good reason to do it: because only Apple can.

Thoughts?

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Comments

1

Have similar capacities to the iPod Classic and include shuffle by album (for us classical music listeners) and they’ll win me over… I love the iPhone interface but the other two requirements take precedence over that.

Posted by Carl on July 24, 2009 at 1:15 PM (PDT)

2

I wish Apple would have put the click-wheel controller on the back of my iPod Touch.  Then I could more easily control playing music when it’s raining out (I could control it through my jacket but now I have to physically take it out and look at it) or without looking at it while driving.

Posted by dave on July 24, 2009 at 2:17 PM (PDT)

3

It’s an interesting idea, though I’m not sure if Apple would do such a thing. Apple’s all about moving forward, tossing out the old in favor of the new. This seems counter to that philosophy.

As much as I love the touch interface, there are things the click wheel simply does better. Though I’ll readily admit scrolling through artists, albums, songs, etc. is way easier on the touch interface, the click wheel is much simpler to use when driving a car, as it only requires one hand. And before the new headphones equipped with the remote, a user could easily go forwards or backwards on an iPod that was buried in a pocket without having to pull it out.

I’m not sure if I would use an emulator or not. I doubt it would replace the 5G iPod that I use for the car, and I don’t really see a point in using it for my 2G touch.

I’m hoping the click wheel sticks around for a while, at least until Cupertino perfects some kind of Apple car stereo with built-in iTunes library! Until then, I’m sticking with my two-iPod solution!

Posted by cxc273 on July 24, 2009 at 2:40 PM (PDT)

4

I wish Apple would at least bring back th circular “gestures” for scrolling in general.  I don’t like having swipe, move finger back, swipe, move finger, swipe, etc.  I’d prefer to keep moving my finger in circles to keep scrolling a long list as one continuous movement.  I’d really, really like it if Apple brought back the old iPod UI in a virtual way.

Posted by Steven on July 24, 2009 at 7:06 PM (PDT)

5

How about putting the Click Wheel on an inline remote on the headphones? That way, it wouldn’t mess up the aesthetic of Apple’s non-buttony iPhone, but still give Click Wheel users what they want.

Posted by Plan K on July 25, 2009 at 5:34 AM (PDT)

6

while i’d certainly love to give a click wheel emulator a try, i don’t think it’ll be the same. someday it’ll be fun for nostalgia, but i don’t think it’ll be a functional substitute for a classic iPod.

part of what makes the click wheel design work is the tactile feedback it provides. you can feel the edges of the wheel. you can feel the button in the center. you can feel it when you click it, so you know for sure it’s happened. no hitting the center button when you meant to click the bottom of the wheel.

i like steven’s suggestion of implementing the the gestures, but i think requiring that your finger hit a certain portion of the screen for the scrolling to work is pointless. it’ll just make it harder to use than it currently is. you’ll have to stare at it to make sure your thumb doesn’t stray from the virtual wheel, or you’ll find yourself furiously tapping away at a button that’s 2cm away.

honestly, apple can pry my iPod classic out of my cold, dead hands. until i can get an iPhone with enough capacity to store my entire music library - or at least most of it - there’s no way i’m giving it up. i don’t have time to sit and choose which 8GB (i’m also still rockin’ my original 2G phone until at&t rolls out 3G in my area, but that’s another story…) i want to listen to when i’m on my way out the door.

here’s a suggestion, apple: bluetooth click wheel remote, with display. looks and feels just like the real thing. velcro the thing to the dashboard and away we go. i promise i won’t sue you for stealing my idea. wink

Posted by mike on July 25, 2009 at 9:50 AM (PDT)

7

It’s not the interface that Classic users are sticking too. It’s the high capacity storage for a low price. I’d love a Touch with a 64GB Hard Disk.

$400 for 32GB? No thanks.

Posted by jsk on July 25, 2009 at 9:52 AM (PDT)

8

I have to agree that the the one thing that made me hesitant to try the iPod Touch was capacity. It remains an issue on my 32 GB touch, and, if I had been replacing my 5G instead of supplementing it, I may have gone with the classic. That said, now that I’ve spent a year with my Touch, I would not go back.  The capacity is still a hindrance. Smart playlists regularly refresh my music, but do not guarantee that a given album will be there when I want it.  However, I worry much less about the flash memory than I do about the hard drive on my 5G. That peace of mind makes it worthwhile. But it’s really all the other functions of the Touch that make it more worthwhile.  But the other thing that remains a problem is the lack of tactile feedback.  I could stop, start, skip, and adjust the volume on my 5G without looking at it. The iPod Touch can only do that with an add-on remote.
The virtual iPod is an interesting idea, but it assumes that the reason people like the clickwheel iPods mainly because they enjoy spinning their fingers in a circle. I doubt that’s the case. Clickwheel iPods are still desireable because of their tactile feedback, their capacity, and their price.  None of that is addressed by a virtual iPod interface.

Posted by Rob E. on July 25, 2009 at 1:19 PM (PDT)

9

Err….. no.  This is a really, *really* silly idea.  And extremely un-Apple, in the good-Apple sense, the Apple that stands for good design.  Good design means makes smart trade-offs.

A direct touch UI is far superior to indirect touch-based UI (especially in the ease of jumping to where you want in the hierarchy and search); emulating the old click-wheel UI on a flat touch screen beings none of the advantages (more tactile navigation without looking) and all of the disadvantages.

The still-higher cost of flash capacity per GB is really the only thing keeping the iPod classic alive.  And even this is rapidly falling - I expect that this fall’s Touches will be much better deals capacity-wise, and by this year or next I expect the iPod classic to be phased out.

Posted by lookmark on July 26, 2009 at 2:28 AM (PDT)

10

The clickwheel UI does have its advantages, for instance while seeking through lengthy podcasts.
FWIW, two of the changes that I get the most positive feedback about on my iPhone are the volume button and the external speaker. This, along with Apple’s clicker button earphones, tells me that people still prefer buttons - at least for music playback anyway.
The Griffin Navigate remote helps a little but it still needs work.

Posted by Paul on July 27, 2009 at 12:08 PM (PDT)

11

Apple has already filed a patent for that.

Posted by Kevin C on September 5, 2009 at 4:46 PM (PDT)

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