James Daley: Apple's suspiciously addictive world
After two years of stellar service, my beloved iPod suddenly started giving me gip last week – crashing three times in an afternoon. Although I managed to restart it each time, I couldn't understand why it should suddenly start malfunctioning now – after all, I've only had it for two years, and I've been careful to look after it.
My partner, however, was not remotely surprised. My problems, she said, were yet further evidence in support of her conspiracy theory that Apple deliberately tries to destroy its older iPod models, by designing software updates that make them malfunction. Generally, she insisted, these updates begin to eat up your iPod around two years after you bought it, eventually forcing you to buy the latest model out of frustration.
I have no idea whether any damage caused by new software updates is deliberate. Apple naturally insists that it isn't. However, there certainly seems to be a growing body of evidence to suggest that these updates do play a part in the troubles of older iPod models. And given that these pieces of equipment generally cost upwards of £200, I find it hard to swallow that they rarely last for more than 24 months.
My wife has been an iPod devotee for much longer than I. She has an old Mini, a 30GB model and one of the new fancy Nanos. About a year ago, when her old 30GB machine began to pack in, she managed to persuade Apple to send her a new one, as she'd bought an extended warranty that was still just in date.
Interestingly, however, the replacement – a never-used 30GB iPod, which was no longer available in the shops – began to run into difficulty just weeks later – regularly crashing, until it eventually stopped working altogether. This didn't make too much sense. After all, the problems couldn't be blamed on wear and tear. Short of it being a defective unit, the only obvious explanation was that it was struggling to get to grips with the newer software.
At the same time, her iPod Mini – which by then was over two years old and which she never synchronised with her computer – was continuing to work just fine.
Most of my friends have had similar experiences, though some of them have had more general wear-and-tear problems, rather than software glitches. Stories about software problems also abound on internet chat forums.
With so many rival MP3 players on the market, I'm sorely tempted to go for a different brand this time round – especially after I recently discovered that the albums I've bought from the iTunes store can't be copied on to CD. Not so long ago, I paid £13 for a new release off iTunes, yet I can't copy this album on to a CD to play in the car, and I don't even have a cover to show for my purchase.
The problem is that as much as I'm frustrated with my Apple experience, I still love my iPod – and I don't like the look of any other players nearly as much. I'm sure Apple's well aware of this. Its products are very cool – and if customers get two years' good service out of them, that's probably just enough to keep them hooked.
So, unfortunately, I think it's too late for me. When my current iPod finally gives up for good, I'll probably reluctantly go and replace it – even though I know I should take my business elsewhere. But if you haven't taken your first steps in the addictive world of Apple, my advice is to steer clear.