Product Designs of Audio Players (Part 3)

Next, by comparing with a second, more superior product that I have chosen, I am to describe how these less well-designed features in the first product are better designed in the second product. I chose to praise an Apple Inc.’s product of course!

Apple Inc. iPod

Background

“With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go. With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.” – Apple CEO Steve Jobs, when he was introducing iPod in October 2001. (Sherman, Inside the Apple iPod Design Triumph, 2002)

From the moment Apple set its mind to design a digital audio player, Apple focused its development on the user interface and its ease of use, rather than on technical capability. From October 2004, the iPod became the world’s best-selling range of digital audio players and its worldwide mainstream adoption made it one of the most popular consumer brands (Wikipedia). Here are how its design features are far more superior to that of Creative Zen Vision: M.

Design of the Package

Clean design of the iPod package “Flawless,” “inventive,” and “utterly consistent with what we’ve come to expect from Apple” were some of the praises the jurors of Annual Design Review award have on the packaging for the iPod (F+W Publications Inc., 2004). The package graphics are quiet and gimmick-free: printed on the box are just the iPod, iPod and Apple logos, plus a top marking of the iPod’s hard disk capacity, song storage, and PC + Mac compatibility. Such slick and streamlined design allows the consumer to concentrate on the iconic designs of the iPod. Other than creating a stylish design, Apple also catered to consumers who need more technical specifications of the player. Details such as package contents and requirements are printed at the bottom of the box for their perusal.

Design of the Player

From Factor

“They [Apple] did product design from the outside in.” David Carey, president of Portelligent, says that Apple had a vision of what the player should be and what it should look like (Sherman, Inside the Apple iPod Design Triumph, 2002). Such a unique design process allows the form factor to be first determined, which then will dictate the subsequent design parameters. This outside-in perspective helped the product designers to keep on track. Next, without going through the details of the individual components, one can immediately agree that it is an engineering feat to pack the internal electronics within a 61.8 by 103.5 by 11 millimeters form factor. And this is achieved without compromising on hard disk capacity and battery life.

User Interface

Improved user interface on top of an already superb click wheel designThe touch-sensitive wheel is the most ingeniously designed user interface and is what made the iPod intuitive. It allows the user to fully control the iPod with a simple five-button interface. The design allows the user to navigate with just a finger, and he/she gets tactile feedback with each press of a button. The precision that this interface provides distinguishes the iPod from the agony user experiences with competing players.

One stroke of genius that this interface has is that the menus scroll faster the longer the wheel is turned. Thus browsing through a long list of songs becomes a breeze. To further improve on the speed, if one is scrolling quickly through a long list, the iPod will display a beveled large-sized letter on screen. Once the letter is displayed, the list skips promptly from letter to letter. This gives the user more visual feedback and therefore one can easily know where one is in the list of songs.

Realizing that a linear scrolling interface is still not efficient enough, especially on occasions when the user needs to find a specific song quickly, Apple has added a powerful but easy-to-use search engine. The search engine helps the user find songs, artists, and albums based on their letter content. All that one needs to do is to input the word and the results would be displayed as the search term is typed. To differentiate between different results categories, icons show up on the left of each result. For example, the head and shoulder icon in Figure 7 represents an Artist result type.

In conclusion, the iPod user interface ensures that it does not become the demise of its own huge memory capacity. All efforts are in place to enable a user to browse a huge music collection as easy as possible.

The Dock Connector

iPod radio remote and camera connector The iPod does not have an additional component like that of Vision: M. With an USB cable, it charges through the bottom dock connector port and it uses the same port for music and video file transfers too. Next, video output is made possible from the same audio jack that users use for their earphones.

In fact, bottom dock connector port of iPod functions more than battery charging and files transfers. It also allows Apple and third party developers to extend the reach and versatility of the device way beyond its native form as an already impressive mobile music and video player. One example is the camera connector from Apple with which one can transfer pictures directly from a digital camera into the iPod with just S$45. Generally known as iPod accessories, the market for such add-ons has become a rich ecosystem in its own right, to the tune of more than $300 million annually, and sales of such products are growing faster (Jr., 2005). To sum up, Apple has made full use of the connector port to further extend the market of iPod.

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