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The iPod nano and iPod shuffle

Gordon Kelly


Are Apple's New iPods A Deliberate Botch Job?

On Tuesday Steve Jobs announced the next generation of iPods, a new shuffle nano and iPod touch. Widespread predictions were largely spot on and brought the usual reaction of excitement fused with modest frustration and a general agreement that Apple's infamous marketing hyperbole remains as strong as ever, despite the iPhone 4 antenna climb down. Since Tuesday, however, I've been hit with a nagging sense of irritation which you may or may not share: is everything Apple announced that day a botch job?

Certainly I don't expect everyone to agree with this viewpoint and it would be a boring world if you all did. Our very own Andy Vandervell describes them as "pretty tantalising" so I've a fight on my hands. Then again, let's see if you can follow my logic because Apple frequently receives a great deal of adulation and this time I'm not entirely convinced it's deserved...

For as long as I can remember there has been talk of an 'iPhone nano'. The general perception was of an iPhone with a smaller screen, less storage and a lower specification camera to cater for those with lower budgets and/or wanting a more portable device. Much like the iPhone and iPod touch it would be twinned with an equivalent phone-free iPod. It's a nice image, no?

By comparison the new touchscreen nano seems stunningly unambitious. I understand Apple's thinking, but to me it looks like what the iPod shuffle should have been in a few years rather than a brave new dawn for a midrange product with a price tag that comes within £30 of an iPod touch. Furthermore did we really expect it to debut with a crippled version of iOS, a smaller screen than its predecessor, no increase in storage capacity and be stripped of video recording and playback? Cute as it no doubt is, the new nano is what I would have expected from a cheap Taiwanese third party, not Apple itself.

Talking of backwards steps, a more literal one comes in the form of the new iPod shuffle. Then again, is it really new? At its unveiling Jobs was good enough to near as admit Apple misread user desires with the flawed third generation model, but commendable as the second generation shuffle was it seems strange for a company so proud of its design prowess to return to design first released in 2006.

For three years the SanDisk Sansa Clip has shown Apple it is possible to include a screen at virtually no cost (the 2GB Clip now retails for under £30) so having made the move to touchscreen with the nano, would it really have been so hard to hit the £50 mark with something more akin to what's pictured above?

Even if we downside all expectations, with the price of flash memory having fallen so rapidly, should the iPod shuffle really have been stranded at 2GB since February 2008?

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