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.
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.
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 Why emulate an outdated UI when the iPhone has Revolutionary Multi-Touch(tm)?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.