iPod At Home

I’ve had an ordinary iPod for years, and it’s brilliant for helping me mentally escape the morning public transport crush. Plus it’s great for turning otherwise “wasted” minutes in the day into enjoyable and productive moments when I listen to my batch of podcasts. But, a few weeks ago I bought a new iPod – not to replace the old one, but to leave around the home.

It’s not as crazy as it seems. I bought an iPod Touch, and although it is capable of playing music and TV shows, I don’t intend to use it for multimedia content (I’ve already got an iPod that can do that). It’s primarily an Internet device, and the applications installed on it are almost life-changing.

Whenever I am about to go for a walk, or head to work, or put out washing, I grab it and check the Melbourne rain radar. It takes less than 10 seconds from picking up the device, because it turns on instantly. I would never have bothered to use the laptop for this, but with the iPod Touch it is too easy.

If Kate is watching the TV, I might use it to browse the TV guide of shows that are on other channels, and read summaries of what they are. I often check ahead to see what shows are on that night. Again – I could have done this on the laptop, but it would take minutes to turn it on, boot it up, start up Firefox, go to the relevant website, etc.

I’ve found myself regularly using the Facebook application, which pretty incredible as I rarely used it before. In fact, it has replaced Twitter as my microblogging platform of choice. The app has a couple of bugs and lacks some parts of the full Facebook site, but it is brilliant for catching up on what people have been doing, checking out photos and basically staying in touch.

Also, the web browser on the iPod Touch is as full-featured as a normal desktop web browser (with the exception of having no Flash plugin), and Google Mail has a slick web interface for the iPhone / iPod Touch that performs almost like a native application. The on-screen touch keyboard for the iPod is pretty easy to get used to, and is easier than any phone keyboard I’ve used, particularly when you hold the iPod on its side.

Aside from Google Mail, just using the web browser to search for a website when it comes up in conversation, or when it appears on the TV, or a question just comes to mind.. it is almost trivial to get the information you’re after.

We have also started using the iPod Touch as our de facto digital photo album. All the recent pics are stored in there, and it’s easy to flick through them to show them off to people who visit. It’s better quality than the digital camera screen, and faster to browse. And again, it would take too long to fire up the laptop.

None of these applications is enough to justify the iPod Touch on its own (although, Google Mail and the Facebook app come close), it is really the pure convenience of getting instant access to a wealth of information. It has also provided a sense of connectness to my online friends that I didn’t have before.

There are a few annoying aspects though. Firstly, the web browser (Safari) is prone to crash on several major sites (including The Age) as this is what it does when it runs out of memory. Also, it is pretty slow to synch with the PC since it tries to backup everything. And it doesn’t have the best support for some of the older WiFi security models – it kept on forgetting about my non-SSID broadcasting WEP protected network, requiring me to keep entering the secret key every couple of days.

However, it is an amazing device. Although I’d previously touched on some of the aspects I thought made it revolutionary, I hadn’t appreciated the benefit from the processing power on the device. This provides incredible responsiveness, and together with ability to turn it on instantly, reinforces the sense of convenience. Even Kate thinks it’s pretty cool.