The iPod Nano: scratchy, but slinky and you love 'em

Apple, you have mail

Letters An iPod special, today, in recognition of the thousands of words you have sent us with your stories about scratched screens, the wonder and horror of using a mobile phone instead of an iPod to listen to your music, and your thoughts on just how much it costs to build an iPod Nano.

Without further ado, let us move to the customer complaints about how easily scratches appear on the lovely shiny cases of new iPod Nanos.

I can understand that some people have had issue with scratched iPod nanos, but I can only think they are careless users.

My nano has been used virtually everyday, been in many pockets, etc and it is not marked at all.

People need to accept that you cannot treat these things like loose change. At £179 I like to think I look after my nano by not putting it in a pocket with my keys, etc.

I have wiped, handled and used my iPod nano just the same as all the others I have owned, and yes it will get marked and damaged, it is to be expected.

What these people really need to ask is 'What did I do to cause the damage'? A mark will not appear on the iPod surface or screen with no contact from something, it's not magic, it's common sense.

Ian Parkinson

Charles notes: "Yup, but with millions expected to sell, expect millions of careless users. Plus, I've got another iPod which I've abused pretty well, but it hasn't shown the same scratchiness."

Wonder if anyone's tried taking their Nano to Vision Express, and asking them to put a scratch-resistant layer over the screen, as they can with (plastic) glasses lenses?

Regards, Mike

There is a product available called invisibleSHIELD that is supposed to make the nano scratch proof. Read more here.

Just thought I would let you know.


Dear Author or Arthur,

You pay $200 for a device most people treat it like gold and get a nice little case for it. For the ham-handed bungling crowd perhaps they should stick to the cassette player, or whistle. iPods are not for everyone obviously some have fallen into the hands of the wrong type of people.

If it is a defect then they just won the lottery. It's value as a collectors item in 20 years will make it well worth the investment.

Even Apples garbage has great value :0-)

Interesting quote from Mr Rubenstien Where did you get that?

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?"

I would guess that Jon might need to get his resume in order; if he is as pathetic as this quote demonstrates.

You forget to ad in the positive ie %70 of the market, a brand name stronger and more profitable than NIKE, #1 consumer of flash memory. mastery of the digital music universe.

If I was a professional writer I would be careful what I write. Advertising pays your measly pay check and in the google age big brother can analyse whether they like you or not in less then a half a second. Oh and all those readers who love you.... the will forsake you in moment! Thats if they even remember your name.

Good Luck In The Future, AKA Charles Arthur your style is no mystery to the machine that can ID you in less time than it takes you to draw a breath.

Yours Truly.


Charles replies: "The point you make, about advertising, would imply that journalism should become an extension of companies' product marketing, and neither I nor The Register subscribe to that view of the world.

"A wise journalist said "News is what someone, somewhere doesn't want written. Everything else is just advertising." On that basis, this story was news."

I am very happy and unhappy about the article. I'm unhappy because you write the truth about the iPod Nano but happy that you DID write about it. It needs to be brought to mass media attention if we, the Nanoids, who have bought them will get a true solution for the issue.

I had mine out for one day in my pocket, all by itself, and it was scratch so bad I thought it was a joke. I spent 1 hour and 50 minutes talking with 8 Apple persons ranging from a customer rep at the online store to an iPod Technical Specialist. What came of the almost 2 hour conflict? An apology and a free iPod replacement. Interesting thing to note is that after I was told I would get a replacement, the issue was "Flagged" by upper management.


Er, Nanoids?

Actually, polycarbonate is a fairly soft material, insofar as scratch resistance is concerned. It's known for that. It's also known for filtering out UV (I don't know which kind) and for being tough if hit by projectiles. But scratch resistance has never been a strong point. The designer must've been new to the material in portable device use.

Cheers, Matthew

Regarding the quote from the Apple designer in the iPod Nano scratching article... "Nah, you don't really think that? It's made of the hardest polycarbonate... You keep it in a pocket with your keys?"

This annoyed me greatly. There is no such thing as "hard" polycarbonate, AKA Lexan. Polycarbonate is strong, the strongest material that has optical properties, in fact. But while it is strong, it is also soft, which is where it gets its strength, flexing rather than breaking.

Hard materials tend to be very brittle, take glass for instance. Glass has a very hard, scratch-resistant surface, but shatters quite easily. Polycarbonate is great for safety goggles, but they need new lenses all the time. However, it is a terrible choice of material for this application.


May i suggest the headline of "iPod No-No" for any future coverage of this subject? :) Sounds very El Reg if I say so myself. Naturally, I expect a credit should it be used! :)


You wag, Mat.

So the screen scratches, but it also cracks. Apple promises replacements to everyone with cracked screens. Still, the debate rages over the scratchability of the cases, threatening even our secret stockpile of diamonds (you'll have to read the article):

I can't believe people haven't worked out what's going on. It's because the black model is by far more popular than the white one, and the black glossy finish shows scratches much more than the white one.

Go into an Apple Store and look at the two side by side - all the store models are pretty scratched - and the black units look much worse. As black nano sales overwhelmingly outnumber white units, and apart from the U2 ipod there's never been a been a black iPod, the higher visibility of the scratches on black has never been a matter for complaint before. Now that they're in circulation in massive numbers, people think that they scratch easier simply because the scratches are more immediately obvious.

People need to get a life and stop moaning. Anyone who doesn't protect a £150 gadget and just throws it in their pocket has no grounds for complaint.

I just bought these - which are perfect for the job: invisible scratch-proof coating. Works wonderfully, and you can't scratch the nan through it if you try. Apple may be indirectly at fault, for not making cases immediately available when they launched the product, but people should treat their possessions more carefully.


El Reg's secret store of diamonds can remain safe. I can confirm to you that diamonds do indeed shatter even though you can scratch glass with them. When we were kids, my mate Gaz found a shiny stone on the floor, and after we'd spent several days happily graffitti-ing the school windows, he got into an argument with another lad about whether or not it was a diamond. To prove it, he placed it on an anvil in the machine room and hit it with a big hammer. It smashed to powder, much to his surprise.

Unlike me, Gaz didn't take physics. Oh well.


I'm slightly surprised that no-one yet seems to have pointed out that, in the UK at least, goods have to be of merchantable quality and suitable for the purpose for which they are purchased. i.e. if the screen of your new iPod tuns out to break ridiculously easily then you are entitled to go to the person you bought it from and get a refund, replacement or repair whether or not the thing is covered by a warranty.

Obviously, I'm not qualified to give legal advice so you should check the facts but the consumers' association should be able to help you out there...


I bet they put the window in backwards. Polycarbonate is a tough material but not hard. To overcome this they put a hard coat on it, which is usually only on one side. When working with this the product the only way to tell the 2 sides apart is the colour of the pre-mask, (plastic coating protector). If your premask was clear then they put in wrong as the blue premask is usually the hardcoat side? (This is if the window was Lexan product) Any way to open it and flip the window?


Don't try this at home, kids...

Next, it emerged that cracking up and scratchiness were not the only things to threaten iPods. MP3s play on mobile phones too, y'know. Opinion, it is fair to say, is divided on this one:

My last 4 phones have had the capacity to play MP3's ever since the seimens phone i have 4 years ago could store about 6 songs on it. I used to listen to my 6 songs often until i needed to make a call and discovered my battery was flat. Sames goes for other phones that i have the ability to play music on, i own a C500 now and would not dream of listening to music on it for the same reason.

My ipod is great, holds my entire CD collection, the battery will easily last me a few days and is easy to use. When i want to make a phone call my phone battery is always full.

So years into the future when mobiles have batteries that last a month and all have 200G flash memory, will we use them for watching Movies and listening to music?

If some scroat nicks my phone today it is a pain, i lose my numbers and am without a phone for a day or two. Can i imagine losing not just my phone and numbers but my entire music and movie collection as well would be a very bad day, Not a chance.

The winners of the personal technology race are going to be Handbag manufacturers, 2006 is going to be the year of the Manbag, you wait and see!


I already use a converged device and certainly won't be carrying a separate camera, MP3 juke box, phone, PDA etc ever again.

It's called a SE 910i.

I have 1Gb of storage for my mp3, ogg and mp4 videos on removable memory, which is more than enough for at least 4-5 days of listening / viewing without repetition on my commute.

Every day on the tube on my commute in from Wimbledon to the City I listen to a new album I haven't heard before. On the way home I tend to watch a film (The Island is my current viewing item - shame it's not a good film though). I don't really care that an Archos might have a slightly better screen or that an ipod can fit more music on it. The 910i has reached the tipping point where it does things well enough to outweigh the hassle factor of carrying separate devices.

It's not a question of if /when converged devices are good enough, they already are. What it needs for true mass market adoption is the service / user wrap to go with it so people who don't own a PC and aren't a tech head like me, can listen to their favourite tune on the phone in 3 clicks max....


No, I don't want a coffee-making toaster - for a couple of simple reasons... My kitchen (though small) is easily big enough to contain both, and besides they have to do different things. My coffee pot has to be leak-proof, for starters, which isn't a huge concern for my toaster.

When it comes to the piles of stuff I carry around with me however, things are different... Within limits, if one bit of kit can do the job of two, then one is better. Having a clock on my mobile phone means that I no longer wear a watch. (Glancing around the office, it seems that I'm not the only one to have made this choice.) There are limits, of course. The replacement has to have sufficient functionality, which is why my mobile doesn't double as a diary - that interface is just too horrible to try to use. It's also the reason why I do have a digital camera, despite the fact that my phone can take photos. The phone simply can't deliver the same quality as even a cheap digital camera.

Would I trade in my MP3 player if my phone could do the same job? Obviously, yes. But they'll have to give me a phone with at least a gigabyte of storage, a decent interface to my PC (the music industry is barking up the wrong tree - and not for the first time - if it thinks that I'm going to start paying to download dozens of tracks to a mobile), a half-decent way to navigate through the music stored on it, a radio, and decent battery life. The battery life seems possible, and given the size of the screen and the number of keys available, the interface could probably be better and more intuitive on a phone than it is on my current MP3 player. Storage is still a problem, and one that Ed Zander apparently doesn't get.

Bottom line? The Motorola ROKR looks like a horrible compromise that isn't going to suit anyone. But they should keep working on it. If you still have doubts, check out how many people around you, and especially those under 35, still wear a wrist-watch.


I recently got a fancy new phone, with camera and MP3 player built in.

Now I also have a decent digital camera, (well, it was a couple of years ago). It's better than anything a 'phone can offer and I took it with me on holiday this year. But I don't carry it with me all the time. If I'm out somewhere and see something I want to snap - a beautiful view perhaps, or something more practical like photos of an accident scene - the camera in my 'phone is ideal because it's always there. It's taking the place not of "proper" cameras but of the disposable ones you keep in the glove box just in case.

It's the same with music players. Like many people, I have a large number of CDs. For convenience I'll eventually rip them to my PC; some folk might choose to use an iPod or some hard disk-based MP3 player. For music on the move - cycling to work or on public transport - I bought a little flash-memory MP3 player; every now and then I rotate the CDs I've got on it. But if my 'phone offers the same ability, in pretty much the same size, why *would* I want to carry both?


And lastly, a researcher reckons the build cost of an iPod Nano is somewhere around the $100 mark. But, you cry, this doesn't mean Apple is pocketing all the change:

They might have missed some of the costs associated with building the nano:

1) PCB assembly, placement per part adds up quickly. 2) shipping, warehousing etc.. 3) Packaging. etc...

On a complex consumer product like the nano having actual component cost of 50%+ of the retail price is actually very good.

The nano probably uses lead free solder too, which means the yield won't be close to 100%.


Think you are printing a lot miss information about the iPod build costs. I worked as a developer in a number of electronics companies, including infamous Amstrad. Just to point out, the BOM cost is normally around 1/3 of the end product cost to the consumer. Most of the the price of a consumer electronics product goes in the development costs, business running costs, retailer, shipping, tax etc. Think is worth pointing this out to your readers.


Has anyone considered the cost of the molds and plastic to make the case and other components?

All this hype, but how about the cost and profit margin in a Coke, or how about a car? Why is it in everybody's interest to slam Apple?


This is the second time I've read reports about an iSuppli analysis. The first was their breakdown of the Mac mini. The way you present the data is annoying as it makes no mention of the costs of design and development, the tooling up costs, freight, packaging, promotion and the administration of the company that puts all this together.

You just throw in a comment about Apple's "whopping" base margin as though they have no other costs at all and you make it sound like they are a bunch of extortionists when you would prefer they were a non-profit organisation. If the margin is so vast then there is a great opportunity here for you to jump in and start making a competitor yourself.

If you can't manage that then perhaps the story is to buy Apple shares. There is no story here at all. "Company makes profit."

That's it. Please stop beating up these iSuppli things as though you are Woodward or Bernstein uncovering shocking corruption.

Regards Tim

Do take into account the retailer's margin as well... The labor cost hardly took into account the facilities associated costs as well as the machinery to assemble / weld components.

All in all, Apple's take on the item is probably considerably lessened in relation to you report.


"Apple's base margin is a whopping $100.82. You can probably add a little more for software development "

-and research, hardware development, design, shipping, marketing, support and a host of other overhead costs. Not to mention the cut retailers want (even running the Apple Store isn't free). I even think they left of the cost of the manufacturing plants and only included what it costs to keep them running once they're running.

Just like I said in response to the $40 to manufacture Intel processors story, that's only one piece of the story. Apple (like Intel) has to make up all those other costs before they see even $1 in profit.


Wow, you mean a business is profiting from their product!! My Goodness! What is this world coming to?

So is this going to be the new thing now? Researching companies on how much they are profiting on their product. We are really going to a capitalism witch hunt? Ridiculous. If you don't agree with how much a company charges...DON'T BUY THE PRODUCT!!! It's that simple.

Here's a newsflash you may want to research: Do you think a ToyotaCorolla really costs $24,000 to make? Freakin' half-thinks.


your headline 'ipod nano costs $100 to make' is ridiculous unless you think labor costs no money. itunes software doesn't fall out of the sky, nor do the servers or bandwidth required to make it run.

you socialist europeans really should place more value on labor and not claim the price of something is merely the cost of materials. have you never read das kapital?

Don B

Goodness gracious, Tony. What manufacturer have you ever heard of collecting the entire retail price markup for ithself? The components and labour add up to almost $100, and the device retails for $199, okay. Apple's marginwould be the difference between the cost and its wholesale selling price, not retail.

Yes, Apple sells a lot of kit direct and through their Apple Stores, but don't forget the iPod is a consumer device available from the Best Buys, Wal-Marts, and Costcos of the world. I would guess that the sell-through volumes at those outfits are orders of magnitude higher than what Apple shifts sans middleman -- reducing their margin somewhat from the "whopping $100.82" you quote.

The point really is with that kind of pricing headroom, Apple has several turns of the screw available against its struggling digital music competitors. Unless the screen scratch trauma torpedoes it (I believe the replaced mini was so popular because it was so scratch-resistant), the Nano is Apple's BFG in that market.


Anyone else Apple'd out? Good. Let's reconvene on Friday for letters on all the subjects in the universe, except iPods. Nano, or otherwise. ®

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