The iPod has been first and foremost designed to be a great personal music player. The fact that it has been designed to do one job and do it well is the main reason that I chose it over countless other mp3 players. However given all that, I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of alternative uses people have discovered for their iPod. Some models are more flexible than others. At one end of the range you have the iPod Shuffle which is severly limited by the lack of a screen. At the other end is the iPod Video who’s name alone indicates that its primary function has shifted from playing music to playing video. I myself own an iPod Nano, so my own suggestions will be based on the use of this particular model.
Photo courtesy of re-ality
During the process of compiling this list I couldn’t resist adding in a few less than serious suggestions, as the photo above can attest to. I take no responsibility for any damage to your iPod or person should you be silly enough to try out one of these.
The chances of me actually finding 101 alternative uses are not great, so please feel free to make suggestions, both real and humorous.
So without further ado…
1. An alternative for wallet photos. The iPod nano has a very small screen and although it’s possible to use it to display photos it doesn’t really have the detail to do most photos justice. However I have found that it’s quite useable for displaying close up photos of my wife, kids and pets.
2. Playing games. The iPod nano comes with 4 built in games, Brick, Music Quiz, Parachute and Solitaire. These games really just reinforce the fact that the nano is a music player, not a portable gaming device. However there is one game I’ve been playing regularly on my nano up until quite recently. It’s played with the unit turned off and I call it ‘Earbud Untangle’. On average it takes about a minute to play and the game ends when you can hold an earbud in each hand without crossing the wires over at any point. Anyway the novelty of this game started to wane recently and I began thinking of a device that could be used to keep your earbud wires untangled. It wasn’t long before I had a solution. How about some little plastic clip the held the two wires together that you could slide up from the point where the wires parted to the point where they joined the earbuds. This would keep the two wires together and avoid them getting tangled. I could picture such a device clearly in my mind. In fact it seemed vaguely familiar, as if I’d seen it somewhere before. Then the penny dropped. The standard Apple earbuds already have such a device built in. I’d subconsciously fiddled with the thing countless times before but never made the connection as its purpose . How dumb can you get!
3. Stopwatch. It’s a standard utility on the nano that can be found under the Extras menu. It works quite well. It includes the ability to record lap times for a session and you can store multiple session on your iPod, each identified by the start date and time. It’s useful for someone like myself who wears an analogue wristwatch.
4. Clock. Yes another built in function but in all honesty I’ve never used it. The order in which I check the time goes something like this – computer, wristwatch, wall clock, cell phone, public clock.
5. Contacts, calendar. Again never used these features and never likely to. These are handled by my email client on the rare occasions when I’m organised enough to use them.
6. Torch. The iPod nano screen may not be bright enough to spot a possum in a tree but it does give off just enough light to see where to put your feet. Results may vary depending on your height.
7. Makeup mirror. Turn an iPod nano over and you’ve got a highly reflective surface that makes a great mirror. Just don’t try and scratch the Apple logo off your face.
8. Fashion accessory. Stuff a pair of white earbuds into your ears and you’re ready to hit the streets. The iPod doesn’t need to be visible, as long there is a reasonable amount of white chord showing. In fact I was wondering if Apple should just release the earbuds as the ultimate low cost version of the iPod.
9. Cloaking device. You’re walking down the street and see someone you know that you wish you didn’t. Whip out your iPod, hold it two inches from your face and start furiously spinning the click wheel. Do not look up until you’re well past your unfortunate acquaintance. Never be tempted to look back.
10. Public transport cone of silence. The iPod can be a great way of avoiding conversation when using public transport. The trick is to be well prepared. Make sure you’re wearing your iPod before boarding. It may appear rude if you dive for your iPod the moment a fellow passenger tries to strike up a conversation, especially if they’re already mid-sentence before you get your earbuds in. Once you’re wearing your iPod, sit back, relax and don’t make eye contact. You don’t even need to have your iPod switched on. Just zone out.
11. Prop to induce hypnosis. Similar to a swinging watch, just hold the iPod upside down by the audio cable and swing back and forth in a regular motion. Caution. Make sure the audio cable is securely fastened to your iPod. May not work with larger iPod models in which case you should use the USB cable.
Duke University conducted an interesting experiment by distributing 20GB iPods equiped with voice recorders to over 1600 first year students in August 2004. Full details of the initiative can be found here Duke iPod First-Year Experience. The following uses were described in the study.
12. Portable access to course content, such as lectures, songs, historical speeches and foreign language content.
13. Classroom recording tool to capture lectures, class discussions and verbal feedback.
14. Field recording tool to capture field notes, environmental sounds, interviews, etc.
15. Study support tool for repeated listening of commercial and original content such as music, audiobooks, rehearsals and vocabulary lists.
16. File transfer and storage, particularly of large multimedia files.
17. The engineering students used their iPods in the lab as signal generators, using music from their own collections.
18 – 23 The Joy of Techhave come up with 6 humorous uses for an iPod nano. I’m not game to try any except perhaps the last one.
Sci Fi Techhave come up with 5 serious alternative uses for an iPod. These include
24. Download and view detailed subway maps on your iPod.
25. A pocket dictionary that can be browsed using the clickwheel.
26. Download video podcasts from PodDater and view potential matches using your iPod on the go.
27. Use TrailRunner to plot your training runs and then download maps, distances, directions and time goals to your iPod.
28. Play Doom. Not content with the built in games it’s possible to play Doom on your iPod. There’s just one small prerequisite. You need to install Linux on your iPod first.
29. A US light plane manufacturer plans to use the iPod as a ‘white box’ flight recorder, an alternative to the ‘black box’ flight recorders used in large commercial planes.
30. Use your iPod to store and view medical images. Osman Ratib, professor and chief of nuclear medicine at the University Hospital of Geneva, has co-created a computer software program called Osirix. It enables medical professionals to view medical images on their iPods, saving them and the hospitals they work for thousands of dollars in expensive equipment.
31 – 40. EW.com have come up with 10 novel uses for a dead iPod.
41. Listen to The Complete Harry Potter six-audiobook set with 99 hours of recording.
42. Make use of the Notes feature in the iPod and create an eBook that you can read on your iPod.
43. Listen to a spiritual podcast in your chosen religion. It may just be the inspiration you need to maintain your tolerance of others while stuck in traffic.
44. Cool tech for the non-technical. Are you one of those people who is afraid of new technology? You’ve steadfastly refused to purchase a mobile phone. You may have got away with that in the 90’s but now the pressure is intense. It’s a new century and you feel you have to take at least one step along the new tech highway. Sure you could bow to peer pressure and just buy a mobile phone. But then as soon as your friends found out, they’d want your number and start calling you. You’d have to learn how to answer it and more importantly hang up. Then you’d get your first text message ‘How r u?’. At this point you’re doomed. Instead buy an iPod and wear it in public. It’s cooler than a mobile phone and better yet nobody can tell if it’s on, let alone whether you know how to use it.
45. The opposite of number 9. You’re walking down the street and you see an attractive stranger coming towards you. You’d desperately like to meet them and notice that they too are wearing an iPod. Pretend to be engrossed in the music you’re listening to, subtlely change course to rendezvous with the attractive stranger and continue walking until you’re about one foot apart. Look up and into the stranger’s eyes, smile and say “I’m sorry, I was distracted by this great new song by ‘insert favourite band here’. Hey, you’ve got an iPod too. Aren’t they great. What are you listening to?’ If things go well you might just be able to strike up a conversation. If not you’ll be staring into space and the attractive stranger will have nimbly sidestepped you and will now be proceeding up the street at a smart pace, their eyes fixed intently on their iPod. For a moment I thought that this would be one situation where a Zune could outshine an iPod as you could exchange a couple of songs with your attractive stranger right there and then. However unless you’re on Microsoft’s campus or at a professional bloggers conference, the chances of meeting someone else with a Zune are very remote.
46. Dictate your next blog entry into your iPod. Purchase a voice recorder accessory for your iPod and you can record your thoughts as they occur.
47. Purchase a set of iPod speakers and you can use your iPod to provide the music for your next party.
48. Get out of jail free card. You’ve stuffed up and you’re in trouble with your partner. Flowers are not a good idea as the ones from your last transgression haven’t even started to wilt yet. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Buy your partner an iPod. Just be careful what model you choose. Buy them a shuffle and you may come across as too cheap. Buy them an iPod Video and they’ll suspect you’re covering up an even more serious transgression.
49. Movie prop. Can’t find a Macbook from the props department for your latest movie because every other hollywood director has them out on permanent loan, use an iPod instead. Just make sure you balance the movie with a can of coke somewhere or you’ll end up only playing to fringe festivals.
Almost half way there but I’m running out of ideas. I’m sure there’s something I’ve missed? Oh, I know.
50. Use your iPod shuffle as a bottle opener. A great party trick. Just remember to remove the cap first and rest it on top of the bottle.
51. Use a text to speech product, such as the wonderful Text2Go to capture text from the web, convert it to speech and listen to it on your iPod while you’re on the go.
52. Medical students and doctors are using their iPods to improve their stethoscope skills. After demonstrating last year that medical students greatly improved their stethoscope skills by listening repeatedly to heart sounds on their iPods, lead investigator Michael Barrett, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine and cardiologist at Temple University School of Medicine and Hospital, set out to test the technique on practicing physicians.
Try my own test and try and guess which is the sound of a real heartbeat and which is my famous heartbeat impression.
Hint – the urls give it away.
53. England cricket team joins iPod revolution, using the video iPod to analyse the bowling action of their own players and their opposition in preparation for the World cup in the West Indies. In an update to this story, they’re now using their video iPods to supplement the in flight movie program on their return flight after being bundled out before the semi-finals.
Well that’s it. I’ve run out of ideas. Please let me know what you use your iPod for in the comments. Both serious and not so serious will be considered. I would really like to find 101 alternative uses for the iPod.