Microsoft or Apple?
September 8, 2008 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Zune vs. iPod Touch?

It's time for a new mp3 player. I've had an iPod Nano (3G) for about a year and at 4GB my music library is outgrowing it. What I'll be using it for:

- Podcasts - I download podcasts via iTunes and I'm happy with it, is this possible if I were to get a Zune?
- Music playback - Obviously. Anything over 8GB is big enough, audio quality isn't much of an issue.
- Little to no video - I don't use this on my current iPod but that could be an issue of the screen being too small.


- Wi-fi - I like the idea of synching wirelessly via Wi-Fi (as opposed to Bluetooth), I understand with the Touch it's also possible to surf with a Wi-Fi connection....does the Zune have this functionality as well? It looks like it doesn't, right?
- Generally easy to use interface

So that's about it, looking for personal experiences/recommendations to help make this decision. I'm leaning towards Zune right now, but it's for aesthetic reasons at the moment.

Thanks in advance!
posted by heavenstobetsy to Media & Arts (18 answers total)
Wi-fi - I like the idea of synching wirelessly via Wi-Fi (as opposed to Bluetooth)

Sadly, there's no wireless sync available on iPod Touch or iPhone.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:49 PM on September 8, 2008

(wifi sync as far as music/movies go - this doesn't include MobileMe for contacts and calendars)
posted by porn in the woods at 4:50 PM on September 8, 2008

coming from someone who has extensively used both devices

(side note:) New iPods will most likely be announced at the Apple Event "Let's Rock" being held tomorrow at 10am PT. So I would definitely wait to make your decision until then. Check out for more info on that
New Zunes also just came out this weekend and haven't been fully reviewed yet.

Now to answer your questions:
-Podcasts work great on the Zune as well
-As far as I know the iPod Touch CAN'T currently sync music or vids via wi-fi (you can sync Mobile-Me, etc.)
-Both interfaces are extremely easy to use
-iPod Touch can use any of the apps in the iTunes App Store. It really is an iPhone without the phone... which might be overkill for your needs
-you will not be able to beat the iPod Touch's screen. It is quite simply beautiful. But again, if you aren't into watching videos why would you need it?

From what you describe as your wants/needs I'd currently recommend an 8GB Zune. But there might be something released tomorrow that will change your mind.
posted by nokry56 at 4:57 PM on September 8, 2008

New iPods tomorrow and new Zune's possibly this month, so keep that in mind.

That said, I have a Touch and I like it a lot. Surfing via WiFi is great and being able to buy apps that add more value to it is very useful. However, it doesn't sync wirelessly, so be warned. Love the interface, even when typing. Don't know how a Zune handles podcasts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:19 PM on September 8, 2008

If you're already using iTunes, the obvious answer is an iPod. You'll just plug it in and be ready to go. If you get a Zune, you'll need to do a lot more setup work. In practice, syncing over USB instead of Wi-Fi is no big deal, since you need to plug the iPod in to charge it anyway. As for which specific model to get, presumably you'll want one of the new/reduced price/bigger capacity models that will be announced tomorrow morning.
posted by designbot at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2008

I have a Zune (8gb). There's a nice podcast selection via the Zune software. Unfortunately, no wi-fi surfing, but it can sync wirelessly.

If you're used to iTunes and would rather not download new software, I would go with the iPod. The Zune software is a bit clunky, with a limited selection of videos and no apps (there are games, however).

New features on the new Zunes are outlined here.
posted by extramundane at 5:59 PM on September 8, 2008

One nice thing about the Zune is that so far Microsoft have done a good job of releasing updates to old devices, so you don't have to go buy a new one to get the latest (software) features.
posted by rodgerd at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2008

The 8 gig zune is 160 on Amazon, the 8 gig touch is 285.

I'd say it's worth the extra money if you think you might enjoy some of the extras, but then again I have an iphone. If you're on the fence about video you might as well go with the touch, it's the only one of the zune/ipods that has a screen sized for video.

I have zero practical interest in video but it's always in the back of my head for "next time" I'm on a plane (when I will probably just bring a book as usual.)

We'll see what happens tomorrow though. If the touch comes down in price it might be a no-brainer.
posted by Wood at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2008

The big thing about the new Zunes, aside from the capacity increase, is that you can now buy songs via wifi and the Zune marketplace. I'm not interested in that personally for the same reason I'm not interested in buying stuff from the iTunes Store, but there you go.

The downside to a Zune is that the ecosystem lock-in with the Zune software is even more aggressive than the iPod+iTunes lock-in, though that may only be because there's a much larger community working on breaking into the iPod versus the Zune. Right now you can use the Zune with third-party software, but you still have to have the Zune software installed and you have to go through a bit of an arduous process to connect your Zune to, say, Winamp.
posted by chrominance at 6:59 PM on September 8, 2008

Apple has been releasing firmware updates for the iPod Touch to keep it updated. You'll have access to more applications (regular games, networked games, utilities, etc.) than the Zune. If you want, you can even jailbreak it and expand your software options further, although the iPhone/Touch software selection is pretty broad now. The Zune cannot be jailbroken.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:07 PM on September 8, 2008

No one who owns an iPod Touch wishes they got a Zune instead.

Ideally, they'll announce new Touches tomorrow, which will open up the possibility to score a first-gen at a discount, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with them.
posted by mkultra at 7:09 PM on September 8, 2008

One thing about the Zune - you can download as much as you want (of whatever they have available). Our plan is $15 a month, so basically we download whatever they have and we want. There are a some cds where you do have to buy the music (like older AC/DC albums, etc), but there's still a huge selection available. You only "own" the music for as long as you pay the monthly fee, but it's a pretty good plan if you want to listen to a lot of different cds.
posted by gt2 at 9:38 PM on September 8, 2008

All I can say is that I love my iPod touch. I use it for videos a lot, and while you don't currently, if you do any non-driving commuting, it's fantastic. While I don't have wifi in a lot of the places I go, the touch is really great for web use, and in a lot of ways, it's much more than just an mp3 player, which you might not be looking for, but once you have it, you'll love it.

Also, with iTunes, if you've been using the Apple default settings, you've ripped everything into .aac, and I don't know if the Zune plays nice with that. (If you use iTunes, do yourself a favor and jiggle the settings a bit. I chose to stick with mp3 formats in case I ever want to get something that doesn't play aac). It might just be easier to stick with Apple.

As for the 8, I've got a 32, and it's nearly full with movies and music. While you might not need that much, look at a 16. Music collections need room to grow, and you can try out tv shows/movies a bit.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:44 AM on September 9, 2008

The software is a downside to Zune. Of course, for your simple needs (which are identical to mine) it's not a big deal. The only time I ever fire up the Zune software is to sync. You can still use iTunes or Amazon or whoever for purchases, Zune automatically finds them and syncs them along with everything else.

I'd suggest you play with each for a few minutes and decide which one you like. Bear in mind that you may be able to get a deal on a previous generation device once the new ones come out.
posted by dzot at 6:51 AM on September 9, 2008

The main difference in terms of features is that the Touch can be used for browsing and apps, and the Zune can sync wirelessly.

The Touch is much more expensive.

I've had both a Zune and a standard iPod, and enjoyed them both immensely. I didn't find much difference in usability between the software setups.

I think ultimately it's a matter of whether the gee whiz of browsing and apps is worth the extra hundred bucks or so.
posted by YoungAmerican at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2008

You say that your library has outgrown the capacity of your current iPod... but do you really need to transport your entire library around with you all the time?
If you're on the road or away from home for prolonged periods then I can understand, but I have a 160GB classic, and a 250GB (ish) library - and although I fill the iPod to the brim, I still find myself blasting through various smart playlists that juggle everything around dynamically based on rating, last played, last skipped, etc. Basically I've only ever got a couple of hundred songs in circulation at any one time.
It is nice to have lots available to listen to - depending on mood, environment, etc. - but I make sure that I have a number of albums in a "manually selected" (normal) playlist to accommodate this desire.

Maybe something like this would be an option for you? I'm more than happy to share my playlist criteria if you want - although there are about 60 nested dependencies across 5 different "types" of playlist...

It's a much cheaper option (but perhaps you're looking for an excuse for a new gadget? :) ) and also serves to help "refresh" some older tracks that haven't been heard for ages...
posted by Chunder at 1:29 PM on September 9, 2008

In case you missed the announcements today, your choice just got simpler.

You can get a new iPod nano for $149 (8 GB) or $199 (16 GB), and the redesigned iPod touches have dropped in price as well. You can also get the just-discontinued models at a discount. I think the new nano or a refurbished iPod touch is going to give you the biggest bang for the buck.
posted by designbot at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2008

iPod Touch owner here (16 gig). I wanted a Touch for its wireless capability - I didn't have much interest in video.

That was then. The video is fantastic for traveling. And now there are apps (I use Stanza - free!) that allow you to download books or pdfs or Word documents and read them on the Touch (you can't edit anything - read-only) even when you don't have a wi-fi connection. Fantastic.
posted by rtha at 9:19 PM on September 9, 2008

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