In extended testing of Apple’s new fourth-generation iPods, iLounge has discovered and reported to Apple an apparent manufacturing defect affecting the headphone jacks of certain new iPod hardware. The defect manifests as audible static and noise interference in the earphones that is most prominent whenever a new iPod’s hard disk is accessed. Similar interference was not detectable through line out (Dock Connector) output.
Users of affected iPods will be able to hear a hard disk-like whirring sound in their earphones, coupled with several seconds of light static at the start of a song that has just been loaded. This should not be confused with the quiet hard disk loading sounds that an iPod makes, which sounds are not audible through earphones, or with normal static-like compression artifacts in your audio.
To test your iPod while eliminating the possibility that static from your music or headphones may be responsible, use iTunes to encode several three- to five-minute compact disc tracks using Apple’s Lossless Audio encoder, transfer them to your iPod, then connect the earbuds packaged with your new iPod. Find the directory or create a playlist with only the Lossless tracks, and skip back and forth between them. Hold your iPod at a distance or cover it up so that you can’t hear its normal internal hard disk sounds. If your iPod has a problem, at the start of each loaded song, you should hear a loading pause, then a whirring sound and light static in your ears at a normal volume level. If it does not have a problem, the song should load and play without audio interference.
iLounge has confirmed that this interference does not affect all new iPod hardware. Of the three units we purchased for evaluation, both of the 40GB iPods exhibit the same problem, but the 20GB iPod does not. Unfortunately, some new iPod users have reported that the problem exists in their new 20GB iPods, as well. The units we know to be affected were manufactured in China, shipped from Shanghai, and ordered directly from Apple.
An Apple representative is currently looking into the report, and the company has had no further comment. Please report your findings using the Comments link below.
“Tomorrow, without Apple’s authorization, RealNetworks will start to give away software that will allow people to buy and download songs from its online music store and then play them on Apple’s popular iPod portable devices in addition to those that use the Windows Media Player format and RealNetwork’s Helix format. [...]
So RealNetworks created technology that can create files to be read by iPods. Mr. Glaser [CEO, RealNetworks] declined to say how it did this. But Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that RealNetworks used a technique known as reverse engineering - observing how Apple’s software behaved as it encoded songs to be loaded onto iPods.”
To commemorate Apple’s launch of the fourth-generation iPod, and to thank all of our readers for their patience, iLounge will be posting its first review of the new 20GB and 40GB models later today, Friday, July 23, 2004.
Like our prior first review of the iPod mini, titled the Newbie Review, iLounge’s first fourth-generation review, conclusions, and product rating will be geared towards first-time iPod buyers. A subsequent review geared towards more experienced users (the Power Users’ Review) will follow shortly thereafter.
These reviews will also mark the launch of iLounge’s new product rating system, which will replace our prior Excited / Happy / It’s OK / Sad icons with a more versatile letter grading system, featuring A, B, C, D and F with plus and minus marks. We have been planning for this change for some time, and you will soon see its benefits in an easier-to-use report card for all currently released iPods and accessories. We’ll look forward to your thoughts and comments.
iLounge couldn’t wait until Friday to receive its 40GB iPod, so we went to our local Apple Store and picked up a new 4G 20GB iPod for review. It’s being put through its paces as we speak. And yes, though the numbers show only a .12” difference, the new 40GB version feels surprisingly thicker (3G size, even) than the new 20GB. Retail Apple Stores have received “lots of them” in both sizes, and they’re already going quickly. Check back here for updates.
Wired’s Leander Kahney has shed additional light on the making of Apple’s first iPod in an interview with Ben Knauss, formerly of PortalPlayer, co-developer of the iPod hardware. Highlights include
- Tony Fadell approached Apple with the business idea of a music player coupled with a music download service. Several companies turned Fadell down, but Apple said yes, and gave him a 30-person team.
- When Apple signed on, PortalPlayer dropped work for as many as 12 customers, including IBM, which had planned “a small, black MP3 player” with a “unique circular screen and wireless Bluetooth headphones” plus miniature IBM hard drives.
- Knauss claims 280 PortalPlayer employees worked for 8 months on the iPod design to incorporate Apple-requested features, many from Steve Jobs himself, including AAC, an equalizer, Audible audio book support, faster menus, louder output (“Jobs is partly deaf”) and better audio quality.
- Apple used a collection of confusing prototypes “to make sure it wasn’t predictable what the end design was.”
- The iPod project almost died when initial battery life proved out at 3 hours, even when powered down. But when the problem was fixed, Apple bought a majority stake in PortalPlayer.
Reader Mike S. reports he has taken possession of a new 4G iPod 20GB from a Mayfair Apple Store in Wauwatosa, WI. “Well people, I just stopped by my local Apple store and they had 9 of these babies ready for a home. No 40GB yet, nor did they have the new Click Wheel iPod docks. Also, seems like Apple hasn’t updated their retail software though, because they couldn’t register my iPod when I bought it, so now I can just register it when I need service on the baby.” Mike also goes on to report a few things he’s noticed about the new 4G iPod.
- Now you can turn it off completely by holding the Play/Pause button.
- Click Wheel is not backlit, but the screen has a white backlight.
- Clicker sounds slightly different from my iPod 3G.
- Click wheel is slightly stiffer than the iPod mini’s.
- No dock port covers are included.
- Seems my iPod was partially charged when I bought it. Only took me 1 hour and now it says it’s fully charged.
- The games menu can now be added to the main menu, YAY! (I think this is new to 4G).
- On-The-Go playlist can now be saved, when saved, a new playlist is created (NewPlaylist1, NewPlaylist2, etc.) and the songs are moved there, the OTG playlist is then cleared. Saving playlists actually took abut 5-10 seconds, which seemed a bit long for only 2 songs.
- Songs can be deleted from the On-The-Go playlist by holding the middle button for about 3 seconds, same as adding a song.
If you ordered one of Apple’s new 40 gigabyte iPods yesterday morning, this news is for you. As reported yesterday on iLounge and further detailed in Backstage, Apple unexpectedly changed its web site mid day to drop two accessories (the iPod wired Remote and 40GB carrying case) from its official list of 40GB iPod pack-ins. The change was first reported by iLounge administrators at 12:52PM Eastern Standard Time (9:52AM Pacific).
Apple Store’s customer service is working to make things right for those who placed online orders early in the morning with the understanding that those accessories would be packed in: a polite telephone call mentioning the web site change and requesting the two missing parts can restore them to your order. However, it appears that not all customer service representatives have seen the e-mail notifying them of the web site problems. Two iLounge editors called to confirm these reports this morning; one had the problem addressed quickly after mentioning the web site change, and the other had to go through two supervisor calls before the problem was fixed.
iLounge has previously praised Apple for its outstanding online store customer service, and hopes that all affected purchasers will have trouble-free experiences in getting all the items that they ordered. If you’re an affected 40GB iPod purchaser and have contacted Apple, please post your experiences in the comments thread below.
Following up on our Backstage report from yesterday, Apple is now shipping fourth-generation iPod orders placed online through the Apple Store. Shipments are coming from Shanghai, China, and at least some orders appear to have missed the cutoff time for delivery tomorrow.
After canvassing roughly a dozen bricks-and-mortar Apple retail stores in major cities around the country, all but one report that retail locations have not yet received the new iPods for sale. East Coast stores tended to indicate that they are expected in the next 24-48 hours, while Midwestern and West Coast stores have been less committal, stating that they will be available by week’s end.
A representative at one Apple retail store in Westchester, NY indicated that he believed that the store had received and sold out of its initial shipment, however, the representative said that he had not been at the store when it happened. Please feel free to use the comments thread of this news story to report your experiences in ordering, locating, and/or receiving the new iPod.
Apple’s comments come some weeks after Toshiba publicly announced that it was already supplying Apple with hundreds of thousands of 60 gigabyte, 1.8” drives per month, an announcement which was subsequently said to have angered otherwise secretive Apple executives. Whether these drives will be used in future music-centered iPods, or in other devices, is currently unknown.
MacMinute is reporting that “as part of a pilot program, Duke University has teamed up with Apple to give iPods to all 1,800 incoming freshmen this fall. The fourth generation iPods will be pre-loaded with school calendars and other information. Students will also be able to download supplementary class material in addition to being able to play music.” Lucky Blue Devils. Will these iPods be used for Intro to Copyright Law, or Music Appreciation 101?
iPod Updater 2004-07-15 supports all models of iPod and iPod mini, including the new Click Wheel iPod. This update includes the latest available software for each model of iPod or iPod mini. Download and install the iPod Updater 2004-07-15 then connect your iPod or iPod mini to your computer. The iPod Updater will automatically determine if an update is required.
- New for Click Wheel iPods
- Shuffle songs with one click
- Create multiple On-The-Go playlists
- Delete songs from On-The-Go playlists
- Select reading playback speed for audiobooks
- Hear the clicker user interface sound through headphones
- Charge via USB 2.0 connection
- Enjoy improved playback performance
- Updates for iPod with a Dock connector and iPod mini
- Compatibility with iTunes 4.5 or later and the iTunes Music Store
- Improved playback performance
- Support for the Apple Lossless Encoder, to enable compressed music encoding at high quality
- Updates for iPod without a Dock connector
- Compatibility with iTunes 4.5 or later and the iTunes Music Store
- Improved playback performance
Following a weekend trickling out of initial product details, Apple Computer has this morning officially premiered a “remixed” fourth-generation (4G) iPod on its web site. Confirming initial reports, the 4G iPod offers 12 hours of battery life and, while available in two familiar capacities, has dropped in price: 20 gigabytes ($299) and 40 gigabytes ($399). No 15 gigabyte version is available, nor is any size larger than 40 gigabytes. The 4G iPod also features a gray and white plastic Click Wheel controller (see iLounge Backstage for additional discussion), the familiar black and white backlit two-inch screen, Apple’s proprietary Dock Connector on the bottom, and the Signature iPod white and chrome case design familiar from prior high-capacity iPod hardware.
Contrary to initial reports, however, the 4G iPod’s body has not changed dramatically in size: the 20GB unit measures 4.1"x2.4"x0.57” and weighs 5.6 oz., while the 40GB unit measures 4.1"x2.4"x0.69” and weighs 6.2 oz. But iPod packages have changed, generally for the better: each iPod now includes a USB 2.0 cable, removing a separate but frequently necessary $19 purchase for 3G iPod consumers. However, only the 40GB iPod includes a new Dock ($39, new part number M9602G/A)
the 20GB iPod loses these optional accessories.
The 4G iPods are the beneficiaries of additional firmware features, as well. Version 3.0 of the iPod’s firmware allows multiple on-the-go playlists to be created and audiobook playback speed (faster/slower) to be adjusted - but apparently not other audio. Menus have also changed slightly to create easier access to certain key features, including shuffled playback, and Apple’s site lists another new feature: “Clicker playback through headphones,” which lets users optionally hear their Click Wheel adjustments through headphones. Additional languages have also been added to the iPod, however, game and other menu offerings remain the same as before. Packed-in software also remains largely the same: the 4G iPod ships with the current (4.6) version of iTunes.
Apple claims immediate availability of the new iPod, and Hewlett-Packard has confirmed that its HP-branded version of the iPod will be based upon the fourth-generation design, and available in September. As of the time of this article’s publication, Apple’s online store currently shows 1-2 business day availability for the new iPod, and international orders are being taken. Free laser engraving is also available.
UPDATE (10:39AM PST): After posting specifications for the new 40GB iPod this morning,Apple has changed the list of pack-in items to reflect the removal of two accessories from the box - while the Dock ($39) is still included with the 40GB unit, Apple will apparently no longer include the iPod wired Remote ($39) or the fabric carrying case ($39) with either of the new iPods.
Additionally, and contrary to Apple’s press release this morning, iLounge has confirmed that Apple retail stores do not yet have the new iPod in stock, with some stores claiming availability “in about a week.” More updates are available at backstage.ilounge.com.
Newsweek has revealed some details on the upcoming new iPod in its “advance peek” article. The fourth generation iPod has a new “click wheel” similar to the iPod mini, “where the controls are placed on the compass points of the circular touchpad that lets you scroll through menus.” Other new features include: a more efficent menu - “‘Music’ is a first-level entry, and now a single click initiates the popular technique of shuffling your library for playback.”; you can create mulitple on-the-go playlists and delete on-the-go playlists; listen to audio books or music “at normal speed, slower or 25 percent faster”; the battery is rated for 12 hours of power, a 50% increase; and new lower prices - 40GB for $399, 20GB for $299, and the 15GB has been dropped. The new iPod is also about one millimeter thinner than previous models, and contrary to rumors there are no new colors being offered except classic white.
As discovered by MacMinute, Apple Computer has used the cover of Newsweek Magazine to reveal the newest generation iPod. White like the third-generation iPod, the newest iPod now sports a Click Wheel and thickness similar to the iPod mini, in addition to a six-line (3G iPod-style) black and white screen. In the original photograph (right, credit Newsweek via MacMinute), the screen appears to suggest that Apple has preserved the traditional iPod font and interface, but modified the menu structure to further simplify access to the device’s multiple features. Kudos to Steven Levy on securing the exclusive Newsweek article.
Update: Having obtained an advance copy of Newsweek’s iPod article, The Mac Observer reports that Apple will formally announce the new iPod on Monday, July 19, 2004, and notes that additional photos indicate that in addition to being thinner than current 3G iPods, it may also have a slightly smaller footprint. Check back with iLounge for additional photos and details soon.
During Apple’s conference call expanding on its second-quarter financial results, Apple representatives have held to prior projections on availability of Hewlett Packard’s blue version of the iPod: “HP will ship this Summer as we indicated in last quarter’s call.” On the subject of HP/Apple iPod marketing and distribution by geographic region: “HP and Apple independently conclude who to sell to,” and there will be no restriction on HP sales of the iPod by region.
“The pocket-sized digital music player, which can store thousands of songs, is one of a series of banned gadgets that the military will no longer allow into most sections of its headquarters in the UK and abroad.
Devices with large storage capabilities—most notably those with a Universal Serial Bus (or USB) plug used to connect to a computer—have been treated with greater suspicion of late by government agencies and corporations alike.”
Update: The British Ministry of Defense has denied to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) that the military has imposed an outright ban on iPods or portable storage devices in general. A spokesman clarified that only specific secure areas are or will be deemed off-limits to such devices, and that the iPod was not specifically targeted by the government.
iLounger “vgirla” found an iPod on a flight and decided to use the forums to try and locate the owner. After posting her story and following advice from various members, she contacted Apple and passed them the serial number.
One day later, another iLounge user, “smacryan” claimed ownership of the iPod, and explained that a representative from Apple had called.
The moral of this story: register your iPod with Apple, and if you lose it, check the iLounge forums. This happy ending brought to you by yet another great iLounger - thanks “vgirla.”
A new London nighclub called Playlist is claiming to be “London’s First iPod Music Club” (NoWax started back in September 2003) is launching Saturday, August 7 at the Nambucca club on Holloway Road. The press release reads: You are the DJ. Bring your favourite 15-minute playlist on an iPod or other digital music player and play your songs, first come, first served. The best DJs win prizes from Belkin…
“Playlist celebrates digital diversity. It’s all about the music, not the genre. The principle is simple: if you want to share your music, just turn up, sign in and play out. If you want to judge other people’s music, turn up, sign up and speak out. If you simply want to party, just turn up, tune in, dance it out.
Amplifying concerns raised by iLounge in a feature story last week, Apple Computer has attacked Sony’s claims that its upcoming Network Walkman devices hold more songs than comparably equipped iPods. “We’re disappointed that Sony, which is new to this market, has decided to make their first impression by attempting to mislead the press and customers,” Apple told The Wall Street Journal, explaining that Sony had used unrealistically low bit rate compression to fool readers into thinking that the Network Walkman holds more music than an iPod. In a separate interview with MacCentral, Apple’s Greg Joswiak noted that similar tricks would render the 20GB iPod capable of holding 40,000 songs, but “[t]hat’s something we would never claim because that’s just not something a customer would do.”
MacMinute is reporting that “IDG, the company behind Macworld and more than 300 other publications, will soon launch iPodworld—a magazine dedicated to Apple’s iPod, iTunes and iTunes Music Store. iPodworld will feature iPod and music news, previews of upcoming products, software and hardware reviews, digital lifestyle how-to articles, and reviews of music available from the iTunes Music Store. It is not yet clear whether the magazine, which will be available on newsstands in August, will be a single issue, quarterly or monthly. IDG and Mac Publishing also plan to launch and heavily promote an iPod news Web site to support the new magazine.”