iPodRobot iPod Video Converter

iPodRobot is a utility that's designed to get around one of Apple's most annoying limitations. When you plug an iPod or iPhone into a computer that has iTunes, you're able to sync the PC's playlist onto the device--but you can't go the other way. You can't copy what's already on the device to the PC. (Photos are an exception, as newer iPods and iPhones store these separately and they are accessible as if the device were an external drive.) Hence the need for a utility like iPodRobot ($20, 7-day feature-limited demo), which lets you copy everything on an iPod or iPhone to a PC.

iPodRobot is straightforward enough. Plug in the device when prompted, check what you'd like to copy, and click the Copy button. It works exactly as advertised. Note that if the files on the device have DRM (digital rights management), you still won't be able to play them on your PC unless you bought the tracks.

The app itself and vendor VOW Software's support Web site have numerous typos and grammatical errors. It's not anything that prevents you from using iPodRobot, but it is a little distracting. E-mail responses from China-based VOW Software were intelligible, so this appears to be a proofreading issue.

What's not at all clear in the trial version is that it's really more like a feature- and time-limited demo. The Copy to iTunes button brings up a nag screen, but when you click past that screen, it doesn't actually copy the files into iTunes. That's because the demo only lets you Copy to Folder, and only 10 files at a time. A more intuitive way would have been to grey out the Copy to iTunes button altogether.

The full version costs $20, which seems high for what is basically a one-trick pony. $10 would have been a fairer price for something that iTunes should have already (but inexplicably lacks).

If you can stomach the price, this utility comes in handy when you lose your data on your PC and want to get your songs back that you had stored on your iPhone. Or, you synced a playlist from one computer to your iPod and then want those songs on another computer without any hassle.

Note: The demo lasts for 7 days and has numerous limitations, including only copying 10 files at a time, only copying to a folder and not to iTunes, and having a nag screen each time you copy.

--Steve Horton

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