29 September 2007

Music Downloads

I’m sure I’ll eventually get something from Amazon MP3, but so far I’m not wildly impressed. Let’s do a comparison of a random album.

Amazon MP3 sells the Mekons album “Natural” for $8.99 as unprotected MP3s. There are 12 songs, so that’s $0.75 per song. Sold separately, they’re $0.99 per song. I haven’t played with the site much, but searching seems weak. Playing tracks is easy.

iTunes has it for $9.99 as protected AAC files, but includes two bonus tracks. That’s $0.71 per song. (The bonus tracks seem to be variants of other songs — nice to have but not essential.) Sold separately, they’re $0.99 per song. Searching is excellent — I really like the feature that must have been added recently, where band names are suggested as you type in the “Search iTunes Store” field. Playing tracks is easy.

eMusic has the same 12 songs as unprotected MP3s. Their basic subscription gives you 30 downloads a month for $9.99. That’s $0.33 per song (there’s no discount for buying an entire album). It looks like eMusic changed their plans slightly since I subscribed, but I think that by paying for a year in advance, I get 40 tracks a month for $9.99 — $0.25 per song. A much better deal, and in my opinion worth the crappier web interface (I usually sample songs on iTunes). Searching is OK, but playing tracks is a pain (I get a .m3u file I have to open separately). Oh, and eMusic has free tracks, sometimes entire albums of good stuff (e.g. “A Marmoset Menagerie”).

For what it’s worth, I got the Mekons CD as a birthday present. Amazon sells it for $13.99, or $1.17 per song. But it’s encoded at CD quality, includes liner notes, and is a backup for the version I ripped to my computer.

I’m happy with the CD, but I would have been almost as happy getting the music from eMusic.

I realize most people have different tastes, and may be more interested in the major label stuff that might not be on eMusic. But I do almost all my purchasing from eMusic — currently 1471 songs (which includes free tracks) compared to 1229 songs (including about 150 free tracks) from iTunes. Getting songs for 1/4 the price is worth the inconvenience, and some of the free stuff would have been worth buying.

27 September 2007

iPhone 1.1.1

Am I the only one who noticed that the upgrade added color to the Calculator icon?

By the way, I had absolutely no trouble installing the update. Then again, I hadn’t gotten around to adding 3rd party software.

16 September 2007

iPod touch

Bill Palmer writes, “based on my early testing, I'd have to say that the iPod touch is by far the most amazing product to ever bear the "iPod" brand name.”

It’s perhaps unfair for me to comment without having seen one, but I don’t think that’s possible, based on my experience with iPhone.

I once used a Sansa Rhapsody device, and it was intensely frustrating. Pretty much every time I needed to use its controls, I cursed it. Its controls were nowhere near as easy to use as any iPod I had owned (original, shuffle, white nano). You simply had to pull out the device and look at it in order to pause, skip an annoying song, or change volume. Invariably this meant that I missed whatever announcement the bus driver was making. The iPod’s click wheel can be used simply by reaching into your shirt pocket, and in some cases, through the shirt. This takes very little time.

iPhone doesn’t have a click wheel, and loses that convenience. It does largely make up for it by having an external volume switch, and by having a clicker in the microphone that’s part of the standard earbuds. So the most useful stuff is available without looking at the screen.

But iPod touch doesn’t come with the clicker (and reports are you can’t even use the one from an iPhone). So you would have to pull out the device, and presumably do something to turn on the display. This is clearly not as good as any previous iPod — including iPhone. Touch is really not a very good interface for an iPod’s basic job, playing music through headphones.