Music Player Cellphone Flubs
As a Verizon Wireless subscriber, I have a selection of new cellphones I can get for free or minimal cost every two years when my service contract comes up for renewal. New toy! But what to choose?
I had considered forsaking Verizon altogether and getting an Apple iPhone, but finally decided against it because:
A bit more on that last point. Awhile back, I paid $275 for a gleaming silver 6-gig iPod mini, a beautiful thing that I loved for about six months before it started acting up. Since then, I have had to get it replaced FOUR times because of weird battery issues. To their credit, Apple has cheerfully continued to supply me with new iPod minis. But it is a flawed product that the company discontinued for precisely the reasons that have plagued me: the battery doesn't know whether it's charged or not, and turns itself off randomly. I found that if I put the lock button on, I could make the iPod mini play for hours past the point that it thought itself dead. Of course the minute I turned the lock switch off to skip a song or adjust volume, it would swoon again. I also found that the mini could not hold a charge for more than a few days away from the charger.
I bought the iPod player as a little luxury for myself, and resented that it became an infuriating device. This was true, sooner or later, of all FOUR of the iPod Minis that Apple cheerfully gave me. At one point I almost threw my little Mini into the Hudson River. So much for luxury.
After much online research conducted during work hours, I decided to try a Verizon phone that combined the cellphone with an MP3 music player. Since I don't carry a man bag, it would be one less device to jam into my pants pockets.
This month Verizon released the eye-catching Juke, a narrow rectangular player-phone that looks like an oversized pack of chewing gum.
But I settled on the unassuming LG VX8350 for the sole reason that it has music play buttons -- rewind, pause/play, and forward – on the front of
the phone. Most phone-MP3 players make you lift up the lid to fiddle with them. Not something you want to do on your roller blades or exercise bike.
Priced at $129, the LG VX8350 was free to me for my new 2-year commitment to Verizon Wireless. I paid $29 for a music kit which included ear buds with an on-off switch on the cord to take incoming calls; a CD with their proprietary music library program; and a USB cable to connect my phone to PC.
I also paid, separately, $25 (a good deal on special!) for a two-gigabyte Micro SD memory card for the phone to hold my music.
On the plus side, the music sounded good, with rich bass. And while walking home jamming to my tunes, I was able to receive a phone call by hitting the inline play button on my earbud cord, answer the call, and then hit the button again to pick up the music where it paused. All of this without ever flipping up the phone lid or even pulling it out of my pocket. Neat!
Now comes more infuriation. After installing the Verizon music software, it took a smart, tech savvy guy like me entirely too long to figure out how to transfer music to my phone. And I was dismayed to find, after more research, that I am not able to transfer existing playlists from my computer to the phone. You have to transfer a big clump of music and then create playlists WITHIN the phone. Ugh.
Although you can shuffle and play your entire music library, you are unable to shuffle the order of songs in your playlists once they're created.
This last is a deal breaker to me. I use the playlists to exercise (Madonna, Garbage, U2, Oasis) and I need to be able to shuffle the song order on a daily basis. Hearing the same songs in the same order makes exercising even more boring than it already is.
Which brings me back to Apple iTunes with its wonderful array of play options: drop and drag playlists, smart playlists that update themselves automatically, ability to give your favorite songs a five-star rating, shuffle options from random to not-so random, etc.
So despite my negative experience with the iPod mini, Apple's top-notch music interface has apparently ruined me for any second-rate system.
Apple, you win. For Christmas I'm going to treat myself to a 4-gig iPod Nano for $149. And if that cute little device starts acting up like the Mini did … Well, it's not going to be pretty, Steve Jobs.
And my LG VX8350 can just be a phone, which it is perfectly competent to do.
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