May 27, 2010 at 9:52 AM by Dr. Drang
A while ago I got an 5th-generation iPod nano by cashing in some Marriott points that I had no other use for. My 2nd-gen nano was working, and still had good battery life, but its button controls were getting flaky. The center button, for instance, wouldn’t register a click unless I hit it just the right spot.
So the new nano comes and it has a bigger screen and more storage and some new features. One of the new features is a greatly expanded set of alarm options. You can now have many alarms, you can use both tones and playlists as the alarm sound, and the alarms can be set to repeat at useful intervals. For example, I use my nano as my alarm clock, so I have an alarm set for 6:00 AM every weekday. Unlike the old nano, I don’t have to think about unsetting Friday and resetting it Sunday.
Which would be great if I could trust the alarm to actually go off. But I can’t.
Here’s the problem: if you’re listening to the nano when the alarm is supposed to go off, it won’t; it waits until the nano stops playing the current track. So if I wake up early, start listening to a long podcast, and drift off before the alarm time, it won’t wake me up until after the podcast has finished playing, which could be well after my wakeup time.
And it’s not just my particular scenario that’s a problem. Any situation in which you try to use the nano’s alarm as a reminder while you also listen to it will trigger this bug. Say you want to do a little yard work while something’s cooking in the oven. You can’t hear the oven alarm outside, so you set your nano alarm and go out to dig up a few weeds while listening to In Our Time. At some point during a discussion of Archimedes, you have your own eureka moment—your roast is burning because the damned alarm didn’t go off.
I cannot conceive of the kind of thinking that creates an alarm that works this way. An alarm that sits politely until you give it an opportunity to break in goes against the very definition of the word alarm. I should point out that the nano’s reticence is limited to podcasts; it’s perfectly willing to interrupt songs and audiobooks.
(The alarm’s behavior while listening to an audiobook is weird. I usually have my alarms set to both play a tone and start up a playlist. If I set the alarm while the audiobook is playing, I get the expected behavior: the tones sound and the nano then switches to the playlist. But if I set the alarm first, then start listening to the audiobook, the alarm will play only the tones and the audiobook will continue on.)
I did a full reset of my nano when I first noticed this problem, thinking that maybe something had gotten out of whack and would be fixed by starting fresh. No such luck. I’ve done a little Googling but haven’t found anything resembling this problem. Am I the only one with this bug?