Thursday, August 26, 2010

Five Features That Would Make iPod + iTunes Better For Music Fans

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 1:28 PM

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Even if we don't know what will actually happen at Apple's big music announcement next week, we know what we want to happen. The iTunes/iPod combination has long been the standard apparatus for music fans, but as much as we love it, there are things we hate about it, too -- and things we wish it would do that it doesn't do. Here are the top five features that we, as music fans, want to see in the next iPod and iTunes -- and hope Apple will announce next week.

1. Transfer any song to a computer from the iPod
When the iPod was born, Apple disallowed users from transferring any song from the iPod to a connected computer. The company somewhat recently changed this, allowing users to move songs purchased on the iTunes store from an iPod to another computer that's authorized to play them. But we still can't transfer songs purchased in any other way. So if I bought or otherwise legally obtained a CD, ripped it onto my computer, and transferred the files onto my iPod, I can't move those songs from the iPod onto another computer I own. (Well, I can, but I need to use a third-party program like Senuti to do it.)

This anti-feature began, many speculated, as a way to to tamp down record labels' fears about the devices serving as a medium for piracy. But that was before iTunes was a behemoth and Apple ruled the world of music technology. Use your clout, Apple, and give users the functionality that our multiple-computer world demands. (And yes, we know this isn't all that realistic, but we can dream, can't we?)

2. More speed
iTunes is slower than a good Justin Bieber song. It takes about three years for the software to recognize when I plug in an iPod, and about a decade for it to eject the damn thing. Also, as crisp and sexy-looking as it is, the software dominates system resources like a My Bloody Valentine show dominates eardrums. All of which is too bad for a program that isn't otherwise clunky or awkward. Apple, can you please speed this thing up?

3. Social networking integration
Rumor has it Apple is building a social networking layer into the new iTunes. But rather than a new set of friends, followers and recommendations to deal with, I'd love to see Facebook and Twitter built into iTunes (and even wireless-enabled iPods) so that I can share a song or tweet about it while it's blowing my mind. Why not a "now playing" button that would throw the song title, artist and a #nowplaying hashtag into a tweet for us? Or a "recommend" button, so I could post the song (and perhaps an audio sample!) to a friend's Facebook wall? Being able to do this right from iTunes would encourage users to share the the music we're listening to with the world.

4. Wireless song/file transfer
This should have been in iTunes a long time ago. Why is it that we users can download songs from the iTunes store onto our iPhones and iPod touches, but we can't transfer songs via Bluetooth or a wireless network from our computer to a nearby phone or iPod? Cables are so 2005, Apple.

5. Better music navigation within the iPod
Finding everything I want to listen to on an 80- or 120-gig iPod has me spinning the little  touch wheel forever -- and still getting frustrated. Instead of guessing and scrolling (or searching), it would be great if users could create smart playlists right on the iPod like we currently can in iTunes. (Smart playlists are created in iTunes by choosing certain parameters, like "date added" or "song title contains," that the system then builds a playlist from.)

Along the same lines, Apple should allow users to add their own categories to the iPod's menu system -- so that, instead of merely having a playlist for "summer jams" or "party starters," we could set up whole sections of music that would accompany the standard lists of "Artist," "Album," "Song," and "Genre" on the iPod's main menu. I imagine this as being similar to the way users can create categories of apps on the iPhone, like "utilities" or "productivity." Allowing users a way to categorize music on their own -- besides simply adding songs to a playlist -- would help us maximize the awesomeness of being able to carry around huge amounts of music in our pocket.

Other feature ideas:
- A clean-out-your-iPod feature. We hate it when iTunes tells us, cryptically, that we don't have enough room on our iPod to copy over all the songs we want. Instead of just transferring the files it has room for, can't iTunes help us clear off some space for all of them? Maybe by giving us a window with the songs we've listened to the least, or the files that take up the most room? E-mail programs can do this -- iTunes should, too.

- Bigger iPods. Having 120 gigs is nice, but what about those of us who dream about being able to carry our entire music library on our iPod? What about 500 gigs? What about a terabyte? We'd need better ways to navigate all that music, but some of us would find a use for such massive music players.

- Live show notifications and artist news in iTunes. Sure, there are widgets that do this, but what if iTunes -- coupled with the rumored new ticketing features Apple is working on -- would just tell us when we're listening to an artist who will be performing in our area? What if we had the option to buy tickets right from iTunes? (This may actually be coming.) And what if the program would search Google for recent news headlines about the artist we're listening to, and stream them in the window? In short, iTunes should connect us to the world through our music.

What features do you want in iTunes and on the iPod? Tell us in the comments.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @iPORT

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Ian S. Port

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