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iPod Nano owners in screen scratch trauma

Front panel scratches 'insanely easily'

People slavering to get Apple's "impossibly small" iPod Nano into their sticky hands may want to pause a moment: those ahead of them in the queue have discovered that it's also unbelievably easy to scratch the screen, nixing its photo-displaying abilities.

Apple's discussion forums are already host to a 188-post thread on the topic, where people have spotted that the plastic used for the screen and front of the product is as sensitive as a Kate Moss sponsor.

Trouble is that a few scratches will quickly make the colour screen all but useless for viewing album art and photos stored on the machine. In which case you might as well have bought the cheaper, screenless iPod shuffle, hmm?

When the point was put to the head of Apple's iPod division, Jon Rubenstein - who in the past oversaw the development of the Titanium PowerBook - the one that killed off Wi-Fi reception, because metal cages do that - he replied: "Nah, you don't really think that? It's made of the hardest polycarbonate... You keep it in a pocket with your keys?"

Actually, not so for owners we've heard from. "I found that my black 4GB Nano scratched within minutes after peeling off the protective wrapper and wiping it with a cotton T-shirt. I put it in a pocket just once and it was inside the soft case that came with my third-gen iPod," comments poster number 188 in that monster Apple thread.

He's hardly alone: Register reader Matt Baker says "the plastic on the front panel scratches insanely easily", and comments that that hardly makes sense, "especially for a device that's sold in a large amount based on its appearance, and that launched at least a month before any cases for it will be available. Mine has lived either on a work surface, in a shirt pocket on its own, or (as demonstrated by Steve Jobs to be a suitable place when he launched it) in the change pocket of my jeans, again on its own."

You'll also find plenty of irked people at Macintouch (search for "scratch") who've rushed out, as commanded, to snap them up only to find that they're squinting through some sort of fog to see the song name.

So what's gone wrong? Although Apple's award-winning designer Jonathan Ive has improved various things about the iPod Nano over its predecessor - for example, the scroll wheel has texture, making it easier to use - he seems to have overlooked how people really use them. Consumer gear has to live in pockets with change and keys. Only the polycarbonate survive, or something like that.

Apple had similar problems with its ill-fated Cube, where some developed cracks in the plastic moulding - though Apple tried very hard to insist this wasn't so. The difference here though is that the Cube sold dismally, so nobody cared. Much more is riding on the success of the Nano.

Matt Baker, who bought his Nano at the Apple Store in Regent Street, said he went back and found that the assistant manager was "(a) fairly apologetic and (b) seemed to have been fielding the same comments all day, and getting rather fed up of them! He said there's no official company policy at the moment on the scratching, but that it is obviously an issue 'just from looking at mine', and that they'll swap it for me with no problems if I bring the whole thing back".

So if you see a long queue, it might be the returns. In the meantime, any Nano buyers are warned to leave the sticky plastic over the screen, if they want to keep seeing what's on it.

But perhaps this is just another step in the dastardly master plan. Next step, the diamond iPod, sold with the slogan "Impossible hard to scratch?" ®

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