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Impossibly Small; Possibly Breakable

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The “Kudos & Calamities” column was the brainchild of its original co-authors, AdamTheTech and Tyler Thompson. The idea behind the column was to be able to alternate authors every week who each tackle an interesting personal topic or news headline related to technology. The column was inherited by PCM members Kram and Ryan Passey, and was eventually retired as PCM evolved into more of a blogging format.

Are iPod nanos flawed products? Should the early problems with them deter you from making the purchase? These two questions (and more) answered!

Gadgets never cease to grab the attention and interest of people. If it looks cool and does something cool or useful, it’ll be a hit. iPods looked cool when they came out, and “everybody” on the block seemed to have one. A couple of weeks ago, Apple started advertising the release of their iPod nano with a little commercial where someone’s hand did some fancy moves twirling the nano around with his fingers. Smaller, faster, better, as the old maxim goes.

For a little while, all was going well with the iPod nanos. Then complaints started pouring in. It looked like a good portion of them had screen defects. This means that a light touch will put a scratch in the screen, and leaving it in your pocket for a few days will result in making the screen look like someone took fine-grit sandpaper to it. There have also been reports of the screens cracking and shattering altogether.

“This is a real but minor issue involving a vendor quality problem in a small number of units,” Apple said in a statement, referring to the reports of seemingly unprovoked nano screen breakage. “Our figures show this issue has affected less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the total iPod nano units that we’ve shipped. It is not a design issue.”

Some people refuted that their nanos were sturdy and solid, as reviewed here, even before Apple’s announcement. In that review, the nano took a huge amount of excessive abuse before the screen gave out, and took the weight of a car running over it twice, plus a toss 40 feet up in the air before it finally stopped playing music. Quite impressive.

One thing to remember, though; not all product reviews are off-the-shelf products that are freely available. Some are handpicked. This means that the product is specially prepared, tested, and possibly tweaked in order to run the best and longest as possible. Typically, if the product is reviewed before it is actually available, it is sometimes handpicked. Either that, or it’s just reviewed based on the product specs that are down on paper.

This doesn’t mean that all review websites review handpicked products; a good number of review sites do indeed simply purchase off-the-shelf products for review. This is mainly so you’re aware of the not so uncommon practice of handpicked products. Many of the reviews that pop up are quite legitimate, no matter the slant of the author (yes, it’s true, some authors are biased against certain products, or a certain company). When that happens, the review is not always impartial. So, the best thing to do is look at a whole array of product reviews to get a better general idea of the quality and performance of the product.

At any rate, the nano flaw uproar could almost be equated to the problems with the previous generations of the iPod. Some of you will remember last year’s big uproar about the iPods with battery failure after 18 months of use. It took a class action suit and several months to finally arrive at a settlement. It’s a good bet that Apple did not want to go through a mess like that again. I’m guessing that in the long run, it was by far, less expensive just to replace the small number of iPod Nanos with damaged screens then to be forced to take care of the problem after a long (and expensive) battle in court.

The long short of it is that Apple admitted that there was indeed a flaw and offered to replace these problematic MP3 players. Since Apple’s announcement, many of the independent sites and bloggers that were collecting complaints, removed their collection of complaints, most notably, flawedmusicplayer.com

Last but not least in this chain of events, this whole ordeal found its way onto Wikipedia.

These early problems with the iPod nano should not deter you from purchasing one, should you be eyeing this sleek little toy. This is just another prime example of why you should not be the first one on the block to get the newest hardware or software on the market. There is a difference between being on the leading edge and being on the bleeding edge. The advice you will receive from many experienced techs is to wait a little while after the release of a product before you actually go out and buy it. This gives the manufacturer time to test the product in public and work out any problems that may pop up (these days, it’s almost a certainty that there will be various minor and/or annoying problems).

Either way, if you decide to get one of these handy dandy MP3 players, make sure you get a case for it. Impossibly small; possibly breakable.

(Originally published on pcmech.com)