In the iPod world, the rules of normal life don’t apply. Ugliness is forgiven, the very Silly is admired, Mediocrity is worshipped and every Disaster is seen as a dazzling success. Before I get flamed and buried under an avalanche of hate mail, let me just accept it and get it over with. Yes, I dislike iPods and yes; I think they are the most over-hyped and under-performing gadget in the whole wide world. It’s not just your normal ‘detest-it because it’s so successful’ syndrome — my feelings run a bit deeper than that.
From the very first iPod right till the latest crop, these have been catch-up devices. They were not the first portable music players, they are still not the best, audio quality is not up to scratch, they are the most expensive per MB, they scratch easily, battery life is a joke and innovation levels through the series are almost completely stagnant. I have to admit though that they are a marketing miracle. Making a very pedestrian and run-of-the-mill product the world’s best-selling consumer device is no ordinary feat.
Even worse is the iPod accessory market. The iPod has become an icon for the uninformed and the unaware. Due to colossal sales, the add-on market for this portable device has taken a life force of its own. It is estimated that for every US$1 spent on an iPod, owners spend twice as much on accessories and after market frills. While the first waves of add-ons were functional and added to the usability, the current deluge is basically tripe of the highest possible order.
This is a typical success story. Consumers wanted to use their portable music device to also double as their home stereo. While a few companies came out with somewhat acceptable docks, the majority of them give an appalling sound experience. People moving from purist systems were also shocked at the difference in audio quality. Let’s wake up to the fact that this is compressed music playing from tiny speakers — not an audiophile set up.
The worst category. A good device shouldn’t need protection and specially not the monstrosities thrust upon the iPods. Crystals, mink, fur, gold, titanium, leather, wood and even diamonds are the material of choice here. The biggest companies in the world make them, designers endorse them, they cost more than the iPod itself and you can get them in your choice of form factor — purse, case, wallet, portfolio, key chain, belt buckle, dangler and even as a thong.
The iPod is successful because it has a simple task to perform — play music. The accessory wizards won’t let that happen. They want to convert it to a voice recorder, a PDA, a phone, game player, FM Transmitter, media port, DJ console, art deco piece — the list of add-on useless utility products is endless.
The very bizarre
If the iPod toilet paper dispenser wasn’t enough to make you throw up, you also have iAttire to dress up your iPod like a doll, iSocks to keep it warm, H2O to listen to it underwater, iBeat so that you can glow in the dark, iPop to make your baby iPod compatible, iShirt to stick it to your chest and even iUndies to stick it where you shouldn’t.
Buying an iPod starts an endless round of herd-instinct purchases and before you know it you have nine completely absurd and unusable add-ons. The good thing is that these accessories are becoming so outlandish and inane that hopefully they will die a natural death. At least that’s how things are in a normal world. But then again, not much is normal in the iPod world.