I used to be in love with my iPod. It could do no wrong.

Ever since I got my third-generation iPod back in May 2003, it's been the only way to drown out irritating pedestrian chatter, subway clattering and awful store Muzak (search). I never left home without it — and if I did, I went back to pick it up.

When the new Nano came out — slimmer than a No. 2 pencil! Smaller than the Mini! In black, too! — I had to have one. Clearly, this was the reason why I had resisted buying the click-wheel iPod, the iPod Photo, the U2 iPod, the Mini (even though it came in pink) and the Shuffle.

But as soon as I opened the Nano box, my love affair with iPods started to go south.

Unless you're a nerd with a sky-high credit card limit, Apple ignores or tortures you, insisting you upgrade your machines every six months to remain hip — and worthy of tech support.

An ad spoof for the fictional iPod Flea, currently floating around the Internet, makes fun of Apple's incessant need to make newer, smaller things. The Tic-Tac-sized Flea plays one song on repeat, and if you want to start, stop or rewind the song, you'll have to buy an accessory kit.

It's a joke, but it's pretty on target.

My Nano was so delicate that I scratched it taking it out of the box. Worst of all, it didn't come with a wall charger (search)!

The only way to charge the thing is to connect it to a computer, which has to be on — and not in standby mode. Of course, that problem would be solved if I bought the $29 power adapter, found under the "accessory" section of Apple's Web site.

I was livid, and so are others. One online customer review remarked on "the shameful price-gouging by Apple" and fumed at having to pay "for something that should be standard with all iPods" and "laughingly calling it an 'accessory.'"

During a recent Saturday trip to the Apple Store in SoHo, I asked a helpful black-T-shirt-clad, name-tag-necklace-wearing salesguy why adapters weren't being packaged along with iPods anymore (it's not just Nano owners that are getting the short end of the stick, it's everyone).

He said: "The technology of the iPods gets better and better, but the price doesn't go up, so instead of getting the adapter, you're getting a better product."

Here's another way to look at it: Apple keeps giving you less and less, and expects you to spend more and more to keep up with hipsters.

Meanwhile, my friend was on the hunt for a replacement iPod Shuffle cap and a new pair of white headphones. The only products available for her were five replacement caps for $19.95 and $39 headphones that come with a remote control, "because Apple wants you to try new things," explained the salesguy.

Isn't Apple satisfied with the fact that we were suckered into buying the latest, least-tunes-holding iPods? (After all, my friend resorted to using her Shuffle because the battery in her Mini died. At $59 and $6.95 for shipping, it wasn't worth it to replace the battery — the Nano killed the Mini, anyway.)

After ranting and raving at the brave salesguy for 15 minutes, he smilingly admitted that he'd heard every single complaint we had before.

The line to pay for what we came to buy was way too long — we would have wasted the entire day at the store — but we didn't leave empty-handed. We left with the feeling that we're getting ripped off by a friendly company that's just as greedy as all the other companies out there.

But I'm going to do my part to stick it to the (Apple) man. I can't give up the iPod completely, but I'm refusing to buy an adapter for my Nano. So, I'm stuck with my ghetto old 3G iPod — shameful as it may be — which came with an adapter and won't snap in half when I pick it up.

At least until the battery dies.