Review: The New iPod Nano

Illustration for article titled Review: The New iPod Nano

Apple's iPod nano 2010 is a good MP3 player. It's tiny, the battery seems to last forever, and it has a great user interface.

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This is the best pure music player out there right now, thanks to the combination of its physical specs and user interface. It may not be the prettiest—it reminds me of some Chinese generic MP3 player designs—but the combination of its hardware and user interface make it a winner for anyone in search of a simple, ultra-compact, no-complex-apps-or-games-needed, extremely-easy-to-operate music player. Especially sports people.

This thing is tiny and ultra-light. Large enough to allow for easy touchscreen operation, but very thin at 0.35 inches—including the clip. At only 0.74 ounces, I forgot where it was clipped to my clothes until I needed to change a playlist. It lasted through three days without recharging one single time.

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The fact is that, like with the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod touch, the nano's hardware is getting generic, almost invisible, condensed into a slice of glass and metal. The iPod nano is the last incarnation of the morphing computing paradigm, a 1.54-inch 240 x 240-pixel touchscreen that is just platform for its software.

The only concession to the physical world are three physical buttons, two of them a very welcome addition: I could change the volume level without having to look at any screen. This is not only coherent with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, but it makes sense, unlike the previous nano's scroll-the-click-click-the-click-wheel operation.

Illustration for article titled Review: The New iPod Nano
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Securely clipped right on my bike's handlebar, right in front of me, I could easily change the volume too. Most importantly, I could easily access any function on the nano with a single finger, even while riding through the park. That's the main advantage of this new design: The user interface is fast and works perfectly. I was afraid the screen would be too small for the format, but it works.

Even while the nano is not iOS-based, it takes the iPhone's user interface and miniaturizes it successfully, down to the garish waterdrop wallpaper—which fortunately you can change. From the scrolling springboard system—flick your finger to reveal new panes with applications and shortcuts to music playlists or artists—to the dancing icons that allow you to configure those panes in exactly the way you want, it works like the iPhone.

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Illustration for article titled Review: The New iPod Nano

It could work more like the iPhone, though: I want applications, which undoubtedly will happen at one point. Not complicated applications, but simple apps adapted to the small format. Apps to check the weather or replacements for Nike+, tailored for other sports. I want connectivity, too—although I'm not wild about depleting the device's insane battery life with a power-hungry 3G radio. I want a camera—for FaceTime.

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The only bad thing: I can't hardly justify the $150 plus tax of the nano. After all, I use my iPhone for music all the time, I always carry it with me, and I don't bike that much. But for those of you who don't use their cellphones for music and want a light, specialized gadget with a simple-to-use interface, you will like this one.

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DISCUSSION

I got a hands on with the nano the other day. I already thought it was dumb when it was unveiled but actually holding it in my hands changed my mind...

It broke my expectations of dumbness.

It just fails to make sense as a replacement for the 5th generation nano. It cuts out nearly every feature and gives back practically nothing in return. All you get is an awkward touch screen interface, a clip and a shuffle-esque form factor. And what you lose for that privilege is quite a lot. You don't even get longer battery life than the old nano (both the 5th and 6th gen nanos are rated at 24 hours of audio playback).

It just about makes sense for sporty types who want the tiniest and lightest Nike+ enabled device. But even then it doesn't make a huge amount of difference. The old nano was never too heavy or too large to comfortably strap to yourself. My mother certainly never found the size of her nano a problem. As for the clip, you can just use a case for that.

Maybe I could forgive the nanos shortcomings if it was it's own product at a lower pricepoint. But as it is it's just a straight downgrade in almost every sense from the last generation offering. It's a step backwards more than anything else.

It has more in common with the iPod of 2007 than it does with the last entry in the nano line:

"But my real hesitation to get behind the new Nano simply comes down to usability. By relegating itself to music and photo playback, the Nano is stepping back three years in terms of functionality. Using the kind of touch-screen technology designed for the iPhone to navigate features we saw on iPods in 2007 makes no practical sense. With a click wheel, you could pick up a Nano and immediately know how to play, pause, and skip content without even looking at the device. Granted, by plugging in a headphone remote, you could replicate the older Nano's tactile control, but it's still not as elegant a solution. So far, it seems to me that the Nano's touch-screen navigation is a case where form got the better of function.

Read more: [news.cnet.com] "

P.S. Facetime on the (new) nano is one of the most ridiculous ideas I've ever heard.