In another blog prior to this one, I wrote about a prediction I have for iPods. Because I plan on fully retiring that blog in the near future, I thought I would port the post here to keep the prediction alive. Note: I wrote this post long before the recent flurry of iPhone headlines.
Here’s my prediction: The next iPod will be the new hook Apple will use to enter the cell phone market.
A little history:
- First Apple introduced an iPod. It played music well.
- Then Apple introduced color iPods with photo capabilities. A mostly useless upgrade, but still cool.
- Then Apple introduced a video iPod. Suddenly portable video became a hit.
- Then Motorola introduced the completely shitty Rokr iTunes phone. Nobody cared.
The reason why no cell phones have been successful with music playing integration is that the two tasks require use input methods that are starkly different. Making calls requires a number pad and the ability to browse through a phone book. Sending text messages requires typing abilities. Browsing music, on the other hand, requires volume control, music selection, and play control. Let’s not forget the entire device must be able to sync the music files too. Dumber people in the past have speculated Apple would release a phone iPod that had an old fashioned digital number dial type of thing that would superimpose over the click wheel. Wrong. Dead freaking wrong!
Let’s fill in the gap. Recently there have been very prominent rumors about a new version of the video iPod that has a giant touch screen with a digital click wheel that only appears as necessary. Sounds cool, right? Now you’ll be able to enjoy videos more than ever! But wait, there’s more.
Apple’s newly rumored screen-only interface is the key. No, not because they can superimpose numbers over it when you’re in “phone mode.” Like I said above, wrong! Rather, because when you go into “phone mode,” the click wheel disappears and is replaced by a cell phone style keyboard. That’s right. The new all-digital front panel allows Apple to overcome the problem of mixing two different devices with completely different input methods. The new iPod will simply drop the click wheel if you aren’t doing a music or video related action. It’s genius.
Imagine an iPod that has a small, albeit low-quality, speaker that allows you to use the iPod as a phone as well as hear your movies. Imagine newly upgraded iPod earbuds that allow you to make and receive phone calls without ever taking your iPod out of your pocket, all while simultaneously pausing your music. Imagine a phone where your ring tone could be any song you own.
Apple won’t be pushing this new idea forward any time soon. The world is not yet ready for an all-in-one device. But the day will come. The current big personal electronic devices are:
- Music player (iPod)
- Movie player (iPod)
- Cell phone
- Internet device
It’s clear that some devices are best left independent. Apple won’t want to make their pristine products murky by adding mediocre peripherals such as a crappy 3.0 megapixel camera; not to mention such a hardware extension will probably compromise the sleekness of an iPod. That said, cameras are likely off the list forever merging with the iPod unless they can integrate it without messing up the smooth curves on the device.
Apple could go another route by integrating Internet access, but I predict that Internet access has too many geek-only issues such as security that may confuse or annoy consumers — Apple will probably never merge Internet access with the iPod. However, they may integrate wireless networking functionality to allow syncing with iTunes on a computer located nearby. And maybe, just maybe, on some random whim, Apple could integrate Internet access simply to allow direct purchases from the iTunes store. However, a consumer who can’t trial samples of music is less likely to buy anyway, so, again, I predict Apple probably won’t introduce this feature in order to protect its “just works” iTunes music-purchasing experience.
Before the cell phone is introduced into the iPod, I predict Apple will test this different-interface idea by introducing a new sub-feature into the iPod that will make use of it. Potential applications are:
- Ability to sync with your iCal program (PDA integration). This would introduce a new task managing/calendar interface.
- A different interface to browse photos.
- The ability to edit music tag information (such as artist or song name).
Apple will be careful about this. They will avoid the (noob) trap of creating 18 different interfaces for 18 different types of situations. Likely, there are only a few types of visual interface layouts they will introduce:
- Buttons (like on a web page)
- A number pad like on a phone
- Yes / No / Cancel dialog
I predict this will be introduced in early 2007 and polished by year-end. Tell me I don’t sound right.