Whereas everybody obsessed over the iPod, I stanned the Zune

The iPod turns 20 this yr. That gadget modified tech as we all know it, beginning Apple‘s resurgence and eventual dominance of the tech business. However whereas everybody reminisces about grinding their thumb joints to a powder swirling across the click on wheel, I’m wanting again fondly at Microsoft’s superior competitor.

I’m, after all, speaking concerning the Zune.

Okay, I may not be capable to objectively argue that the Zune was higher than the iPod, however I do suppose it holds up higher in 2021. I could also be within the minority right here, however from the place I’m standing, the Zune was simply the higher music participant — one forward of its time.

Its matte, soft-touch {hardware} was bizarre however distinctive


That’s not the colour most individuals would provide you with for launching a brand new gadget into the world, nevertheless it’s the colour Microsoft selected.

Although I used to be a fan of the blue-on-black colorway, I ended up with the brown design. And someway, I nonetheless dug it. It was so totally different from the litany of shiny fingerprint magnet gadgets, together with the iPod. The Zune had a soft-touch end that rejected fingerprints and felt genuinely good to carry.

It additionally had considered one of my favourite little design selections to this point, with a double shot, semi-translucent layer of plastic that caught the sunshine and made the gadget appear to glow from sure angles. Within the case of my brown unit, this translucent plastic glowed inexperienced.

Zune Black

It’s onerous to explain however the impact continues to be one of many coolest design selections I’ve seen, and one I’d like to see extra typically.

Thoughts you, I’m simply speaking concerning the unique Zune. The later steel and glass Zune HD is likely one of the most stunning devices ever made, as far I’m involved.


That huge ol’ display

Having a 3.2-inch display was an enormous deal for a 2006, pre-iPhone gadget. Whereas it wasn’t a touchscreen, the display took up the vast majority of the gadget’s face, and it rotated horizontally with a view to let you higher see footage and movies.

It provided a far superior expertise to the fifth gen iPod’s tiny show 2.5″ show, which solely actually labored within the vertical orientation. The Zune predicted the screen-centric focus of our modern-day life.

Enjoyable reality: Once I had my school interview, I introduced my Zune and confirmed off a video I’d made for historical past class that I used to be fairly happy with, in a means that we now take as a right with our cellular gadgets. I most likely wouldn’t have gotten in if I’d proven the video on an iPod, simply saying.

The UI was beautiful — and launched the world to flat design

I’m all the time slightly fascinated by individuals who fondly keep in mind the iPod. Whereas the press wheel was revolutionary at launch, the UI itself was principally simply scrolling and clicking by bland menus advert infinitum. Maybe I used to be too younger, however I hadn’t lived lengthy sufficient with dangerous MP3 gamers, however I by no means obtained the hubbub concerning the iPod’s interface.

The Zune’s unique 2006 UI was comparatively colourful, dynamic, and trendy. It allow you to — gasp — set a wallpaper. By the point the Zune rolled round, the iPod’s interface felt outdated, and Apple hadn’t achieved a lot to alter it over a number of iterations aside from including a coloration display and better decision graphics.

But it surely was the V2 replace launched in 2007 (alongside the second-gen Zune and its nifty touch-sensitive ‘Zune Pad’) that basically stepped it up.

It is usually the well-known first gadget to start out the fashionable flat design aesthetic that now permeates the tech business. Microsoft’s ‘Metro’ design language, which nonetheless influences Home windows 11 and Xbox debuted right here.

Microsoft did away with the shiny skeuomorphism of different gadgets for a dynamic UI that emphasised textual content, legibility, motion, and performance over shiny graphics. Quite than a easy listing of textual content, the Zune’s UI used horizontal motion and depth in a means not often seen earlier than. I imply, inform me which considered one of these two you suppose seems higher.

(In case you say the iPod, you’re mendacity.)

It wasn’t simply fairly seems both — the UI was extremely practical and straightforward to know. It provided extra management over playlists and made higher use of the show actual property.

Heck, I’d go as far as to say the Zune UI nonetheless seems nearly as good or higher seems higher than trendy variations of Android and iOS. Even the animations have been remarkably clean for his or her time:

It was forward of its time

Wanting again on the Zune, I can’t assist however really feel it was the precise product on the unsuitable time. Launching a few years after the iPod, it didn’t have the possibility to penetrate the market as completely as opponents, and a rushed launch didn’t assist. The syncing course of was a multitude in comparison with the iPod’s. And only a yr later, the iPhone was launched, starting the gradual demise of MP3 gamers.

Nonetheless, after the kinks have been sorted out, the Zune and its follow-ups merely provided a extra participating expertise than you may discover on nearly any MP3 participant (and I attempted a complete bunch of them!), one that also seems good at present. Whereas the iPod could have had the proper enter methodology for its particular use case, it’s the Zune that holds up higher to trendy scrutiny.

The iPod could have been the cool child on the block, however the Zune will all the time maintain a spot on this nerd’s coronary heart.

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