Everyone expected it, and, following the logical progression of technology, this week Apple announced the next iteration of their iPod, the iPod Video. Coming in 30 and 60 gigabyte models and sporting a slimmer design with a longer estimated battery life, it can play audio, picture and video files on the upgraded 2.5" screen. These improvements all sound wonderful, but the question we are asking here at the GoodGearGuide is, is it worth it?
Portable media players have generated a lot of hype over the last few years, ironically growing smaller and more compact as the size of household televisions continues to grow. There has got to be a point at which a compact device is simply sacrificing too much screen size in exchange for portability.
The iPod video may well reach that point. Admittedly the LCD has grown .5" from the previous model, but anyone who has used a digital camera with a similar sized screen knows that even 2.5" is painfully inadequate for viewing most video footage. Watching music video clips whilst you listen to the song may be cool at first, but we predict many people will relegate the iPod Video back to the role of standard mp3 player within a few months.
The reverse is also true of course; there must be a point at which a device is simply too big to be considered portable. Take the Archos AV700 media player. It sports an absolutely massive 7" screen, offering many times the viewing area of the Ipod Video, yet it definitely doesn't fit in any pockets and will take up a good chunk of real estate in most people's bags.
Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) appears to have struck a good balance, with its 4.3" screen it is barely bigger than an old model mobile phone. Video was big enough to be reasonably enjoyable, but truth be told we wouldn't go out of our way to watch things on it. The real question is, would people have bought it if that was all it did? The PSP, like the iPod, offers alternative functionality, a combination of music, photos, storage, applications and games, all in a relatively compact package and this makes it one of the most popular products on the market. Every time we hop on a train or a bus we see a few people playing their PSPs, and even more listening to their Ipods. Compare that with the rare sight of someone with a portable media player and the situation becomes clearer.
People will buy the iPod Video, just like people bought the PSP and the iPod photo. They may not sport the biggest screen or be the best in any one department, but it appears quality has taken a backseat to functionality and convergence. Manufacturers take note, one thing just isn't enough anymore.