Zune? iPod Touch?

Zune HDBack around the New Year Holiday I realized I had not really used my Zune that much of late and decided it was time to remedy that. I got it and it was still working just fine. However, I felt fairly dated with what top of line technology for such things a few years ago now being a full generation or two behind the times. It is an interesting thing to note though that the Zune line of MP3 (really nearly any digital format, including movies and such) player is still around and kicking. And that brings me to the dilemma faced going forward and one that I am not sure which to lean. In other words, your input and opinions are much appreciated. Would I be better off continuing my relationship with Zune HD (and hence Microsoft) or should I look into the iPod Touch, which now includes a lot of the same features as the Zune and a few extra options from the Apple/Mac empire?

A little bit of background is in order I am sure. I have a first generation Zune that is a mere 4GB capacity. My chief complaint is that my music collection is now approaching right around 17GB size. I have little problem making choices about last GB to not copy over, but when at 4GB the music I would always want to hear is always not on the device. Clearly though, with my constantly wanting to acquire new music, the 32GB solid state devices available are clearly the way for to go.

Of additional consequence (and a large part of the reason I have ignored my Zune so much of late) is I have just played music on whatever computer I have at hand. This is made easy by having a larger (paid for) Dropbox, putting the music on it, and it is available on all my systems. Two points against that process though. First, is the expense of the Dropbox account. At $10 a month it is not too bad, but consider I could pay for half of the device in question in a year and have the entire music library in the car/truck as well. Also consider that I would not need the additional size over the free box without the music in there. Second is the wear and tear on the computer drives by playing music all the time. Bottom line is that movement on drives will sooner or later wear them out. Not such a bit deal I know, especially with multiple backups, but still, something from my vantage that has to be considered.

So, pursuing something is in the cards. The only question is Zune HD or iPod Touch. Zune has a couple of features that I like, not the least of which is the ability to share music wirelessly with people who are around you. It is legal by the way, the share only lasts a week or so, and Microsoft has worked that deal out with the music companies. On the other hand, I have only been the situation where that was used on three whole occasions. The other big plus that is really all that different from the Touch is the DRM free music purchasing store. On the other hand, I have never really used it. It is much cheaper to just purchase from Amazon then to use the store – though the Zune store does have free music offerings about every week that have on occasion been a gem. I suppose the one big advantage is it runs a bit cheaper than the iPod touch, both new and on the secondary market.

So let’s think about the iPod Touch and potential advantages. It is basically the iPhone without the phone when you get down to it. So it has the app store and will run pretty much all of those kinds of things. That is a big plus when you get right down to it. Things like tracking stuff to running Skype are all right there with a small purchase (sometimes they are free). of course it all requires a wireless hot spot. But then again, those are available and all my favorite places for the most part (coffee shops, offices, home, for instance). That probably makes up the difference in cost right there and it is a good thing, as that is about the only really plus I see for it over the Zune.

The downside, is the very fact that I am not completely hooked on the idea of the Apple philosophy of doing things. It would require specific and generally expensive cables/adapters for connections to everything from PC to charging. Also, the Apple music store is not DRM free – not that would likely use it, but worth noting. Lastly, while I can make my Zune talk to Linux – though it does not like it, I do not think there is an option of any sort for the iPod family, and indeed I would have to run iTunes on the PC to even manage it – I say with a question mark because I am not 100% sure on that.

One downside for both of them, only from my perspective and recent complaints about the touch screen on my phone. They are both touch screens. I want the flexibility of both options. A three button set for doing the most important job – which is after all playing music. And if I need to do something on the screen that is more complex that the pause, back and move forward/play button, okay. But I really hate the touch screens. My fat fingers always catch whatever, where with a real button I am sure the edge of my finger is just where I want it to be. My hate for smudges and finger prints on screens, making them dirty and hard to read is very high as well and there is just no away around that with a touch screen only option.

Opinions and comments are wanted – so let me hear from you!

** – Image from Zune promotional materials.