updated 01:35 pm EDT, Sat September 11, 2010
Early take on Apple's sixth-generation iPod nano
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled his company's new iPod Nano, some Apple lovers cringed. The device that was once so useful, they complained, has become a glorified iPod shuffle. But they might not necessarily have had reason to fear; in fact, the truth might just be the opposite.
I can understand why they feel that way. After all, the device is about the same size as the new iPod shuffle, and it loses both the camera and video support in favor of a new touchscreen. Critics say that the touch screen is too small to be useful. And the lack of video makes the device a hobbled alternative to its predecessor if you used all of those features.
But those critics are short-sighted.
Let's first take a look at the old iPod nano. Yes, it was already small and compact, but video was practically useless on the device. And anyone that has attempted to watch a favorite television show or movie on more recent nanos knows how awful the experience really was. The video looked great for the size, but trying to watch video on such a small display -- even on the last generation -- was unbearable. If you can't truly offer the large screen, it's better to focus more on music. SanDisk learned that with the Sansa Clip+; surely Apple can, too.
Moreover, the device's lack of a touchscreen made some, including me, wonder why Apple believed it offered such value. The device was meant to be portable, but also forward thinking. It achieved the first goal, but the second faded out of view with each passing update. By last year, it was a slim iPod classic -- nothing more, nothing less. The camera and FM radio were added to sustain interest, not to break through expectations.
The latest iPod nano is something far more unique. And it effectively capitalizes on those customers that want genuine mobility.
After all, the device is extremely small; it's so small that it can be worn like a watch or on a shirt edge without a case. And with a touchscreen, it's the single device in the iPod line this year that made users take a second look. Many of the the complaints over the input are ridiculous. Yes, it's a small display, but that doesn't mean that the touchscreen won't work well. It just means that you'll need to use a single index finger to choose items. Is that all that different from what you're doing now? You're not picking out tracks sight unseen on the older iPod nano, either, but you do have to keep it in a pocket or an armband.
Moreover, let's not forget that Apple currently offers a fine solution for those that want all the bells and whistles. It's called the iPod touch, and it delivers the video quality and the screen real estate that you really want for playing and recording video. It's of course more expensive, but it's also much less of a compromise than shoehorning these features into a device with a click wheel. In an era when smartphones reign supreme, a pure MP3 player needs to offer a design that clearly does what your phone can't.
It's the iPod nano that provides the best value proposition if you want a music device first. It's affordable and truly portable. It jolts the system with a design you haven't seen before. It more effectively targets its audience better than any other iPod. It doesn't try to be all things to all people -- that's what the iPod touch is for -- and sticks to its core feature like nothing else. For that reason, it may actually be the best device in its category; it might not be a jack of all trades, but it's a master where it counts.
By Don Reisinger