For years, I have been a hardcore Zune fan. I’ve loved the Zune platform and the Zune devices ever since the first brown brick Zune appeared in the fall of 2006. I actually debated for a long time whether or not I should get one, but it wasn’t because I was also considering an iPod. I was actually considering getting a Creative Zen Vision M, perhaps the finest non-iPod, non-Zune hard drive-based digitial media player ever created. But I got to play around with a Zune that was on display at Target, and I fell completely in love with the UI (user interface). It was a thing of beauty for 2006, trust me.
Fast forward to 2010. I have, at one time or another, owned a total of 5 Zune devices. I’ve been a Zune Pass subscriber since the fall of 2007. My wife has also owned 2 different Zunes. I never thought that I would ever feel any sort of loyalty to any other MP3 player or mobile device platform or whatever. I’d certainly toyed with the idea of getting an iPod. But I figured that even if I did, Zune would still be my first and best love.
Before I go on, I should clarify my feelings towards Apple. I’ve never been an Apple hater, per se. I’ve always understood the appeal of Apple’s products. They are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. Every new device that Apple has introduced in the past few years, from the iPhone to the iPad, I’ve wanted desperately, at least at first. But there’s always been two things that have held me back.
One, these devices always seem to have some sort of (seemingly) fatal flaw. For the iPhone, it’s the same flaw as every smart phone: these things require an utterly ridiculous monthly payment to a cell phone service provider. The iPad is too heavy, has a screen that’s too square, and has no cameras. As for the iPod Touch, I always saw the lack of a music subscription service from iTunes as a dealbreaker.
The second problem is price. Even if these devices hadn’t had their flaws, I wouldn’t have been able to afford any of them anyway. Apple products are very high quality, and they have a high price to match.
So I’ve never really been an Apple hater, but I’ve never been an Apple lover either. I was like the nerdy kid in high school who looks at the cool kids who exclude him with disdain, cause they’re all looks and no substance, but deep down inside he’s jealous and wants to be friends with them. But then he does get to be friends with them, and finds out he was wrong all along about them. Allow me to explain.
You might be wondering why I even bought an Apple product in the first place. Well, it all goes back to Windows Phone, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. See, I’ve always wanted an iPhone-like handheld computer. iPhone, Android, whatever, I didn’t really care what kind. I just wanted one. The problem has always been twofold. One, with the notable exception of the iPod Touch, these devices are all smartphones, which require an exorbitant monthly fee and the signing of a two-year contract. Two, I loved my Zune, and I kept hoping that Microsoft would release their own iPhone-esque handheld computer based on Zune. So I’ve been waiting.
When the Zune HD came out last year, I thought maybe my wait was over. The Zune HD had a lot in common with the iPod Touch. In some ways, it was significantly better than last year’s iPod Touch (better screen, better music features, etc.) But in one major way, it was worse. It did not have the iTunes App Store.
For those of you who may not know, the App Store is what makes the iPod Touch (and the iPhone and iPad) awesome. The App Store is a one-stop-shop for just about anything you would ever want to do on a portable device. I don’t want to waste time explaining it further, so go here if you want more information.
The Zune HD technically has an app store. And all the apps on it are free. The difference is that the iTunes App Store is open to third-party developers and it services one of the most popular platforms in the world. Therefore, there are hundreds of thousands of apps. The Zune HD’s “app store” is closed to third-party developers, and services a fairly niche platform. The result is that there are a little over thirty apps, most of which are crappy games.
I had held out hope that Microsoft would do something to counter or tap into the appeal of the App Store. I really didn’t expect them to open up the Zune app store to third party developers, but I thought maybe they would release a new version of the Zune HD that would be running the Windows Phone OS, which does have an app marketplace where third party developers can sell their apps. But alas, they have not yet done so.
So I finally just broke down and bought an iPod Touch. I initially intended for it to be a companion to my Zune HD. Because of the Zune Pass, I listen to a great deal of music that I don’t own, and that music is only playable on a Zune device. (Well, technically it’s playable on other things too, but certainly not an iPod Touch.) So I figured I would use my Zune for music, and my iPod for other things.
Technically, that is the way it has turned out. But I love my iPod Touch so much more than I expected to. It is an amazing little device. I use it more than I use my netbook. In fact, about the only thing that I use my netbook for now is working on this blog. And now I love Apple. And I want more Apple products. Which is a problem, because they’re still expensive. Oh well. Such is life.