Apple has released iOS 6.1, the latest update to the operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. A minor change has been made to the lockscreen music controls – these are visible if your iOS device is locked, and you double-press the home button. Instead of displaying the time in a huge font, and the name of what you’re listening to below the slider, these small texts are above the fold, and the time is missing (it’s visible in the toolbar already, so it doesn’t need to be so big).
This lets you see more of your lockscreen wallpaper, which is, I guess, useful, but I’d much rather see more playback controls there: perhaps the shuffle and repeat buttons that you get in the Music app itself, or even the Genius button. Since I do use the lockscreen controls often when listening to music, it would be nice for those controls to provide the same access to features as the Music app. It would also be nice to be able to view lyrics from the lockscreen.
Posted: 1/29/2013 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes Tags: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod | No Comments »
Update: I’ve reposted this article because with the release of iTunes 11, the Gapless Album tag is no longer available in the program. However, many people don’t understand this, and think that the removal of this tag means that iTunes no longer plays music without gaps. This is incorrect. Read on and understand what this tag was for.
Following a comment from a Twitter friend, asking how to find which of a number of albums require gapless playback, I pointed him to an old article on this website. (I won’t link to it, as it was written in 2006, and addressed the problem of gapless playback on the iPod.) I realized that many people don’t understand what that Gapless Album tag is, so here’s a brief explanation.
If you select a number of tracks in iTunes, then choose Get Info, and click on the Options tab, you see this:
And if you choose a single track, you see this:
That tag at the bottom of the first screenshot, Gapless Album, or at the bottom of the second, Part of a Gapless Album (thanks for being consistent, Apple), has one, and only one usage. This tag only matters if you have Crossfade Song turned on in iTunes (Preferences > Playback), and it only affects playback from iTunes. All gapless albums are automatically detected and played as such on iPods and other iOS devices. You may even see iTunes “Determining Gapless Playback Information” when you add new files to your iTunes library; this is simply to find whether the music ends at the end of the file or not. (Not actually at the end, in fact; there’s a brief bit of silence no matter what, but it’s a set length, so if the silence is that length, iTunes knows to ignore it.)
So, unless you use Crossfade Songs, you never need to worry about this tag.
See Apple’s technical note about gapless playback.
Posted: 12/3/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes Tags: iOS, iPod, iTunes, music | 20 Comments »
It’s been years since I’ve used Apple’s earbuds with an iPod or iPhone. I’ve long been a fan of good, light headphones, and my go-to cans for when I’m moving around are Sennheiser’s PX 100-II i, a light, foldable headset with an inline mic and iOS device controller. But I got a set of Apple’s EarPods with my iPhone 5 last week, and thought I’d try them out.
First, the shape. It’s odd, but it makes sense. Not only the oblong shape in general, but the position of the sound point, pointing toward the ear canal, rather than just to the side of the ear. They fit fairly well, even if, in my left ear, it feels as though it’s not quite right. All in all, however, this is an earbud that won’t fall out easily, and that’s a good thing.
But then there’s the sound. These earbuds are totally devoid of bass, and even of low midrange sounds. At first, I tried them out when listening to some podcasts. The lack of bass actually makes spoken word a bit easier to understand. But when I put on some music – The Clash’s Train in Vain, from London Calling, for example, with a strong bass riff – the music was hollow and empty.
No, these don’t cut it for listening to music. They’re a bit better than the previous earbuds in terms of sound, and much better at staying in ears, but if you really want to listen to your music, try something else.
Posted: 9/25/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes, music Tags: headphones, iPod | 2 Comments »
With Apple holding a media event later today, to announce a new iPhone, iOS 6, and other products, what can we expect from this event? It seems obvious that the iPhone 5 will be announced today. iOS 6 will certainly be presented in detail, as it will be optimized for the iPhone 5.
But beyond those products, what else can we expect? My guess is that we will see new iPods: a revamped iPod touch, perhaps a new iPod nano, and maybe, finally, the demise of the iPod classic. One thing I think we will finally see is an increase in capacity for the iPod touch, and, perhaps, for the iPhone. It’s about time that we get 128 GB in these portable devices. And if this capacity increases for the iPod touch and the iPhone, it is almost a given that the iPod classic will be retired.
It is also very likely that Apple will present some new iTunes features. It’s not clear that we can expect a radical change to iTunes, but there has been some discussion of a possible streaming music service.
All the rumors that suggest the release of an iPad mini point to a separate media event sometime in October. An iPad mini is a very different device from an iPhone, and an event dedicated to that, and highlighting the iPad’s capabilities, would make a lot of sense.
I don’t think we can expect any new Macs today, at least not in the presentation. But no matter what, any speculation that I or any pundit or analyst can make will certainly only be partly correct.
Posted: 9/12/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, iPhone, iPod | 4 Comments »
The iPod nano is the iPod that has undergone the most changes throughout its life. A direct descendant of the iPod mini, released in spring, 2004, the first iPod nano, introduced in September, 2005, was a tall, slim device with the then-familiar scroll wheel and a small screen. In 2007, the third generation iPod nano featured a squat shape, much wider then previously, and a wider screen. The 2008 model returned to a taller body, with a tall screen, and finally, the latest version – first released in September 2010 – is a small, clip-on device like the iPod shuffle, but with a touch screen.
Unlike the iPod classic, which still looks a lot like the first iPod, the nano has constantly searched for the right shape and size. It has been a popular device, offering limited storage, but at a lower price than the iPod classic or the iPod touch.
Reports from a Japanese website, www.macotakara.jp, suggest that the iPod nano will abandon the flawed touch-screen model and return to a shape and size closer to earlier versions. This one would have a home button and a touch-screen interface that may be similar to that on iOS.
Of all the iPods, I find the nano to be the least usable. The current version has a touch screen which is very hard to use. There are two types of actions you perform with this screen: you either tap it or swipe it. I’ve found that swipes are often interpreted as taps, and it constantly irks me to have to try to navigate that device. For I do use my iPod nano regularly, when walking, to listen to podcasts. I like the fact that it has a clip, and it is much better than the iPod shuffle, but the interface is flawed.
Of all the iPod nanos, the fourth and fifth generation models were the most practical. Light and slim, easy to slip into a pocket, they were easy to use with their scroll wheel, and the standard menu-based screen was easy to navigate. However, a newer model with an improved touch screen – inspired by iOS – could do the trick.
It’s odd that the iPod nano, one of Apple’s best selling iPods, has changed so much. It’s almost as if Apple can’t make up its mind which form factor and size to use. It’s certainly less of a priority to the company now that iOS is where the real money is made, but it’s still a great device for when you want to carry a small amount of music or spoken word programs on the go.
Apple will most likely introduce new iPods in September, which is when the company also tends to update iTunes. We’ll see then if the shape-shifting iPod nano looks different yet again.
Posted: 7/11/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes Tags: Apple, iPod | 3 Comments »
iLounge is reporting on new iPhone specs which include two major changes: a different aspect ratio, and a new dock connector. This seem surprising for two reasons.
First, changing the aspect ratio would mean that all apps have to be updated. Unless the additional space is something like the Dock in OS X; a list of icons for the most recently used apps, or those you wish to always have just a tap away. Instead of pressing the home button to change apps, you could tap one of the apps on that Dock. The downside to this is that it would be ugly. Imagine if you’re watching a video or playing a game; will that Dock disappear? I’m not convinced that this would be a good choice.
The second thing that would surprise me is a change in the dock connector. There is a huge ecosystem of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch accessories that depend on the current 30-pin dock connector. Rendering all of these accessories unusable with new models would be a severe change that would annoy millions of users. (Class action suit anyone?)
Also, changing the aspect ratio – and the size – would once again mean that your iPhone case doesn’t fit. Many cases work with both the iPhone 4 and 4S, and it’s fair to assume that a case won’t be compatible for a very long time, but Apple should try to maintain the usability of accessories as long as possible.
I think these specs are not authentic especially regarding the dock connector, which has millions, of not tens of millions of currently used devices, which would no longer function. The way the dock connector works in, say, docking stations with speakers, means that it’s not easy to add an adapter. Some devices might be able to use one, but most that I’ve seen wouldn’t work with an adaptor.
Also, if enough rumors come out that there will be a new dock connector, accessory manufacturers will have trouble selling their existing devices. I think that if Apple is definitely not planning to change the dock connector, they should make this clear, so both vendors and users can be sure that accessories will continue to work with future iOS devices.
Posted: 5/4/2012 by kirk | Filed under: iPad, iPhone, iPod & iTunes Tags: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod | 10 Comments »
In the search for better sound from portable devices, such as iPods, a number of add-ons (or plug-ins, literally) are available. There are several small headphone amps that you can use with an iPod or other portable music player, and then there’s the $70 SRS iWow 3D. This device plugs into the dock connector of your iPod, iPhone or iPad, and has a headphone jack for you to plug in your headphones or earbuds.
I tested the SRS iWow 3D on a number of devices, and with several different headphones. SRS claims that this device “Deliver[s] natural and immersive sound with deep, rich bass,” and that it “Dynamically locates and restores audio details buried in source material.” It does indeed change the sound of your music; the question is, is that change good or not? I think this type of device is something you will either love or hate, and that there’s not much middle ground.
First of all, the SRS iWow 3D does provide a feeling of surround sound, or what the company calls “immersive” sound. It’s actually quite impressive; there is a noticeable separation among instruments when it is on. While I wouldn’t call it surround sound – which SRS does not – it is more spacious. I don’t know exactly how this voodoo is worked, but some of it involves equalization and a change in overall volume. When you connect the SRS iWow 3D to your device, you press a small LED-lit button to turn it on; if the LED is off, it is merely passing the sound through without altering it. You can instantly notice that the volume is slightly increased, so to compare, you need to adjust the volume to try to hear both signals at the same loudness. The high end and low end are noticeably increased, and there is an overall augmentation of bass, something that portable players often lack.
In my tests with Beyerdynamic DT 990 32 amp headphones, I noticed a bit of hiss at the high end, with some types of music (this was more prominent with orchestral music than rock or pop); it seems that this treble boost is too much for some recordings. Jerry Garcia’s voice on Ripple sounds less smooth; the drums on U2′s Sunday Bloody Sunday are too punchy; and the bass on Brian Eno’s Just Another Day is almost distorted; and Bob Dylan’s voice on Desolation Row sounds processed and hissy.
On the other hand, when I plugged in a pair of Sennheiser PX 100-II i headphones, Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road sounded much better through the SRS iWow 3D; Lou Reed’s voice on Pale Blue Eyes stood out much more; and the acoustic guitar background on Bob Dylan’s Forever Young took on much more space.
(Note that most of my tests with classical music showed that the device, at least with good headphones, doesn’t help much.)
I performed the above tests first on an iPod classic. If you have an iOS device, you can use SRS’s iWow application to choose the type of output (headphones, speakers or car), and choose from advanced settings, such as Wide Surround, Deep Bass and High Treble. This gives you a bit more flexibility in the way the sound is rendered, and you can adjust these settings to fit your headphones. Results were a bit better using the device with the app.
My verdict is this: if you have good, relatively expensive headphones, the SRS iWow 3D won’t improve the sound of your music, and the adjustments it makes may not work with your headphones. However, if you use earbuds or portable headphones, notably with limited bass response, the SRS iWow 3D will give them a much better sound. Also, if you use an iOS device, the SRS iWow app will give you a bit more control over the sound.
This said, I think each listener will need to decide if they like the type of sound this device provides. You should ideally test this with your headphones to see how you feel about the sound.
One note: the LED on the device is bright, and, together with the actual signal processing, the SRS iWow 3D uses up a fair amount of battery life. SRS claims that this reduces battery life by approximately 18%. That’s a lot, if you use your iPod for several hours a day, and could be a deal-breaker.
Posted: 11/22/2011 by kirk | Filed under: iPad, iPod & iTunes, music Tags: gadgets, iPod, music | 3 Comments »
Ten years ago today, Apple introduced the first iPod. To many people, it’s hard to imagine what the world was like back then. In my latest Macworld article, I look at How the iPod changed the world of music, discussing my experiences before the iPod and since it’s introduction.
Posted: 10/23/2011 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: iPod | No Comments »