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My Flash iPod prediction: Flip and slide

12 Dec 2004 by Jason Fried

Since it’s easy to make predictions (and artfully tear other’s apart “using a little bit of math courtesy of Pythagoras”), I’ll make my own form-factor prediction for the rumored Apple Flash iPod.

How about a flip iPod? Or a slide-out iPod like this LG phone? Take some good ideas from the phone world — a world that hasn’t sacrificed screen size even as phones have become smaller — and bring them over to the iPod.

If it’s a slide, I’d guess that 15-25% of the screen would always be exposed so you could see the song title, time, and/or volume slider without having to physically slide the case open. Or, if it’s a flip, there will be a little LCD — just like a phone — that would always show the vitals.

That’s where my money is, if there’s any money to put on this at all. Oh, and there’s just one more thing. Just because this rumored iPod might have flash memory doesn’t mean it has to take on a radically different form factor. Maybe it’s just a little smaller and a little thinner than the iPod mini. The simple rectangular form factor is quite usable. Plus, Apple has been cutting back on moving parts ever since the second generation of the iPod. If they’re pulling them from their high-end products I’m not sure they’d bring them back via their “less likely to take care of it” low end products.

17 comments so far (Post a Comment)

12 Dec 2004 | Dominic Damian said...

I also agree that some kind of flipping mechanism could work. Maybe something similar to the new Sidekick where the screen is visable but you flip for the control's. Although I guess it wouldn't be practical to hide the controls beneath the screen.

12 Dec 2004 | Jack Cheng said...

I think the flipping mechanism would be too much of a departure from the iPod design... and like Dominic said, it wouldn't be practical to hide the controls.

What about something like this?

Reduce the iPod to the bare minimum: the wheel and a single-line lcd. It'd be about the size of one of those plastic containers of dental floss (except not as thick).

12 Dec 2004 | Randy said...

Uhh... How do you hold the thing? No way will that be the design. Plus, one line of text won't cut it. You lose the context of where you are in your list.

12 Dec 2004 | brent said...

Wow! I really hope they dont come out with a flip ipod. Its a good prediction, but please oh please, dont let it come true. ;)

Because then all i can envision are tons of those phone belt-clips for your ipod. Ufff...

12 Dec 2004 | Jack Cheng said...

You'd hold it like you normally would... except instead of looking at the face where the wheel is, you're looking at the top edge of it. I don't think context is that big of an issue because 1) a lot of it is arranged alphabetically anyway and 2) it doesn't hold as many songs

12 Dec 2004 | Geoff said...

Plus, Apple has been cutting back on moving parts ever since the second generation of the iPod.

actually, the 3rd gen ipods didn't have any moving parts (other than the hold swith) and then they went back to real buttons for the 4th gen - the center 'select' button and the four control buttons on the weel actually click down now.

I love the touch sensitive buttons on the 3g (only drawback is you can't use it with gloves on), but it seems like everyone else i know hated them and like the 'real' buttons, which would explain why apple went back to them.

12 Dec 2004 | dansays said...

If Apple is really doing a flash iPod, then they'll be pricing it to compete with other flash-based MP3 players, which means $99. This limits the capacity to 1GB, max. That's about ten albums.

With these contstraints, would a display even be necessary? Could Apple put together an interface based on speech synthesis and voice recognition? Maybe even a virtual DJ, that does lead-ins to songs.

(Geoff, the hard drive is a moving part.)

13 Dec 2004 | stp said...

Whatever the form factor, I think it needs to have the Firewire plug built right in to it, so you can just jam it right into the port on your computer like you do a USB thumb drive. What good is a teeny, tiny gadget if you have to also haul around cables, dock, etc.?

13 Dec 2004 | Kelby said...

stp.. why not make it bluetooth? or 11g then it could be updated wirelessly.

13 Dec 2004 | Alex King said...

Well, if we must...

I think that an iPod with built-in XM radio would be awesome.

How many times have you been listening to a song on the radio and all of a sudden really wanted to buy it? The new iPod could automaticly record the past five or six songs that you listened to, but not let you listen to them. If you wanted to buy the song, from the iPod, it would have it, right then and there.

WiFi would be good along with that, you could buy songs at the airport.

But Apple is Apple. I have a feeling they will suprise us all with their next iPod.

13 Dec 2004 | stp said...

stp.. why not make it bluetooth? or 11g then it could be updated wirelessly.

That would be cool. But I would wonder if either of those technologies are currently fast enough and ubiquitous enough, especially considering the taget market. If the answer is "no," then that means wireless capability would have to be added in addition to USB or Firewire, and that just means more expense and a bigger device. My hunch is that wireless sync is further down the road than where we are now.

13 Dec 2004 | sloan said...

The sweet spot seems to be 4-5GB, which is why they waited to do the iPod mini. I don't see them doing an iPod flash without reaching at least 3GB, and I don't know if the price is low enough.

Why would Apple want to get into an even LOWER margin price category? That is the main reason I doubt they'd do a $99 flash iPod... As for the size... would you really want a one line display for even 100 songs? That sucks and the experience of skipping songs and going back... that is a step backwards in experience. They waited for the iPod mini until they could do the experience as well as an iPod. Maybe they'll wait for flash memory to drop in price and then just have a no moving parts iPod mini...

Bluetooth and WiFi would take up more room and drain the battery, so why add them? Even the newer low-power bluetooth doesn't make sense because the bandwidth is so low. WiFi is just too much battery I would think...

14 Dec 2004 | pb said...

A $99 256mb screen-less flashPod would offer plenty of margin and would fly off the shelves both to new and existing *Pod owners.

I don't see much value in a flipPod and it goes against simplicity.

A screen is clearly unnecessary in a 256 and even 512mb device.

14 Dec 2004 | Mathew said...

Why is a screen unnecessary? I often picked particular songs from a largish list, even on my old 256mb player.

15 Dec 2004 | kingbenny said...

agreed, even 256 MB would be no fun to navigate around in without a screen.

15 Dec 2004 | pb said...

If you've used a display-less 256 mb player like the mpio fl200 or eratech emp-z, you'll know it's not that big a deal and actually kind of nice not having a display and bunch of buttons to fuss around with. Just making the same old thing only smaller and cheaper is not too imaginative. If they make it more like a piece of jewelry with more significant differences from it's cousin they will be able to sell to both non-ipod owners as well as ipod owners.

17 Dec 2004 | butteredmuffin said...

forget about flipping and whatever else, a Tivo-like satellite radio iPod, that's what i'm waiting for.

record this american life and fresh air whenever it's on, listen to satellite from wherever, listen to my playlists.

the only other feature i'd want is to be able to internet broadcast (real podcasting) to anyone of my friend's ipod at anytime...

i bet 2005.

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