The new iPod nano 6G is the biggest overhaul yet of Apple’s most popular iPod ever – and with the numbers looking less impressive as iPhone sales soar, it’s certainly in need of an extra strength shot of relevancy in 2010. Is the tiny touchscreen a solution? Is the clickwheel missed? We’ve got the answers here in our full new iPod nano review.
The new iPod nano 6G is a wonderful, capable little pico player, make no mistake. The trouble is, more than ever, it feels sandwiched between the utterly excellent new iPod shuffle and new iPod touch. Actually, sandwiched isn’t the right word: crunched might be more apt.
When it comes to build, the new iPod nano improves on the older generations of oblong nanos in just about every way. It really is a scorchingly beautiful device, like the illegitimate lovechild of an iPod shuffle and an iPhone, and from the back, it’s almost identical to the former gadget, from the cool chrome colour to the clip (A very welcome move for anyone who’s used an iPod in a gym band before).
The differences are very visible however on the front. The 1.54-inch screen, while not as pixel dense as a Retina Display, looks lovely, and the controls are responsive, and feel intuitive to use. We think the unit we tested back at Apple’s launch was dodgy, as we struggled to navigate it, but our review sample responded to swipes and long presses for moving through the menus just fine.
While we could see people struggling with sweaty fingers at the gym, the small touchscreen is otherwise a proficient replacement for the old combo of screen and over sensitive trackwheel. And unless you have a squint, you won’t find pulling up the music you want any more difficult on the new iPod nano.
There’s also a standard 30 pin connector on the bottom, so the new iPod nano 6G will still play nice with all your iPod docks and accessories you’ve acquired over the years, and in a really welcome move, there are now physical volume buttons on the top.
As for the software itself: it doesn’t feel revelatory, but it does feel like a welcome bump for the older clickwheel iPod software into a new decade. Though it’s not iOS, anyone who’s ever used an iOS device will be right at home with the basics: two by two homescreens of app-style tiles, which you can re-arrange (but not remove) by holding down on the screen.
Playlists, and music sorted by artists, genres, composers, songs and albums are all present as options, along with a Genius Mixes icon and support for podcasts, and the FM radio with song tagging introduced last year. The radio on the new iPod nano is a little hard to get around if you listen to a lot of stations, but it doesn’t hinder locally stored music or music selection in anyway otherwise.
You’ll also find a basic pedometer onboard, but the video options of previous iterations is now gone. Frankly, that’s fine with us: the old screen was far too small for video anyway (this one certainly is), and we’ve not used the video recording option on the iPod nano 5G once this year. We don’t see ourselves using the photo viewing option on the new iPod nano very much either, but the square screen does lend itself to showing cover art well.
Playback on the new iPod nano 6G doesn’t seem like a great leap forward: it’s just noticeably richer than on the new iPod shuffle, but if it’s audibly different to older nanos, it’s not worth the upgrade for it alone.
Apple’s keen to tout the multitouch capabilities of the new iPod nano, but for most people, these extend to two finger twisting to rotate the screen, which is pointless, so don’t buy into the hype. Multitouch support will prove useful for blind people however: turning on the VoiceOver mode read outs all the menu options, while two finger swipes move forward and backward – very welcome.
Unfortunately, you have to have the screen on while performing these, so it’s not really an easy way to control the new iPod nano while it’s in your pocket, and you won’t want to use it unless you have to: we turned the mode on, got stuck, and couldn’t get out of the radio function until we found a solution buried on page 62 of the online manual.
The problem is, there’s little to be found in the new iPod nano that really makes it stand out, rather than simply feel like a smaller, streamlined version of the famous line. Despite the touchscreen, it’s just not any more functional: compared to the competition, that’s not a problem, but next to the new iPod shuffle and sensational new iPod touch, it is.
Now don’t get us wrong. If you get a new iPod nano as an unexpected Christmas pressie, you’ll likely adore it. It’s lovely to have around. But ultimately, you’re paying at least £90 more for a bit more capacity than the new iPod shuffle (but still not much, mind), an FM radio, and the option to pick specific albums rather than playlists. That doesn’t scream value to us, especially when the glorious new iPod touch can be had for a bit more again. And that too, is stupendously small.
Honestly, we would have preferred a new iPod nano the same size as before, with a wider touchscreen, and iOS onboard. Oh well. Maybe next year, eh?
The new iPod nano 6G has made our Top 5 Best iPod shortlist, which is why we’ve given it our Recommended rosette. Check out more Top 5s here and find out more about how they work with our Top 5 guarantee.