Mossberg Likes Everything about the iPod mini Except the Price

I was on a flight from Baltimore to Austin this morning, and got a chance to read the "dead trees version" of The Wall Street Journal. In it, Walter Mossberg did a rather comprehensive review of the iPod mini, just in time for its initial shipment to resellers around the country.

It's pretty safe to say he liked the product a lot. He said:

For about a week, my assistant Katie Boehret and I have been testing the iPod Mini. Katie has been toting a pink model everywhere -- while walking, riding the D.C. subway and flying. I've been using a gold one and a blue one in the house, car and office. We both like these gadgets a lot. In our tests, they exceeded Apple's claims for both battery life and storage capacity.

My wife and I are really impressed with Walter Mossberg, both for his populist sense of what gadgets will work for the general public and for his willingness to include his assistant-of-the-moment in many of his reviews. This is a classy thing to do because I'm sure it helps a young journalist get noticed on the way up.

The review says that the size and look of the device makes it a winner, as does the multi-purpose functionality of the scroll wheel, enhanced to include the play/pause, menu, forward, and back buttons that are separate on regular iPods. Mossberg's only real criticism of the iPod mini is its price:

While Apple deserves some premium for style and design, the price of $249 is a little too high when compared with the prices of larger models. This includes Apple's own base-model larger iPod at $299, which can hold 3,700 songs. And Dell offers a 3,700-song player for the same price as the Mini. I think the iPod Mini really belongs at $199, not $249.

The review includes a price / feature comparison chart between the iPod mini, the iPod, the Creative Labs Nomad MuVo2, the Dell DJ 15, and the Rio Nitrus.

I have weighed in on the iPod mini pricing issue, most extensively in the article If the iPod mini Were a Car, What Kind of Car Would it Be?. I think it will do OK at $249 because it is attractive to a slightly different group than has bought the iPod in the past. Apple probably could move more units at $199, but whether the additional volume would offset the reduced profit margin is not clear to me.

I might buy an iPod mini for myself because it may be a better high capacity music player to use while running. I've tried running with the iPod that I bought for my wife as a Christmas gift, but that one has a tendency to skip songs periodically while I am running. I understand that this can be a problem for some people who use iPods that are attached to their waist while they exercise. The iPod mini, due to its smaller size and the ease with which it can be attached to the upper arm, may be affected as much by this problem.