iPod Photo

10 Feb 2005

Product: digital photography storage device
Price: €659
First there was iPod, then iPod Mini and iPod Shuffle. Meet the newest member of the iPod clan: iPod Photo. Never slow to spot a market opportunity, Apple has responded to the explosion in digital photography with a device that lets you store and view your favourite digital snaps as well as listen to songs.

It is such a simple idea it makes you wonder why nobody thought of it before. Maybe they did but did not have the power of the Apple brand and the marketing franchise of the century, the iPod, to propel it to commercial stardom.

On the face of it, iPod Photo packs an impressive punch. As well as store songs and images, the device can be hooked up to a TV to view photos; be used as an external hard disk to store or back-up files; store and synchronise contacts, calendars and to-do lists information from your computer; store additional photos using an optional photo-card reader; and play games.

One of the secrets of the iPod’s success has been to make technology ultra simple. Some new gadgets come with a manual the size of War and Peace; iPod Photo’s runs to under 50 generously illustrated pages. No degree in computer science is needed here. You charge up the device, load the software from the accompanying CD on to your computer, connect the iPod, import songs from your CD collection or iTunes online music store on to the computer’s hard disk and then transfer them to the iPod. Somewhat confusingly, the iPod Photo does not come with iPhoto image management software as standard but you can import digital photos from folders on your computer’s hard disk.

So how to the pictures look on the iPod’s high-resolution backlit colour display? Pretty good is the answer although you should bear in the mind that the display is only passport-photo sized so it’s never going to be as good as having the real thing in your hand.

The 60GB iPod Photo comes with a power adapter, docking station, FireWire and USB 2.0 cables for high-speed file transfer, an AV cable for viewing photos on TV, a carrying case with belt clip and, of course, the trademark white earphones.

As with all iPods, iPod Photo is powered by a Lithium ion rechargeable battery. This should last several hours but battery life will of course vary with usage patterns. It can be charged either by connecting to a computer or a power socket.

In the looks and design department, the iPod Photo is identical to the original. It has the same classy chrome and white finish, the same ingenious click wheel that allows you to browse and select menu options as well as control volume. The only essential difference is that it can now also store pictures as well as music. And with a 60GB capacity, the hard disk is said to be capable of storing up to 15,000 songs or 25,000 photos.

One thing to be aware of is that the software needed to transfer music and picture files to and from a computer iPod Photo won’t work with old operating systems and slow processors. Your PC will need at least 500MHz processing speed and run Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 (SP4) or Windows XP with SP2 or later. Likewise, Mac users will need to be running Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later. On both platforms, either a FireWire or USB 2.0 port is required to handle file transfer.

The iPod Photo 60 GB may not come cheap — it costs over €300 more than the standard iPod — but Apple would argue that you get a lot for your money: access to your favourite music and digital photos in one stylish and compact unit. As to whether or not consumers will be willing to splash out the extra few quid for the privilege of having their own electronic photo libraries at their fingertips we shall just have to wait and see. I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

The iPod Photo costs €549 (inc Vat) for the 40GB version and €659 (inc Vat) for the 60GB model.

By Brian Skelly