Few things in life are certain, but September’s iPod update is now so regular it might as well come pre-printed into the gadget addict diary. But this year’s update is different. Sure, Apple has unveiled a new iPod nano. And, yes, it has a load of new features. But this isn’t a re-invention, as in previous years, but rather a re-think.
Instead of the design overhaul which gave us the plastic nano, the aluminium nano, the fat nano and the oval nano, Apple’s stuck with the most recent iPod nano shape. To the casual observer, it’s the same device, albeit with a new paint job, but flip the new iPod nano over and you’ll see Apple’s crammed in a video camera. Neato, but that’s not all.
There’s also an FM radio, pedometer and the Voiceover technology from the iPod shuffle inside, letting the new iPod nano bark out track names and artists at the push of a button. There’s also built in Nike+ functionality, so fitness freaks can sync their steps to an online database without hooking up a clunky adapter.
Add to that some shiny new chrome-effect colours, and this iPod nano has it all. Apple’s taken the kitchen sink approach, and chucked everything it has at the tiny player. But it’s still missing the odd bell and whistle.
Sure, the new iPod nano can record VGA video, doing so very ably, even if the camera placement means it’s easy to capture footage of your fingers. But if you’re expecting to snap still shots, you’re out of luck.
That said, Apple has packed in neat bonuses for video fans. Hold down the centre button and you’ll be treated to some snazzy effects, shown off in real-time previews. It’s astonishingly smooth, and guaranteed to sneak a smile onto your face the first time you use it, and annoy your subjects when you continue to morph and distort them at will.
And then there’s the FM radio. Apple’s taken a dull add-on and made it exciting with the ability to pause live broadcasts, using the iPod’s memory as a buffer. There’s also iTunes Tagging technology built in, letting the iPod identify tracks played on the radio and bookmark them for potential purchase when you sync back with iTunes.
Unfortunately, iTunes Tagging isn’t supported by UK radio stations just yet, but as soon as it’s switched on you’ll be able to build up a wishlist, simply by tuning in.
Adding a pedometer to the new iPod nano has also been done with a flourish. Apple’s player can be set to count down towards personal pedestrian goals, or simply notch up your progress over the course of a day. When it’s docked with iTunes it’ll upload that data to a new Nike+ site, where your progress is collated. It uses the new iPod nano’s built in accelerometer, and Apple claims there’s no battery drain to leaving it switched on all day, as the nano can sense when it’s moving, or when you’re having a breather.
All these additions combine with the iPod nano’s exquisite interface to make this a worthy successor to the best selling MP3 player in history. Sure, there’s little here to improve its actual music-playing abilities, but when Apple has made such a supreme job of refining them over the previous four generations it hardly needs too.
Instead this is a reaffirmation that the iPod nano is the greatest of the click-wheel iPods. It remains to be seen where Apple will take its most popular model next, and the raft of new features seem to leave it little option but to pack apps inside the next version. But for now the new iPod nano has pretty much everything you could want in a music-player. If you’ve got the upgrade itch, go ahead, scratch it with the new iPod nano.