After Hours

Cheat sheet: The mini iPod

The low down on this year's must-have gadget...

So what's this 'mini iPod' that everybody is talking about?
It's the 'must have' item of 2004.

Well that clears that up. I heard it was basically a jumped-up Walkman.
And then some. The excitement surrounding the release of the Apple iPod mini is part hype, part deserved. It's a very stylish 4GB MP3 player capable of storing around 1,000 tracks - all on a device the size of a small mobile phone. And it's available in a range of colours.

A range of colours you say?
Gold, silver, blue, pink, green. Silver is the least popular, favoured mainly by men, while pink is the most successful. The colours are causing quite a stir, with stories circulating about angry mobs of women getting angry with store staff upon being told they've sold out of the pink iPods. There are even stories about the fashion conscious buying all the colours to better accessorise with their outfits.

Impressive. So where can I get one?
At the moment only in America. The devices were supposed to be on sale this week in the UK but huge demand Stateside means there aren't any available to ship over here. UK consumers are going to have to sit tight for a while longer - or get themselves over to the US like I did and buy one there. (Sorry had to slip that in there.)

It's a long way to go just to buy an iPod and probably adds considerably to the cost. How long will we have to wait over here?
There is no revised date for the release but it's likely to be around late summer or early autumn.

And how much will it cost?
There is no official recommended retail price yet for sale in the UK, though expect to pay somewhere in the region of £179 to £199. In the US they retail for $249.

So this must all be good news for Apple?
It's great news for Apple. The company has been the subject of morbid fascination in recent years as a perceived lack of innovation and falling sales for its computers led some to fear for its long-term future. However, the release of previous iPod models and the huge popularity of the iTunes service means the company is charting new and very profitable waters in the music industry.

The hype and the publicity which has surrounded the gadget has ensured Apple's is once again a name that is on the lips of consumers worldwide.

So it's all good then?
Sadly no. There is one slight drawback.

Go on...
The mini iPod seems to have one flaw. A number of users, myself included, have been complaining about high levels of static interference which can occasionally ruin the sound quality of the units. The problem is intermittent but at its worst it makes the iPod unusable and at its mildest it's an irritant - but it is an irritant which looks set to tarnish the otherwise gleaming release.

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