iPod Nano Review: The Best MP3 Player Ever, For Whatever That's WorthS

Seven generations of iPod nano evolution have culminated in something pretty special. The latest iteration of Apple's mini music player is its thinnest, has the biggest screen ever (for a Nano), and tosses in Bluetooth to boot. Is it great? Yes. Is it enough to make you care about MP3 players again? Not really.

What Is It?

The seventh generation iPod Nano MP3 player from Apple.

Who's It For?

People who like music and don't own—or like working out with—smartphones.

Design

The aluminum unibody design feels really strong and smooth. At 5.4 millimeters thick, this new nano doesn't feel like you could squeeze any actual components in it. The new 2.5-inch multi-touch screen—compared to the previous generation's generic square—is bright and attractive. It comes with a pair of Apple's new EarPod earbuds.

Using It

Even for an avowed Android-user, the interface is extremely intuitive. Swipe to go back? Got it. Shake to shuffle? Fantastic. There's a hardware button to start and stop? Wonderful. Even the more advanced features (if you can call them that) like the Nike+ fitness tracking app are simple and easy to use. The display, crucially, is big enough to minimize errant taps.

iPod Nano Review: The Best MP3 Player Ever, For Whatever That's WorthS

The Best Part

The form factor. You'll want to fondle this thing, turning it over and over in your palm like a pebble plucked from a river. Better yet: It won't weigh your pants down if you throw them in a pocket and go for a run.

Tragic Flaw

The built-in pedometer is a joke. I took it on a couple of runs and also tracked myself using a running app on my smartphone. The iPod thought I ran 2.74 miles at a pace of 7:24 per mile, when I actually ran 2.41 miles at 8:18/mile. During my first mile it thought I was running at a pace of 6:32 per mile. HA! I wish. I couldn't run a 6:30 mile if I were falling off a cliff.

This Is Weird...

The shake-to-shuffle feature would be most useful when you're running. You don't like a song, you shake your nano, and you're on to the next one. But shake-to-shuffle doesn't work when you're recording a run using the Nike+ app, so you have to fumble with the touchscreen as you jog. Dumb!

iPod Nano Review: The Best MP3 Player Ever, For Whatever That's WorthS

Test Notes

  • This nano has a bigger battery than the last round (thanks to the added size), and Apple claims up to 30 hours of music playback. I got roughly seven hours of music playback before it died. Seven, over two days. I watched one 5 minute video in there, listened to radio for all of 10 minutes, tracked one run and two walks. Seven hours of usage. Not good. That said, others have had better success with battery life, so your mileage may vary.
  • The inclusion of Bluetooth in this tiny package is a huge boon. Not only can you connect it to Bluetooth audio (headphones, car stereos, etc.) but you can connect it with an external heart rate monitor, or with a Nike+ sensor, both of which will greatly improve the info you get on your workouts.
  • Apple includes a pair of EarPods with the Nano. Yes, they're terrible. While they didn't hurt my ears at all, they fall out fairly easily, they sound absolutely awful. In contrast, the iPod sounded terrific with my new favorite running earbuds.
  • The built-in FM radio has an excellent interface. You'll even get artist and song names on radio stations that support it. You need to have earbuds connected in order to use it, because the wires are used as an antenna, but fortunately they don't have to be Apple-issued.
  • While the pedometer was awful for running, it was actually very accurate for counting steps as I walked. It ended up within a few steps of the new Fitbit. At the same time, it's not something you'd want to use for constant activity monitoring (like the Fitbit), because it's a bit too big and you'd kill the battery mighty fast.
  • The bubble-icon design may be a bit unfamiliar to iOS users, but it's a clean look and gives nice separation between the virtual buttons, making it easier to hit the right one when you're on the go.
  • The larger screen is nice for selecting music, but for watching video or looking at pictures? No. Just no. It also won't support 1080p videos, even if they're in Apple-approved formats. Even if it did, though, it's too small to use comfortably for any extended period of time.
  • There are some bugs here and there. Occasionally music would just stop. Once a song played twice, at the same time, but slightly staggered. It was very strange.
  • The nano comes with a Lightning to USB cable included. Music and podcasts are synched through iTunes.
  • Synching can be a pain. If you have more than 16GB of music, the nano will try to sync all of it, then fail. Then it will tell you that it wants to select music to sync for you. Say sure and you get a random hodge-podge of songs. There was no rhyme or reason to it. You're better off dragging and dropping playlists and albums, and you'll wish there were a streaming option.
  • Unlike previous generations, this year's nano has no built-in clip, which means you'll need to pocket it or strap it on for workouts. Bummer.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, but only if you don't have a smartphone, which is fewer and fewer people every day. The new Nano is the best MP3 player ever made, but it's still not as good as a two-year-old mid-range smartphone. Truly. It can't stream music. Nike+ is fine, but without GPS its fitness tracking is unreliable at best. You can't install fitness apps, or other apps for playing music. If you want to communicate with anyone, you'd have to bring your phone and pull out your earbuds anyway.

Yes, the nano is smaller and lighter, which would make it better for working out in theory, but you can get straps and cases for any phone and attach them to your body. That eliminates those the problems of weight and bulk. Besides, without the clip, you'll need to do that with the nano as well.

If you own a smartphone—or are even thinking of owning one—there's just no reason to carry a dedicated music-playing device anymore. So, yes, this generation's iPod nano is the best. But it's also $150 for a smaller, less good version of something you likely already own. . [Apple]

7th Generation iPod Nano Specs

• Radio: Bluetooth, FM
• Dimensions: 3.01 x 1.56 x 0.21 inches
• Weight: 1.1 ounces
• Screen: 2.5 inch 240 x 432 pixels (202 PPI)
• Storage: 16GB
• Camera: None
• Battery: 3.7 volt, 220 mAh, 0.8 Wh
• Price: $150
Giz Rank: 3.5 stars