Apple channels Pandora with iTunes 8
Asks $80 for ear buds
Along with an iPod hardware refresh today, Apple's product announcement orgy unveiled an update to iTunes, some iPod software tweaks, and declared peace with NBC.
For those keeping score, most of the news had already made their rounds on the web weeks earlier through various leaks, speculation, and over-enthusiastic third-party accessory vendors.
Still, while ravenous fans already picked clean the meat of Apple's announcement before Steve Jobs had a chance to hit the stage at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, there were still a few surprises.
Such as how much Apple will charge for a pair of half-decent headphones.
Spoiler alert: Eighty bucks. And that's not Confederate notes either, but actual US dollars. But we're griping ahead of ourselves. Let's move to what's new in iTunes.
Available today is iTunes 8, which adds a fancy new intelligent playlist generator called "Genius" as well as some new browsing options.
Genius essentially functions like the soon-to-be-tits-up Pandora online radio service — or the Predixis plug-in for Winamp.
It examines what music the user is listening to, then generates a playlist according to what songs it thinks are complementary. Genius works not only with music, but television shows and movies as well.
A Genius sidebar also makes purchase recommendations from the iTunes store. Everyone's music preferences are beamed to Apple to be combined and analyzed for better a recommendation engine. The company claims this data is sent secure and anonymous, so nobody need know you play "MMMBop" on repeat in your darker moments. Rather, Apple won't tell at least.
Genius debuts in iTunes 8 today, and it's built into new versions of the iPod Nano and a software update to iPhones and the iPod Touch.
Apple also added Grid View to iTunes, which simply displays rows and columns of album art as icons. Grid View sorts music into Albums, Artist, Genres, and Composers — and basically functions like iPhoto's events icons.
iPod Touch 2.1
A software upgrade for the iPod Touch and iPhone adds Genius functionality to the devices. An icon below the track length indicator creates a Genius playlist out of the current song.
The software update will be available to previous-gen iPod Touch owners today with a 2.1 software upgrade. The upgrade is free if users are currently running version 2.0, $9.95 if they're running version 1.x.
A 2.1 upgrade for iPhone users is free to customers this Friday, and will supposedly improve battery life, drop fewer calls, fix stability issues, and increase the speed for iTunes backups.
The Nike+ app is being included with the 4G Nano and new iPod touch hardware. This workout was another bit of today's announcement leaked early. It displays exercise data, such as distance run, calories burnt, and number of workouts.
HD Television on iTunes Store
The resolution is being pumped up on the iTunes store, with high definition TV shows now being sold as an option.
Individual HD shows will now be available for $2.99, while standard definition programs remain $1.99. There's more shows too, as Apple and NBC have appeared to have buried the peace pipe. NBC is returning to iTunes this season with several of their more popular shows once again available.
A voice recording feature has been added to the new iPod Nano when the device detects a microphone attached. Recorders have long been a staple third-party accessory for iPods, but this round, Apple is offering its own recorder (sold separately of course, for $30).
That's a pretty good deal when compared to Apple's new headphones.
It's no secret that the headphones Apple ships with iPods are just one step up from a tin-can telephone in terms of clarity.
Still, people use them. Perhaps because it's convenient. Or maybe having a white cord snaking up the side of the head is somewhat of a status symbol (Or bulls-eye mark for muggers. Take your pick).
Apple will now offer a more suitable alternative with new in-ear headphones that sports volume and playback control built in. It also has two drivers each (woofer+tweeter) for a better listening experience than the standard set.
The hook? It's $80. Eight zero! Maybe it's Apple's own version of the iPhone's "I am Rich" app. ®
I have far too many pairs of headphones. I have a pair of Beyerdynamics I use for recording because they're nice and flat, a nice pair of closed-back Sennheisers I use for listening to music in public, some 'ear canal' types, some I use at the gym, another strange pair and a pair of the ones that came with the Nano 2G.
The Apple 'phones sound great to me. They don't have an extended range (lower or upper) but they reproduce many types of music pleasingly well. Of course they sound different from more expensive pairs, but I haven't heard anything in the same configuration (tiny drivers which sit outside the ear canal) which I'd bother paying more for.
Mine's the one with the headphones hole.
Genius is pretty nifty - it's the first auto-playlist generator I've used that's actually generated playlists I've enjoyed. This is coming from one of the few people to ever have bought a Winamp license (apparently?!).
I've tried a few different playlist generators, the winamp ones, mp3tunes had an awful one too just before I cancelled my account... I've only been using genius over the weekend, but I've already burnt maybe 3 of the 100song lists to mp3 cd for the car.
Never used to like iTunes, was just forced on me when I jumped ship to osx as neither of my old fave's (Winamp and Amarok) have mac versions, but recently these last few updates have made me quite a fan.
The Genius playlist needs a bit of work, but I'll assume it will get better. It whipped up a nice emo playlist for me so..
As far as the headphones, the original ipod headphones are crap. I've heard worse, but they are bad. You can get a set of skullcandy in ear headphones for about $30, and they work really really well. If you want really good phones, the Shure line are fantastic, but I don't like the sound isolation as I travel with my wife, and they are a bitch to get in properly, only to have to take them out to hear anything the missus has to say.
Now, if you really want good headphones - you go with Bose, the QC2 noise cancelling headphones. I wear them on the bus everyday and they still make my jaw drop.
So did Jobs get Pandora taken care of?
Does it take a genius to figure this out?
Save me the price of a law suite, go and kill the golden goose
Who comes out with more RIAA with a corpse or Jobs with a dead competitor?
Rik, I really suggest that you buy a decent set of earphones and try again, they really are awful earphones in every respect. Earrape was a term I heard applied to them and it's fairly appropiate.
I'm not one of these audiophiles that can gnats farting (if I was I wouldnt be using MP3s or an iPod) but even I can hear the difference, though I can still hear (at my advanced years) wether bats are in the area
Apart from poor sound quality, the dreadful fit, low volumes and the amount of sound leakage makes it a necessity to replace the iPod headphones.
Theres plenty of sub £20 headphones that are superior to the bundled ones (cept they don't have an apple logo on them). In the sub £30 range the difference is night & day. At £42 Currys will supply you with Ultimate Ears fuper.fi3 earphones which are brillient at the price.
I do hope that the dual driver earphones are good as I would like an affordable pair of dual driver phones
Methinks the lady doth protest too much (about windows in your case) how about finding something better to do with your time.
Even Paris's orifices would reject apples earbuds