The iPhone: Lots to Love, but Flaws Too
Music and Video
Right off the bat with the iPhone, it's clear that this isn't your father's iPod. Apple built a completely new interface for the iPhone's music player, adding touch and tilt sensitivity to elements of its iTunes and iPod interfaces.
Syncing seemed relatively slow compared to other iPods I've tried--transferring 2.2GB of music and video to the device took just over 11 minutes, for a rate of just over 3MB/second.
For the most part, browsing a music library is a joy. Tilt the iPhone on its side with the iPod app going, and it flips into Cover Flow mode to let you flick through your albums with a quick gesture of your finger. (Be sure to have iTunes update your cover art before you sync your library, as any holes in your cover art will make for some ugly blank spots in the Cover Flow progression.)
I didn't see any of the load-time issues with Cover Flow that I experience regularly in the Windows version of iTunes, though they may still exist in libraries larger than the 4GB on my test unit. Tap an album cover, and it flips around to display a list of tracks. Tap any one of those to start it playing.
Tilt back to vertical, and your volume and play controls overlay the bottom of the screen. Tap the screen to bring up a progress indicator that lets you scrub through to any point in the song. That's actually one area where the iPhone falls behind the iPod: With its acceleration-sensitive scroll wheel, you can easily pinpoint the right section of a track without any microscopic finger movements. Finding the right area on the iPhone's progress bar is much trickier, which can be a bit of a pain on longer tracks such as podcasts or full-length concerts.
While I quickly learned where the different controls reside, it still bugs me a bit that functions like the volume slider are locked to a single orientation of the player. Still, if Apple's planning to move all of its MP3 players to this type of interface, as the continuing rumors of a touchscreen video iPod would seem to indicate, the iPod's future is in good hands.
-- Eric Dahl