Denki News

May 23, 2006

Why the hate? Behind the iPod backlash

Filed under: iPod & iTunes — icruise @ 9:19 pm

A lot of people (well, a lot of people who post on Internet message boards anyway) seem to be anti-iPod. There are even entire websites devoted to this, such as As a big fan of the iPod, I find this somewhat perplexing. I've been thinking a lot about this, and I've come up with a few possible reasons. (More after the jump.)

First there are people who just hate Apple. Why? I guess some people view Apple as a company that sells overpriced dumbed-down computers for people too stupid (or lazy or whatever) to use a "real computer." There have been people like this since the Mac first came out. 20 years ago they would have said that a graphical user interface would never be anything but a toy. They love to manually edit their Windows registry or compile their own Linux software. There's not much you can do to change their minds, but Mac OS X is helping.

Other people think that the iPod is an underfeatured overpriced piece of crap compared to other MP3 players on the market. Sure, you can find MP3 players with more features like an FM radio tuner, voice recorder, card reader, or whatever. But the overall package is much less than the sum of its parts. What's the point of having an FM radio if the MP3 player portion of the device is hard to use? And in any case, one of the big draws of the iPod has always been its simplicity. It does a few things and it does them well. And when making these feature comparisons, most people seem to forget about iTunes, the iTunes music store, and the huge lineup of third-party iPod accessories. Surely these count for something.

And what about the price? I really don't understand this complaint. Just try and find a discussion of the iPod versus other players where someone doesn't call the iPod overpriced. But if you compare the iPod to its competitors you'll see that this isn't the case at all. Compare the 30GB iPod to the Creative Zen Vision: M, the Toshiba Gigabeat, or the iAudio X5 (all 30GB players of similar size), and you'll find that they're exactly the same suggested retail price! I suppose if you go for a bargain basement model with a black & white screen you can get cheaper, but that's hardly a fair comparison. Even though their computers are now very competitively priced with their Windows counterparts, Apple finds it hard to shake the image that they are overpriced.

Finally, there are the people who hate the iPod precisely because it is popular. Those white headphones are so ubiquitous. They don't want to be seen as following the crowd and may dismiss the iPod as being too trendy. I've heard a lot of people say that the iPod is only popular because it is "cool." And in fact this idea is the entiire focus of SanDisk's recent iDont marketing campaign.

I'm not really sure where the whole "iPod is cool" thing comes from. Some say it is a result of Apple's advertising, but I'm not sure if that explains it. Apple has never done a very good job of using advertising effectively. Their ads are often memorable, but they fall short in actually getting people to want to buy the product. They've certainly not done a whole lot to sell the Macintosh. While Apple's ads certainly help build an image for the iPod, I think the iPod's initial success had little to do with advertising. Apple was just the first to really get the potential of the MP3 player. Before the iPod, you could either buy a Nomad-style player with a hard disk that was the size of an old CD Walkman or get a smaller flash-based player that could hold one or two albums' worth of songs. The genius of the iPod was that it combined these two types (a large amount of storage in a relatively small package) and made it truly easy to use. They came at just the right point in history to tap into the concept of digital music. Once set in motion, this juggernaut is very hard to stop. For me, the iPod just has the perfect balance of ease of use and features. Unless another manufacturer comes out with something very compelling, there's just no reason to buy anything but an iPod.


1 Comment »

  1. Don’t forget their crappy sound quality (I assume you wouldn’t know anything about this since you’ve probably only had an ipod your entire life). Personally, I’ve noticed that ipods barely have any bass in them, and have a ‘harsh’ sound.

    Also, when you use an ipod, youre mostly restricted to itunes, which a lot of people don’t like. Personally, I’d prefer being able to use other services such as yahoo!, rhapsody, ect.

    When people mention price, I think they’re talking about the nano (first and secong gen). $250 for 4 gig? I can get 8 gig for $150 buying a sansa e200.

    Comment by Paul — December 3, 2007 @ 8:01 pm

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