On Friday, July 26, Los Angeles got its own two-story flagship Apple Store at the Grove. While I was amazed by the all-glass suspended, staircase, I was there for another purpose. I had to get my hands on the new scroll wheel and see what all the fuss was about and compare the old vs. new.
Round and Round We Go
There laid a new iPod 20GB, I picked it up and started to scroll. The new non-moving scroll wheel does not provide the same tactile feel of motion that you will get with a rotating wheel. My thumb did not glide along the surface, but instead I could feel the obvious friction associated with trying to move my thumb over a stationary surface. No matter how innovative solid state may be, I want my mechanical, smooth gliding, scroll wheel. Leave the trackpad for the laptops. Call me old school, but the new “touch” wheel isn’t as much fun for my thumb.
Do you navigate your iPod using one hand or two? If you’re a two-handed scroller, it’s going to be easier for you to scroll the new wheel. When your holding your iPod in one hand and use your other hand to scroll, you can just give it a light touch, and glide your thumb over the top of the surface. With the one-handed technique, because your holding and controlling the iPod with one hand and your thumb, you will tend to exert a bit more downward force onto the “touch” wheel, creating more friction and a less desirable scrolling experience.
With the one-handed technique, you could put a death grip on your iPod and still scroll with ease. This is exactly what I experienced when comparing the old vs. new at the Apple Store. Your experience may vary. I’m sure my theory will spur some interesting comments in the forums.
Old Model Remodel
On previous model iPod’s, the “Hold” switch, audio and FireWire ports are surrounded by white plastic. The new models have replaced this area with chromed metal. Now there is metal on the top as well as on the sides and bottom.
The new iPod 20GB is thicker and slightly heavier as a direct result of the larger 20GB Toshiba hard drive inside. The iPod 20GB is about the same thickness as an old 5 or 10GB iPod. How can that be? Keep in mind, the 20GB iPod does not have the extra mechanical parts associated with the old scroll wheel. Having an all electronic “touch” wheel has eliminated the need for a thicker form factor. Imagine if the new iPod 20GB had an old scroll wheel, it would add a considerable amount to the depth, resulting in a very thick and heavy iPod.
The FireWire port has a flip-top port cover and the Hold switch are a tad longer with a small raised grip in the middle. Apple has also redesigned the FireWire cable to be thinner and features a new squared, white plug.
I briefly navigated the new menu system on the new iPod. Some main menu items have been removed, and new ones added. Click here to test drive the new user interface.
I didn’t get to try the new remote, because the Apple Store didn’t have any on hand. The Apple employee told me to expect Apple stores to have them available in the first week of August.
The new iPod earphones are noticeably smaller and feature a mesh wire grill as opposed to the metal grill on the old earphones. I’m not one to be sticking earphones on display into my ears, so I’ll have a more thorough review of the earphones as soon as iLounge receives it’s new iPod 10GB.
Apple has dropped the Apple Garamond font for the Myriad font on all new iPods and packaging. The eMacs and iMacs all use the new font, and I suspect future Apple products will do the same. It’s also the same font used throughout the Apple website.
Here’s a parting thought. Will Apple Stores use a PC to demo the iPod for Windows to prospective iPod PC buyers?
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I'm a passionate, long-time lover of Apple products, and was a civil draftsman and graphic designer before creating the iLounge web site. My prior projects include work for The Los Angeles Times' LATimes.com, and the company Creative Domain, where I developed websites for clients including Columbia Pictures, Disney, Fox Studios, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers. As the Publisher of iLounge, I direct the site's community forums, photo galleries, iPod User Group, and general business affairs, which have grown under my watch to over sixteen million page views every month. I'm happily married with one daughter, one dog (Rocket the Wonderdog), one cat (Ferris), many iPods, iPhones, iPads, and two turntables.