John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Multimedia and the iPhone (and iTunes)

Ok let’s face it, the multimedia on the iPhone is the best in the business. It just plane works. On so many occasions I’d be doing something and next thing I know my Windows mobile device hickups and my music is either interrupted or just plain crashed. Windows will often start closing programs as memory get’s tight, and the media player is not immune from that. Very annoying if your in the middle say of a bike ride. Cover flow is a beautiful piece of fluff. This is another one of those key reasons a person buys an iPhone.

Movies work well too, providing you convert them to an H264 format. There are lots of converters out there and I am now using Media coder. This free open source converter is written to take advantage of multi core processors and just plain works. There is a version dedicated to iPod/iPhone. There is a category explicitly for TV shows in iTunes but only bought TV shows can go into this category otherwise they are considered movies.

The iPhone supports video output, but Apple changed the cable a while back and version 3 of the firmware is only compatible with the new cable. If you plug in an old one it says incompatible accessory and then shuts down the video. Most of the cheaper iPod video cables are the older style and will not work so beware. I wasted money on this little gotcha.

I find it incredible how well some programs use the multi media on the iPhone. Take Netflix for example. The program lets you see movies/dvds that are out there. And it links to the trailer so over the air you can watch the trailer and see if you want to watch the movie! Well done.

Ah iTunes, love it or hate it. Apple were brilliant in their invention of iTunes. It makes it easier for people to buy songs/movies/whole CDs over the net. The program itself however is still terrible. It’s clearly a Mac port to Windows and not a good one. The program is eccentric at best, and irritating at worst. Apple allow you to use downloaded movies/music which is great. If the MP3 is properly tagged it works well. If not then iTunes can be used to tag it, but this is an exercise in frustration. There are no fuzzy searches. Get the title right or there will not be a chance of finding the artwork needed to make the coverflow work. That means right capitalization, right number of spaces, no extra characters. What year is this Apple? And add in a top 40 list of songs and it gets ugly fast. Best way to handle that by the way is to change the album artist to Mix or something like that and change the album title to the same thing.

By the way, iTunes really does not like having media added to iTunes from a removable media such as say a CD/DVD of MP3s or a network drive or a flash drive or anything like that. iTunes immediately flags it as a problem. Easy fix, always copy them onto the hard drive of your machine.

You can make playlists on the Go (disconnected from iTunes) but there is no way to add or delete songs/movies/podcasts on the Go. And don’t even think of sharing something between even two iPhones (interoperability has always been abysmal on the iPhone and still is).

Current firmware has also removed the ability to use the iPhone as a flash drive. Nice, thanks Apple.

iTunes is also now available on the device itself so you can by, and try (some not all) songs over the air. A brilliant add, well done Apple. About time.

Podcasts/photos/videos are all still clumsy requiring a trip through iTunes. Get a picture in an email and want to save it? Ehhh wrong, not happening. The end user has no access to the file system and the email program does not allow you to add it to the camera roll that would allow you to use it for a wallpaper for example.

Podcasts can be added to iTunes and it will download the latest and sync the iPod with them. Playback is flawless and works the best of any device I have seen. It will remember where you left off and just plain works. Again well done. But there is no ability to update over the air your podcasts that you have added yourself. So only when you get back to your desktop/laptop.

Audio books are little more clumsy. Each time you interrupt the ebook and go listen to something else you will need to remember where you left off and come back to it manually.

iTunes can be setup easily for multiple users (just have separate Windows user accounts for each user) and it can also handle multiple devices, although not elegantly. You better off to create a user account for each device. But iTunes does not handle having multiple computers syncing to the iPod.

Streaming bluetooth works well with only occasional interruptions. I use it to stream to a Motorola DC 800 gateway into my home stereo, as well as to stream to my car stereo.

iTunes also syncs well with outlook contacts/calendar.

All in all VERY well done (other than the fact the I HATE ITUNES). There I said it 🙂


August 20, 2009 - Posted by | iPhone Stuff

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