Wishing for a play queue for iPod

I had a party at my house a couple days ago. It wasn’t really a party, just a handful of guests, enjoying beverages, snacks, and good music. All of the music was provided by my 20GB iPod, which was attached via RCA cable to my stereo receiver.

My guests thought that it was the neatest thing; they would just pass the iPod around, and each of them would play a song or two. It took each guest only a couple minutes to master how the iPod worked. There were even a couple friendly “fights” over who would get to play the next song. As a whole, my iPod was a smash hit amongst my guests; they loved having control over the music and throughout the evening, I had heard many comments like “That is such a cool device” and “I’ve got to get me one of these!”

I found myself wanting two things more for the evening. First, I wanted to go cordless. I put an iTrip on my future shopping list, so that the next time I have a party, we could still play “pass the iPod,” but with no cord. Of course, my roommate suggested that since there was a cable on the iPod, I wouldn’t have to worry about it “walking off” – something that I would have to worry about if it were cordless via iTrip. No worries, I’ll just implement some simple background checks on my guests before my next party; I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

Second, and most importantly, I found myself lamenting the iPod’s lack of a play queue. I had to explain to each user that they would have to wait until the currently playing song was over to play their song. There were several times that one of them would forget and start playing their song immediately, cutting off the currently playing song.

Most guests knew what was up. When I was showing them how to use the iPod initially, several spoke up and asked me “So, does it just play, or does it queue the song up?” Of course, it just plays it. So, I would advise them how to best “hover” over their choice of song – navigate to it, leave the iPod alone, and when it was time to play, hit “Menu” and then hit the select button. Crude, but it works.

The worst part about using my iPod in this particular party environment was that you could only select one song in advance; you couldn’t queue a few up and then pass the iPod to the guest on the left hand side. And when you were passed the iPod, you had just a few minutes (or until the song that was currently playing was over) to browse through all of my music and make your selection.

So, not having a play queue wasn’t a deal breaker. The iPod was a hit at my party. But there was a noticeable hole in the experience, and it all revolved around the fact that my guests couldn’t queue music up.

If I wanted a play queue bad enough, I could have arranged it. There are a ton of media players available that all have playqueues: Winamp, J River’s Media Center 9, Windows Media Player, and so on; I could have just set up a computer with my music library. If I had owned a different portable music player, perhaps one made by Creative that has a play queue, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Sure, it was my choice to use the iPod instead of one of the iPod’s competitors, but I didn’t.

I’m not the only one who wishes the iPod had a queue. Browsing through the iLounge.com forums will turn up several discontent users, all wishing that their favorite digital music player had this most basic of features. I can’t understand how a queue hasn’t made it into the iPod’s controls yet; everyone else seems to have one.

It’s not just about convenience, either. Depending on a user’s needs, it is almost a necessity. If the iPod could hold only two or three full CDs worth of music, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. Users would be happy enough browsing through the playlists that they have created.

But my iPod has, at this moment, 3438 songs. That is an incredible amount of music. It is just impossible to come up with a playlist, or even a smart playlist, that could fit every mood and every occasion. Even the most staunch members of the “just construct your playlists with care” crew must submit that with the staggering amount of music that fits onto a device like an iPod, it is completely irrational to suggest that playlists, even smart playlists, can be a substitute for a working play queue. You just can’t plan ahead for times when the “What I want to hear next” bug strikes.

I’m not here to tell Apple how to implement it, either from a back-end perspective or from a UI perspective. There are developers at Apple who get paid well enough to make a much better decision on that than I possibly could. I would just like to raise my voice as an ardent proponent of adding this functionality. A play queue would be an excellent addition to an already excellent product. It would add an enormous convenience factor.

To be frank, I can’t imagine how this feature isn’t already included. With the expansive capacities of iPods, coupled with the ongoing outcries of iPod users and with the fact that this feature has implemented in the iPod’s competition, I am shocked that Apple hasn’t stepped up to the plate and implemented a play queue.