Apple's 6th-gen iPod not all it's cracked up to be

I’ve always wanted/needed a good solid digital media player (e.g. iPod, Zune, iRiver, etc) – a device that had a lot of storage capacity for the ever-growing media library, had solid performance, an intuitive interface, support for major standards, and of course it needed to look good too. I’d narrowed my selection to two contenders: Apple’s iPod and Microsoft’s Zune.

I wanted the Zune to be honest. I own PCs running Windows Vista and XP, I’ve carefully engineered my music collection for Windows Media Player 11’s amazingly intelligent media library, and I have files scattered across multiple computers in numerous folders. The Zune would have been perfect for my needs since it easily integrates with the technology I already own. I wanted to buy a new or almost new device (and certainly the latest since this thing needs to last awhile), so I started looking on Froogle, Amazon, and eBay for the best deals on Zunes and iPods. I came to this conclusion: I could buy a Zune for nearly retail price or I could get an iPod for $100 less than what Apple sells charges on it’s website. I decided that the iPod had a good enough reputation that it would definitely suit my needs and since 99% of my audio files are in MP3 as opposed to WMA, I could let iTunes catalog the files and transfer them to the iPod. So that’s what I did–I bought the iPod Classic (6th gen) 80GB. And I got a good deal.

It took about a week to receive the unit, but once it finally arrived, I excitedly opened the package and took out a small black box from inside. Wow, I thought. That’s pretty small! It was an open-box item, but looked like to be in mint condition as I lifted it from it’s packaging. I carefully examined it and upon deciding that it was in perfect condition (minus a couple fingerprints on it’s brilliantly reflective back), I removed the quick start guide, headphones, and charge/sync cable from the bottom of the box. A few short minutes later, I was plugged in and waiting for the iPod to charge.

I walked away for awhile and gave the device the recommended 2 hours for a quick charge, deciding that I’d play with it while waiting for the other 2 hours of its 4-hour complete charge cycle to finish. First thing that happened was iTunes launched. I’d made sure a couple days previous that I had the latest version of the software (in this case v7.7) so that it would have the latest bug fixes among other things. At first, iTunes kept giving some strange unknown errors and recommended that I reboot the device. I ignored it momentarily and noticed that it had been run through initial setup by the previous owner, but there was nothing actually on the device. So, like a good tech-savvy individual, I told iTunes to look for a firmware upgrade and then restore the machine to the factory-condition settings. This would reformat the internal drive, reset the RAM, and then upgrade the device software/firmware to the latest revision. All of this went smoothly and a few minutes later I was happily clicking through the initial setup screens within iTunes. Everything seemed to be great!

Now, I decided, it was time for the true test. I had 10GB of audio imported into iTunes, a few video podcasts, and an audiobook or two that I would sync to the iPod directly after the initial setup had completed. Everything was ready and then with great enthusiasm, I clicked “Sync.”

The speed pleasantly surprised me! Everything transferred over in just a few minutes and then reported that synchronization was complete. I unplugged the iPod, popped in the included headphones and started surfing around the device. First I opened a video podcast-the image was crisp and reminded me of HD quality video. Pretty slick. Next I decided to try out the music, since that’s primarily what I’d bought it for. I opened up an album or two and played a few songs. Flawless! I opened a third album and that’s where all my troubles began.

I selected just a random song from the album and waited for the music to start-only when it did, it was the wrong song! Figuring I’d just accidentally moved the selector before hitting ‘play’ I used the click-wheel to go back a track and tried again. That’s when I knew there was a problem.

The iPod (seemingly randomly) refuses to play certain songs on the device. It’ll show album art, the length of the song, and the track info, but after about 2 seconds, it’ll just skip to the next song it can play. Really strange. It wasn’t completely unexpected though since it was an open-box item after all. I checked the warranty on Apple’s website and was relieved to know that it didn’t expire until the coming December. I figured that the internal hard-drive was defective and that I’d need it to be replaced. I scheduled some time to go visit with a “genius” at our local Apple store, but before totally deciding what to do I began researching the problem online. Before I knew it, I’d found twenty or thirty (yes, 20 or 30) pages of forum postings and discussion groups all with the exact same problem. Turns out more than just a few people owning iPod Classics are pretty upset with their device that plays in some cases only half of their music. I certainly empathize with their frustration. Why in the world would Apple release a product that’s seemingly half-baked?? The firmware has been updated multiple times for other issues, but this one widespread problem hasn’t even been acknowledged much less addressed by the company. These 6th generation iPods are getting close to being a year old now and it’s seeming less and less likely that we’ll ever receive a fix.

Turns out that iPods aren’t the only Apple products having problems. Others have been reporting problems with MacBooks as well as the ‘famed’ OS X operating system. Several people even went as far as to accuse Apple of not testing their hardware and software before releasing them to the public. You can have the brightest minds in the world, but without quality assurance and good testing, things turn out pretty mediocre. I’m going to have to agree with them…

So, Steve Jobs, hear this: It’ll take alot of persuasion to convince me to purchase another Apple product, and until you can prove to me that you care about your customers, that you are committed to releasing quality products, and that you are not just another company whose goal is nothing save making as much money as you can while slighting customers left and right, that’s probably where I’ll stand. I refuse to pay outrageous prices for second-rate hardware. I don’t care if you claim to have the most advanced operating system in the world, or if your digital media players hold the majority market share, or if your so-called visionary business plan saved your company from imminent destruction; my first and last purchase of one of your products has left me with a sour taste in my mouth. For that, I sincerely hope that people wake up to what Apple really is: just another company that cares about no one but itself.

After reading all this, you’ve probably labeled me as just another Apple-hater, but really…I’m not. I like companies that make quality stuff and seek to provide the greatest flexibility for the greatest number of people. From Apple, I haven’t seen that attitude.

Now that’s just shameful.

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