Features of an iPod Killer

by James R. Stoup Apr 14, 2006

So, you want to make an iPod killer huh? Well, there are a few things you need to know before you invest your hard earned millions. Every competitor to date has made several fatal flaws that doomed their players before the first ones ever even shipped. So, to give them some help I have complied a list of required features for any device meant to seriously challenge the iPod.

Replaceable Battery
Anyone who has ever had to ship their iPod off to Apple, pay $70 to have the battery replaced, and then wait for it to be mailed back, knows how utterly frustrating this can be. Consumer’s need two things from a battery, the abiliity to change it themselves and the option of buying a third party product if they want to. This situation should mirror buying a laptop battery. Yes, you could buy one from Apple (and pay their premium price) or you could buy one from Other World Computing. This gives consumers the choice of either getting a cheaper battery with a shorter life, or opting to spend some extra cash to get one with the best charge possible. Either way, the racket of charging customers for the battery and the replacement, should end now.

Wireless Connectivity
Want to transfer some songs to your phone via bluetooth? No problem. Want to sync up two players without using a cable or a computer? No problem. Want to stream your music to your computer or speaker setup using your wireless network? Not a problem. Wireless connectivity is the direction in which all devices will eventually move. And this is an area in which the current iPods have no presence. This should be the feature upon which your device is based around. The iPod won on its ease of use, your product can win on the strength of its wireless capabilities.

Mac/Linux Support
Coming out with a product that only works with Windows needlessly eliminates a large group of consumers. Make your device play well with both Mac OS X and Linux to target the largest audience. At the very least this will stop critics from complaining that Apple offers the only truely interoperable device. Remember, Mac and Linux users like music too, don’t deny them your product.

Open Software
Anyone who has ever played any of the four games that come standard on an iPod has probably longed for more choices. So, give your customers what they want. Allow developers to write third party programs that can easily run on your device. And your company should be constantly producing small, easy to use, apps that can be freely downloaded off of the internet. Encourage your customers to use only the software they want not just the software you think their device needs.

The iPod Mini proved that people like colors. In fact, people like colors a lot. So, listen to your customers and ensure that your products come in at least the following colors: black, white, silver, blue, red, green, yellow, purple and orange. Offer the option of making their choice either glossy or metalic. This ensures your customers will customize their devices to better match their taste. Don’t limit yourselves to seeing the world in black and white.

Apple will only engrave two lines of text on the back of their devices, your company should take that a step further. Allow your customers to upload a small image or symbol (in addition to text) that can be engraved on their new player. This opens up an entire world of customer designs. Suddenly sport fans can get their team’s logo on their music player. Or their favorite player’s number. Giving your device as a birthday present? Engrave your recipient’s zodiac symbol on it. Or just engrave their face on the back. The possibilites are endless.

iTunes Equivalent
No matter how good your device is, if your customers don’t have an easy to use application for managing their music then you are sunk. Spend some time and money getting this free application up and running. Remember, it has to be just as easy to use as iTunes and it must run on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Better UI
It might not be possible to create a better user interface than the iPod. However, with some creativity, you should be able to come close. A good rule of thumb to remember is this: “Can I operate this device with one hand, using only my thumb, while wearing gloves, in the dark?” If the answer is NO, then go back to the drawing board.

FM Tuner/Transmitter
Don’t make your customers go out and buy two seperate devices to get this functionality, build it in yourself. Make listening to the radio easy. Likewise, allow your device to transmitt on the FM band for easy reception from nearby radios. This is a small, but nice, touch you can add to show your customers you really do have their interests at heart.

These are my suggestions to Sony, Creative, Microsoft, Amazon and anyone else thinking of making an MP3 player. Follow these tips to make a product that, at the least, has a chance against the iPod.


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