I Love My Zune. I Don’t Like My Zune

I have just purchased a Microsoft Zune as a replacement for my old MP3 player (Creative Zen 20GB). My experience with the device and software has, so far, been extremely satisfactory. However, there were various things which I found about it which annoyed me. I just submitted those as feedback to the Zune Team in hope they will review them and take them into serious considering. My feedback was as follows:

Hello! First of all, I’d like to let you know that this will be fairly long. I’m a firm believer that the Zune has an immense amount of potential, so what I’m submiting here is a thorough list of various improvements that I would like to see in the Zune to help improve my experience using the product, as well as many other people who already own a Zune or are looking to purchase an MP3 Player. Also, as I have selected “Zune Software” as the category for this, what I will write isn’t necessarily limited to that, though a good portion of it is. If different departments of the Zune team handle different categories, I’d ask that you please forward the appropriate feedback to its respected department for review.

I have just recently purchased a Zune, and as far as the experience goes I have found it far superior to anything else out on the market, including the iPod (iTunes is just meh… I won’t go there). While the Apple iPod is a solid product in its own way, I personally do not like the craze that is all over it, making it out to be a superior product than it actually is. I was truly looking for the Zune to become an iPod killer… which as of this point it has failed to do so for various reasons.

That being said, the Zune from my experience, certainly has the incredible potential to do so… easily. The aesthetics of the hardware itself are great, including the size, weight, durability, and controls. The software on the player itself is far superior to anything I’ve ever used before. The menu system and organization just makes sense. In album (track listing) view, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to use the left and right navigation buttons to move through various albums, while using up and down to select the track. THAT’S innovation and such a small touch that makes the experience wonderful. The Zune software on the hardware is virtually perfect. There’s various things I’d like to see, added, however:

  • I love the way the FM radio system is set up and how presets are added and such. However, why am I not able to record radio? For example, I was listening to a late night program on an FM station when someone started talking about something I found extremely interesting. I would have loved to have been able to record that for my later enjoyment. The only MP3 player that has actually done FM recording right is the Creative Zen. Can we please add this to the Zune? Please?

  • The Zune automatically pausing playback when the headphones are removed is certainly a nice feature. However, can we please get an option to turn it off or on? I can vision various situations where I’d be switching headphones/speakers and I really don’t want to have to keep pressing play/pause each time I do so.
  • When playing back a video, it would be awesome if the playback didn’t stop when going through the menu system again (such as with music and the radio). Can’t we implement something like in Windows Media Center where the video is still played back in the bottom corner? (with the back button, just as it does now, go back to the currently playing video)
  • Having an equalizer is very nice. However, people such as myself who have various experience with “real” equalizers would probably like the option to have a custom equalization setting. For example, I like a particular song which has an awesome guitar solo. When I listen to that song, I’d like to isolate the range of frequencies in which the guitar resides and boost them. Saving these to custom presets would also be an added bonus.
  • When saving radio presets, it would be awesome if each frequency was also tagged with the last know station name (whether it be the station name, or the call letters), just like the current station is top when viewing the presets. When tuning to that frequency again, this can be updated if the station has changed it.
  • Along with the suggestion to keep video playback in the background (having a preview in the bottom corner or some such ), a “Currently Playing” section (whether it be music or the radio) would be a massive addition.
  • Add an option to turn wireless on or off within the community section. I really don’t want to go into the community… find out that it’s not turned on… then have to go all the way back and two levels into settings to turn it on… then back to the community.
  • Even though it’s fairly intutive that you’re viewing a list of Artists/Albums/Tracks, adding a tag to tell you what’s being displayed would be nice. Play around with the idea. Something as simple as a tag or even reducing the font size of the tracks, or indenting them 1 more space would do it.
  • When I try to send a song through the song options menu, for the love of James Allard himself, don’t let the song stop playing! Isn’t the storage/cache inside fast enough to play AND send the song at the same time?
  • There has to be some better way to show the track list than in the song options menu. Clicking twice to get to it is rather unnecessary in my opinion. I’ll admit that I can’t come up with a better way to do it, though. So have fun with it and rattle the idea around a bit. 😉

The Zune hardware is essentially perfect, as I indicated before. The main thing I would like to see added is some sort of button which will take you back to the root menu. Hitting back 14 times isn’t a good experience for the user . I know the point of the Zune look was it’s lack of buttons and to get every feature accessible through those few buttons. However, you already did an awesome job designing the current Zune. I’m sure you can come up with something. 😉

Another thing which would be absolutely AWESOME for the Zune (and a feature to make it stand FAR out from the competition) is a rather large improvement. It would be great if Microsoft would work with other manufactures (such as Pioneer, Sony, Alpine, JVC, etc) to integrate wireless support into the Zune for car media decks. The Zune already has the hardware capability. I can’t imagine it would be that difficult of a task to apply a simple software/firmware update to allow connectivity with supported car decks. Of course, the main work would be on the car deck manufactures.

I swear… I would use nothing but a Zune for the rest of my life if I could sit down into my car, push a single button, and play all my music from my Zune on my car stereo without ANY auxiliary 1/8″ wires or unstable and horrible quality FM transmitters. Those are just baggage which is largely unnecessary. The technology is available.

Microsoft… Zune Team… whoever. If you take one bit of advice from the mass of stuff I’ve written here, PLEASE pursue this option as a viable one. Seriously. Do you want to take a huge market share away from Apple with respect to playing in the car, or not? Do it quick before Apple does it first. And believe me… if no one else does it, they MOST CERTAINLY will.

The main things which I am giving feedback for, however, is the Zune software. At first, I was hesitant to purchase a Zune because I was unsure of the ease of use, stability, UI, and features of the Zune software. However, after discovering it’s utter similarity with Windows Media Player 11 (and the fact that WMP11 is required to be installed for the Zune software to work), I was very much pleased all considering I use WMP11 for my desktop media player anyway. Importing my library (as it was done automatically) was seemless and I was very happy.

However, there are various things which I would like to see changed. They are as follows:

  • I found it rather annoying at first that when I plugged my Zune into my computer via USB, the Zune software automatically launched and synchronizing started and the album I was listening to stopped playing. All I wanted to do was start charging the Zune while using it. I quickly found the option to turn off Zune software launch. Okay, that was nice. However, what about the option to turn off connecting and syncing when I plug the unit in? Can’t the unit be connected in the background when the Zune software is active? Can’t the “real” connection (where music stops playing) ONLY happen when I actually MANUALLY sync the device?

  • Why in the name of the evil Steve Jobs can’t I add music to my device from networked machines? If the Zune software is that similar to WMP11, seriously… why can’t I add my non-DRM’d music from another computer? I, for example, have a server in my house which holds ALL of my music/videos, etc, which I use for storage. I mostly stream this to other computers when I want to listen to the library or when I want to listen to the music on my stereo system/TV from my Media Center computer. I’m finding myself forced to sync while physically plugged into that machine… THAT’S annoying. Seriously. Fix this.
  • It makes no sense to have playlists in the photo view. Slideshows? Maybe. But not playlists. Please remove it or change its functionality. 😉
  • This is 2007. The internet’s news comes from bloggers. Bloggers also are big into doing podcasts. If the Zune is all about “the Social” for Pete’s sake, why isn’t there Podcasting support in the Zune? Here’s a radical idea: add RSS feed support to the Zune software for me to subscribe to the podcasts rather than iTunes’ method. While a central database is important for finding new Podcasts and organizing everything into categories, being able to subscribe to a podcast (which may not necessarying be in the archive) via RSS would make the Zune the #1 blogger’s MP3 player. Period. Think about it: every enthused and non-Apple-fanboy blogger on the internet is advocating that their readers buy a Zune. That’s some MASSIVE publicity and good PR. But whatever you do, add Podcasting support to the Zune/Marketplace. Period. I don’t care how. Just do it… and soon!
  • Even the name of your Zune is indicated in the category/genre view on the left-hand side of the software, can we please add some kind of indication this is your Zune? For example, tag it with (Zune) or (Device), or heck, add a tiny picture of a Zune next to it.
  • Why doesn’t “sign me in automatically” actually sign me in automatically? I mean, I get it that it’ll sign you in when you actually want to download/buy something, but why can’t it sign in when I launch the application? I keep feeling like it’s lost my account association or something…
  • Can we have some kind of indicator in the Zune Software/library that a particular album or song is DRM’d or has been downloaded from the Zune Marketplace? I want to know which media is going to expire at the end of the month.

Again, sorry for this being so long! However, like I said at the beginning, I’m very impressed with the Zune and I see utterly massive potential for the device. The things I’ve listed here certainly are my own opinions. However, I’d wager a good portion of what I’ve listed are ideas that are shared by many other Zune users out there… or rather, their experience would be improved should these things be changed.

I sincerely hope I haven’t written all of this in vain. One thing that I’ve been impressed with in Microsoft of late (mostly within Microsoft Research and the Xbox/Gaming division, which James Allard is part of) is how well they have listened to the community surrounding the products that have been released or are in development. Again, I sincerely hope what I have suggested in here will be read and seriously considered by the Zune Team as viable changes and improvements.

I was also impressed that such a Feedback form was provided on the Zune site. A few minutes before I discovered it, I was joking with a friend about how impossible it usually is to find feedback sections for devices such as the Zune. I love irony.

Again, thank you for all of the hard work that has been put into the Zune. It’s an awesome product. However, there are various things about it which keep it from being popular with the masses. I wish you guys good luck with the development of future revisions. I’m certain I’ll return with more feedback at a later time as I want to see the Zune improve.

Adam Reyher

[tags]zune, mp3 player[/tags]