Search this site:


October 8, 2004 12:33 AM

Broken: Apple iPod remote

Ipodremote_1Daniel M. writes:

Normally Apple is associated with great design, and putting lots of thought into usability. But they definitely dropped the ball on this one. The iPod remote is shaped in such a way that makes the top virtually indistinguishable from the bottom. When you have it in your pocket or out of sight, and you want to change the volume, skip or pause a song, you actually have to look at the remote to see which direction it is facing, or run the risk of hitting the wrong button.

This could easily have been solved by using a technique such as the one that has been present on telephones for the longest time - a raised dot over the #5 key, designed to aid visually impaired users. I find it extremely easy to dial my cell phone without looking at it due to this. Why Apple didn't consider this in their remote design is beyond me.


You're dreaming! :-)

This remote has a big sliding 'hold' switch on one side. It's trivially easy to know which way is up without looking, simply by feeling the switch on the side.

Posted by: DoppelFrog at October 8, 2004 04:23 AM

There's also a huge clip on the back you can use for the same purpose.

Posted by: anon at October 8, 2004 04:48 AM

Oh yeah, there's the clip too. How could I have missed that ? :-)

Posted by: DoppelFrog at October 8, 2004 07:01 AM

I tend to agree that the face of the remote ought to have a tactile way to tell orientation. I just put a small drop of epoxy in the middle of the play/pause button, and two drops on the volume button (one on each end).

Posted by: Chris at October 8, 2004 07:41 AM

I agree with all the other comments - I think you're wrong on this one. Besides, what difference would putting a small plastic dimple make anyway? Is there THAT much haptic feedback provided by it, that isn't provided by the hold slide or clip?

Posted by: nickster at October 8, 2004 08:54 AM

I think it could use some slight additional feedback, but the clip and switch provide enough most of the time for me. (The clip, in particular, means it's always in the same orientation when clipped to my shirt, where I usually use it.)

Posted by: Christopher Davis at October 8, 2004 10:41 AM

Clip and switch comments aside, I tend to agree with the original poster. There is no good reason for the pause/play toggle to have the same size and shape as the volume rocker, other than pleasing visual symmetry. Looks great on the drafting board, not so practical in the real world.

I've never really believed that Apple has been such a champion of user-friendly design (and I bought my first "Apple ][" back in 1979). Stylish and fashionable design, yes. User-friendly, hit and miss.

Posted by: E.T. at October 8, 2004 11:28 AM

I agree with E.T. Having performed repair services on Apple computers, I can tell you that their product design hasn't been good since the 5000-class machines of the early 90s. Sure, Macs are pretty to look at, but once you take them apart you realize that little thought was put into technical design. They're also expensive like none other when you go for replacement parts, but I won't go into that...

Posted by: Bakkster at October 8, 2004 11:47 AM

Since the play/pause is a toggle, the remote could have been triangular with a single play/pause button at the top.

Posted by: Please stop me at October 8, 2004 06:09 PM

Excuse me, but am I missing something here? Why on earth would you need an iPod remote? An iPod IS a remote, same size and shape. The fact of designing the iPod remote is ITSELF a broken act . (I liked all your comments, though)

Posted by: George Girton at October 8, 2004 06:35 PM

What makes no sense to me is why people can't look at the remote. While the iPod stays in one's pocket, the remote would hang out of the pocket, somewhere between the headphones and the pocket. You should just be able to look down and see the buttons. If you can't, what's the point of the remote?

Posted by: Ilan at October 9, 2004 02:28 PM

because you should keep your eyes on the road....

Posted by: Please stop me at October 10, 2004 10:55 AM

This is a huge mistake on Apple's part. The remote is VERY useful. But it is terribly designed. Apple has this idea that people are afraid of buttons. They reduce them on the ipod. Their mouses have only 1. I personally like a lot of buttons. Menus are a hastle.

And yes, while it is possible to tell based on the clip and hold. If you grab it in a weird way, you do have to play a little "is this right" game in your head while feeling it. Making the buttons shaped uniquely would have been a huge plus.

Posted by: Ben at October 12, 2004 03:01 AM

One more critique of the iPod remote: the clip on the back is useful for women's shirts, but not men's. How, you ask?

It clips to the right, and on women's shirts and jackets, the right side of the zipper or button row overlaps the left. That means, when the cord goes in the proper orientation (cable down to iPod, earphone jack facing up toward headphones, as most people would wear them), the clip cannot work on men's shirts or jackets (men's shirts and jackets have zippers and button rows which overlap left above right).

I've tried to use the remote clipped on several outfits, and it doesn't work unless flipped upside down in an awkward orientation.

A small gripe, but one that could easily have been remedied by a clip that can be used in both directions, to the right or left.

Posted by: Michael McWatters at October 12, 2004 03:07 PM

I agree with E.T. This is a revisit of the iMac's original round mouse -- a victory of style over substance. No big deal -- just a mistake. Bet future versions, if any, will address the issue.

Posted by: Mark Matson at October 13, 2004 12:37 PM

Personally, I quit using the remote. The cord is just too dang long with that extra cordage attached. I kept getting tangled up. And, I found the remote hard to use for all the reasons people mentioned previously.

Posted by: susan at October 15, 2004 03:45 PM

Havent you sad acts got nothing better to do than moan about GOOD product designs. Weirdos.

Posted by: Nathan Thompson at November 8, 2004 10:17 AM

I loved the remote. The longness is great. The design is perfect if you think you can do better send designs to apple. Faggots.

Posted by: Nathan Thompson at November 8, 2004 10:18 AM

now now Nathan, there's no need to get angry, and by the way, watch the language, the purpose of this site is to inform sites of designs that troubled some users not to critizize those users for being troubled

Posted by: Mats at November 13, 2004 04:54 PM

Shut up dont you tell me what to do. If people think they can do better send some designs to me and i'll rate them!!!!!

Posted by: Nathan at November 22, 2004 10:18 AM

Apple have the best stuff out you can't fault it, Nathan is rite infact hes sitting rite next to me MUWHAHAHA

Posted by: jack at November 22, 2004 10:20 AM

Yeah i can see jack were in school

Posted by: Nathan at November 22, 2004 10:21 AM

"Yeah i can see jack were in school"

Second grade?

Posted by: Cynic at November 23, 2004 08:02 PM

Nah Year 11 which is just about to do GCSE's Assface.

Posted by: Nathan at November 24, 2004 03:28 PM

I keep the remote in my coat pocket along with my iPod. The problem with keeping the iPod in your pocket is that if you leave the hold button off, the controls get knocked all the time, causing songs to pause and skip. Furthermore, it's hard to control the iPod without taking it out of your pocket.

That's why I use the remote: the buttons don't don't get bumped easily, and you can adjust it by feel. Nonetheless, it's a shitty design. I'm constantly pressing the wrong button because of the design symmetry, and the cord always gets tied in knots.

My question isn't why Apple's original design was so so shitty but why Apple or some other company haven't built better ones yet.

Posted by: Mike at December 3, 2004 08:30 PM

I found that when I press the "forward" button - the clip come undone. Very very annoying.....I can't understand why that wasn't considered when they were designing it.

Posted by: aynne at December 15, 2004 02:05 PM

Oh yes, the humor of a 16 year old. Fruitful.

The apple iPod is one of those products thats realy quite good. However it is stuck in a phase. The market is rapidy expanding, i sold my iPod about the time they introduced the new wheel. They have an aweful batterylife and the remote is bad design and i have found that with everyday usage the cable becomes broken in a matter of weeks. The remote clip is a bad design and also a poor clip while were on the matter. My current MP3 player has a 35hour battery life, im sorry but the apple has no competition on that field. The design is very very nice. All the features are so crammed in that without changing the design theyre not going to get much more in there (eg decent batery, video etc). they are going to have to come up with the goods or it will get old. Quickly

Posted by: James at January 11, 2005 05:17 PM

No remote or anything woks with my ipod. its a 4th gen 20 gb. THe only thing i can sucessfully plug into it is earphones. i got it for free tho off

I duno why i somehow got one that i cant plug anything into, but o well it was free anyway so nothing gained nothing lost ;-)

Posted by: Bootleg Greg at January 15, 2005 01:41 PM

Jesus H, are you people so in love with Apple that you refuse to acknowledge any design mistakes? The remote sucks. Anyone who says otherwise is an Apple lemming... You remind me of the people that vigorously defend the one-button mouse... It too sucks! Right clicking enhances usability.

Enjoy the Cult of APPLE l000sers.

Posted by: Cult of Apple at February 5, 2005 03:42 PM

Thank you! I for one am the first to criticize Apple for its arrogance and I use them every day so I believe that makes me entitled to do so. My biggest peeve is that in the year 2005 when everybody and his great-grandmother knows how to use a 2-button mouse with a scroll wheel, Apple still insists on delivering its new computers with mice that look like bars of soap from the Body Shop and are just about as useful. OS X is DESIGNED to work with 2 button wheel mice right out of the box, yet you have to pay extra money to get one! How stupid is that? Get off your high horse, Steve Jobs!

Posted by: Resistor at February 25, 2005 03:53 PM

I have had endless problems with my iPod remote. It has been replaced up to 5 times and has never worked well if at all since I have had my iPod! Has anyone else had this problem?

I received my latest remote last week. Took it out of the sealed pack and it didn't work at all! Could it be the connection on my iPod that is causing this?

My iPod is now out of warranty but I still have 90days left on the remote! Which means little when I have to waste time sending it back and waiting for a new one to arrive!

Posted by: fotomarc at March 26, 2005 07:21 AM

I dont actually own the ipod, but I have noticed on pictures of the remote (and other companies do this too) That one cord comes out the top, and one out the bottom. Why not make the remote, with both wires coming out the same side, or forget having to plug your earphones into the remote idea entirally? I think this would make it better

Posted by: ABC at April 18, 2005 03:53 PM

OMG - all this over a stupid remote - or is that remote stupid??

And they makde them symmetrical for a reason - their shareholders - cheaper to make TWO the samw than each differently - pennies times how many million?

Apples??? good in pie - and not much else form the sounds of it....

Posted by: imnotright at May 3, 2005 04:04 PM

i cannot see why the ipod has been so sucessful.

um well its white/shiny

... has a round thing

um, well.

the battery sux, the screen is too small to look thru 3000 songs or whatever and it is only compatible with itunes which on windows, suck more than the one button mouse,(well maybe)

there are much better big capacity players out there, Zen for example.

and whats with the ipodfoto, who is so insecure that they cant go an hour without looking at someone they know.

ps it sucks that you cant use minidisc players on apples, whats with that, they have good battery life, and u can store an ulimited number of songs on the relitively small strong discs

Posted by: Kip at July 3, 2005 05:00 AM

maybe i'm missing something, but i could never figure out why i'd need a remote for my ipod.

Posted by: skittles at July 6, 2005 04:53 PM

Skittles...It's easy, you need a remote for when your iPod is in your backpack (or anyother number of locations) while you bike or ski or whatever activity you maybe doing and can not have your iPod readily accessible. Wired and inline with the earbuds is perfect for a number of applications.

Posted by: Mike at January 13, 2006 05:44 PM

Comments on this entry are closed

Previous Posts: