Apple iPod Nano 6G
Finger tapping good?
Review Apple can’t seem to make up its mind about the iPod Nano. The new model that Steve Jobs unveiled recently is the 6th generation version of the Nano, and it seems as though each new generation has undergone a fairly major redesign. In fact, I’ve seen something similar before in the 3rd generation ‘phat’ Nano, which also had a compact, rectangular lozenge design – and, apparently, was one of the less successful incarnations of this series.
Round six: Apple's iPod Nano
However, this new model has an ace up its sleeve in the form of the ‘multi-touch’, screen that replaces the Nano’s traditional scroll wheel. The new Nano measures just 1.48 x 1.6in, and the touch-sensitive display takes up almost the entire front panel. There’s a chunky black border around the edge of the screen, but the visible screen area is 1.54in diagonally, as claimed on Apple’s spec sheets.
The screen is square, with a 240 x 240 resolution that produces an attractively sharp and colourful image. As you might expect, the interface is similar to that of the iPhone and iPod Touch, with a series of icons that you tap to in order to browse by album, song or artist, or to activate features such as the built-in FM radio.
The size of the screen means that there’s only room for four icons on screen at a time, so the various icons are arranged on four successive screens that you can swipe through with a quick flick of your finger.
Like the iPhone/iPod Touch, the Nano allows you to customize the layout of the icons by entering ‘jiggle mode’ – which is just as well, as the main music-related features are oddly separated and placed on the first and third screens by default. However, you can’t download and instal any of the third-party iOS apps that run on the iPhone or iPod Touch.
Coverflow No Show
I thought that the size of the screen might make the touch-sensitive control system a bit fiddly, but it’s just about the right size for simple actions, such as swiping with your fingers and scrolling down through lists of albums or songs. The only action that seemed a bit clumsy was using two fingers to rotate the screen image, but that’s probably not something you’ll be doing all that often. People with chunky fingers might find it a bit small, but nimble-fingered young ’uns will love it.
Alas, there's no swiping Coverflow-style through album art
My only complaint about the interface is that there’s no graphical ‘coverflow’ mode that would allow you to flick through your album artwork with your finger, as you can on the iPhone and iPod Touch. All you get is a more conventional vertical scrolling list with small thumbnail previews of album artwork.
The volume is controlled not by the touchscreen, but by two little buttons on the top edge of the device. That allows you to quickly adjust the ouput without having to look at the screen. It makes sense, as the clip on the back means that you’ll probably have it attached to your clothing most of the time, rather than sitting in your pocket.
The trade-off with the smaller design and touchscreen controls is that the Nano loses the video recording feature that was introduced in the previous model. That never really set the world alight, though, so we can’t imagine that many people will miss it.
Joined at the hip
I was, however, shocked to discover that the new Nano can’t play video either. Obviously the little square screen isn’t suitable for watching wide-screen films or TV programmes, but I’ve some music videos that I’ve bought from the iTunes Store that I would have liked to watch on the Nano.
Audio quality is similar to that of all the other iPod models, and limited more by Apple’s cheap and nasty earphones than anything else. Battery life is rated at 24-hours for music playback, although in tests it lasted for about 22 hours when I left it running overnight.
A lack of video options is disappointing
You can get the Nano in seven different colours, with either 8GB or 16GB capacities. Prices have crept up a bit though – the 8GB model now costs £129, whereas the 5th generation model was £115, while the 16GB model goes up from £135 to £159. That leaves a glaring gap in the iPod range between the 2GB iPod Shuffle at £39 and the Nano at £129, and I can’t help thinking that Apple needs something closer to the £100 mark with Christmas coming up.
The new iPod Nano is certainly neatly designed, and the touchscreen will have definite novelty value for people who haven’t previously been able to afford an iPhone or iPod Touch. I can live without the camera but the lack of video playback seems like a rather mean cost-cutting measure – especially given the price increase. It could be that the higher price allows Apple’s rivals to get a foot in the door when recession-hit parents are looking for Christmas presents that come in at less than £100. ®
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