Help me force my mom into 2003!
December 17, 2009 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Giftfilter: My contrarian technophobe mother has indicated that she "might like to experiment with an iPod." Which one should we get her, and how can we make this as easy as possible?

My mom is a terrible, terrible technophobe, though I am convinced that half of it is simply her need to be a special snowflake. Refuses to get a microwave (even though she subsists almost entirely on leftovers and tea), refuses to get a cell phone (but will gladly commandeer that of a complete stranger if she feels like it). My patience with her techno-whining ran out around the time my 94-year-old great-aunt got on Facebook.

However, she is intrigued by the ability to take an iPod from room to room and dock it in speakers. She's also been downloading podcasts individually. She is very close to her next-door neighbors, who are more or less my age, and likes how they've used theirs this way. So between them, me and my dad with our iPhones, she could have someone show her how to do things.

I have a 30 GB iPod Classic that is about six years old. I don't use it myself, and she's welcome to it. However, I think that an iPod Touch might be a little easier for her to figure out. Also, a new one would have the most current warranty/help specs available.

We plan to open it before Christmas and prefill it with all of her music. (She has a PC that is entirely her own, so we plan to sneak in there and put the stuff on her iTunes before giving it to her.) I realize she can go in there and switch stuff in and out, but she is so hand-flaily that I'd prefer to do that as little as possible, so we'll probably try to get a 16 or 32 GB model. The Gmail solution, if you will: just have enough space on there that you never have to deal with it.

An iPhone would, of course, be most appropriate, but she would be frightened by it (seriously, she would put on a big show) and she would absolutely refuse to pay 70 bucks a month. Which is unfortunate, because she would LOVE the ability to take pictures of random stuff with the camera.

So I have two related questions:

1. People keep telling me that the iPod Touch would be way more scary to a technophobe than an iPod Classic, and I remain unconvinced (mainly because of the source). To me, it seems like the visual interface would be easier, especially if she's seen me and my dad use our iPhones. When she was telling me how she wanted to do this, she seemed like she was confused by the whole finger-twirly scroll action on an old iPod. Which would be better?

2. Are the second generation ones just as good as the third generation ones? It looks like the big thing she'd miss out on if she got a second-gen one would be voice controls/voice memos, and I highly doubt she'd use those. Apps wouldn't interest her, although she might use maps and the notepad... that sort of thing.

Anyone else with advice for introducing their parents to iPods, or similar, be my guest. Thanks!
posted by Madamina to Technology (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I got my mom and ipod a couple of years back, and this year my dad bought a truck with one of the audio-in ports, and now he's nosy about one, so I picked up one for him too and loaded it with music and podcasts. I think a classic is easier to master, since the controls are so intuitive, though if your mom has experience with your iPhone, that could skew things a little bit. I think the finger-twirley thing is pretty straightforward, and is less likely to give somewhat wonky responses like touch screens are.

Also, set up itunes to automatically update her podcasts, and sync everything when her ipod is plugged into her computer. That way, all she has to do is plug the thing in every now and again and her podcasts will be refreshed.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:57 AM on December 17, 2009

I got an iPod shuffle for my 69 year old dad. He loves the simplicity of it - no twirly wheels, no font that might be straining for his eyes. I just loaded it with songs he likes, and he is very content with it after 6 months or so (he previously had an old iPod classic donated my brother, which he said was too bulky and complicated for his tastes). He's not a very tech savvy person, but has started using The Google in the past year or so, so the shuffle seems to hit just the right spot with his levels of technological know-how.
posted by raztaj at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2009

I agree that a regular iPod would be easier than an iPod Touch. My mom and my boyfriend's mom (both in their 60s, neither of whom are all that technophobic) both tried iPod Touches and neither liked them--my mom got annoyed by the inconsistency of the wireless availability, while my boyfriend's mom was frustrated by the difficulty in typing accurately on the keypad. My mom is decent with computers for her age but I kept having to explain what I thought was pretty basic and intuitive UI stuff on the Touch to her--I don't think she's ever asked me a single question about the UI on her iPod nano, which she uses frequently and enjoys.

I have a 2nd gen iPod Touch. I miss having a mike a little (mostly for stuff like Shazam, and for setting it up as a Sykpe phone, I guess...not that your mom would do that) but not a lot. You can plug an external mic into it if you really want.
posted by phoenixy at 10:11 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: if your mom is anything like my mom, she will really like the color selection on the nano and be excited about being able to get one that is bright pink or blue or whatever (tho' I realize this is a gift so you may need to be sneaky about figuring out which color to get). You can't do that with the Touch.
posted by phoenixy at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2009

I work with novice computer users a lot. I've found that the standard ipod is much easier than an ipod touch for novice users. Once you understand the sidescrolling menus and the clickwheel you are DONE. An ipod touch is overkill and you have to deal with a variety of different interface styles plus there's no benefit to all the other bells and whistles [surfing the web, email, whatnot] when someone really basically wants to listen to music. Your old ipod is likely fine. The onyl thing simpler would be a shuffle as raztaj says, and that might be too simple [it has two settings, "shuffle" and "play songs in order" and she might want more than that.]

So, if you really think she wants some sort of visual interface, go for an older iPod. I see really no indication that an ipod touch is something she'd like and I'd save the idea for a possible birthday or next christmas present if [and only if] she seems to be able to master the ipod you get her this year. If all she wants is a music player, don't get her something that doesn't mostly just play music, get her a music player.
posted by jessamyn at 10:25 AM on December 17, 2009

The Shuffle is the only mom-proof iPod. It's hard to complain about how hard it is to use when you've just got the one play/pause button. You will have to get a dongle with the controls to use the newest model with speakers, though.
posted by richrad at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2009

I'm no technophobe, but I like simplicity wherever simplicity will do. My wife got me a shuffle a few years back, and I couldn't be happier with it. It's almost weightless, clips onto the edge of any piece of clothing, can be dropped without damage, and behaves more or less like a basic CD player. I am perfectly capable of using my wife's 40 gig video ipod, but I'd rather not.
posted by jon1270 at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2009

The new Nano's have a built in video camera, which some people would love to have, especially if there are little children or grand kids around to takes video's of.

I would suggest against the touch for someone who is against technology. It is much more difficult to fully figure out, more things to go wrong on it, not as bullet proof as the other ipods, and most of the extra stuff that's on it will potentially just go to waste. A cheaper nano with a speaker dock or two to put in different rooms would be the same price as the touch.
posted by markblasco at 10:43 AM on December 17, 2009

People who have trouble with machines tend to prefer when their controls don't go away when the power turns off. It may not be rational, but it is the case. I'd actually recommend a Classic. Most third-party doohickeys (like the external speakers) expect the Classic's connector, size, and shape. And, all the controls she'll need (and no more) are right on the front.
posted by Citrus at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2009

Oh, and I opted against a nano since my dad is farsighted and the smaller menus would be an issue. I opted against an older ipod classic for the same reason; the full-color and brightly backlit menus of the 4G+ are easier on the eyes. Also, he would get frustrated with the shuffle if there was a particular song he wanted to listen to.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:52 AM on December 17, 2009

I am not a technophobe, but I'm kind of spazzy about interfaces. A Blackberry is a horrible thing to me. I did not own an iPod until the Touch was released because I didn't find the clickwheel to be intuitive at all. I love the iPod Touch, and I recently made the move into the iPhone because I love the interface. I refer to it as the "Curled Monkey Paw Interface" - I just have to jab at it and it does what I want.
posted by ersatzkat at 11:14 AM on December 17, 2009

This isnt technically an answer to your question, but my rather technophobic hated my ipod because she thought the sound was "tinny."
Getting good earphones to start off with might increase the chance she'll like it from the get-go, rather than do what mine did which is lose all interest.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:43 AM on December 17, 2009

*technophobic mother. i proof-read that twice as well >_<
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:44 AM on December 17, 2009

We gave my mother in law a Shuffle and she loves it. However, one of the main reasons she wanted one was so she could play her music in her car, and the latest Shuffle (3rd gen) can't be connected to her car's auxiliary port, because of the new fancy earphones. We might trade it for a 2nd gen instead.
posted by clearlydemon at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2009

Response by poster: Okay -- for some reason, I hadn't considered a Nano, perhaps because I thought it wouldn't be big enough, but it looks like we're going with a nice blue* Nano.

Any suggestions for a decent speaker dock that isn't too big or pricey? It'll likely be used in a tiny kitchen.

*I called her and asked her to tell me what her favorite rainbow-esque colors were, "just for fun." Her e-mail:

"It SO depends.
Just not red, but maroon or cranberry is ok.
And not kelly green, but lime is ok.
You get it.

Your not too particular mom,


So I cut out the red and the green and gave her the list of options. Response #2:

"I would be happy with whatever you chose for me.
Having the choice is the hard part.

Let's Silver?

I'm trying not to imagine a cell phone in my stocking, but that would appear to be Scrooge-like."

Because she is not allowed to pick something silver (because EVERYTHING is gray, silver or beige around that poor woman), blue it is!

posted by Madamina at 2:24 PM on December 17, 2009

Sansa is a great alternative to an iPod! They are compact, inexpensive, and easy to use.

Also check out the V-Touch thingie, like a iPhone without the phone, which apparently ALL iPhones have right now... And only about $80 online.

Will you be loading the player, or will your mom be adding her own discs? Will she have to use iTunes, which can be difficult for even expert computer users, or will she use an open source program such as Media Monkey?
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 4:47 AM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: Final update: we got her a 16 GB nano, 5th gen. Loading everything on ahead of time was really the key; she flipped out, but then she saw the podcasts and the Beatles catalog and flipped out in a happier way :) I made her demonstrate the navigation in front of me so I could see what might confuse her, and she sat there in my living room rocking out, so that convinced me that she'd accepted it well enough. And lo, she called two days later telling me how much she'd been listening to her podcasts.

Of course, she still refers to it as the iNano or the Nanopod, but who's counting?
posted by Madamina at 1:47 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older help me party like it's 1929   |   What's the best cable for my original iPhone, if... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.