- Wonderfully intuitive
- Decent sound quality
- Beautiful design
- Will be too small for some
- Lots of scrolling when navigating
- No additional apps available
- Review Price: £159.00
- 8/16GB storage
- Nike+ compatible
- 21.1g weight
- Best clip
Portable Media Player(/centre)
The new iPod nano is clearly the more interesting half of Apple’s strategy of cutting the old iPod nano in half to create the latest, while relegating the control-fitting section to life as the iPod shuffle. While we weren’t completely convinced by the lack of physical controls on the previous iPod shuffle, the refreshed iPod nano is a much more attractive device.
Its primary feature, a 39mm, 240 x 240 pixel touch-sensitive display is about all there is to the iPod nano. In fact, the iPod nano is almost too small; there’s hardly enough of it to grasp to make one-handed navigation easy. It’s possible with a little getting used to, but not ideal. On the plus side, the anodised aluminium casing does feel pleasant in the hand.
A little odd is the migration of a clip from the iPod shuffle to the iPod nano. It leaves us in two minds as on the one hand it’s easy enough to purchase a case to attach an iPod to your body if you want to. But on the other hand, given how easy it is to lose the iPod nano at only 37.5mm x 40.9mm x 8.78mm and 21.1g, it’s probably good sense to always have it attached to your person. And of course it makes for easy creation of an iPod nano watch using a sweat band, which is what you really bought one for anyway.
The user interface is not exactly like that of an iPod, but not exactly iOS either. While the visuals are closer to that of an iPod touch, the navigational hierarchy – with swipes and prods moving left and right through menu layers – is reminiscent of classic iPods. The press-and-hold wibbly wobbly rearrangement of the home screen icons is straight iPhone, though.
In a concession to either common sense, or Apple’s ever-vocal user base, there are three physical controls – one power button and two for volume. This makes using the nano with headphones that don’t come with an in-line remote possible, so we welcome the addition.
The iPod nano’s low resolution means display space is ever at a premium so long menus can become an exercise in the tedium of scrolling. Similarly getting back to the home screen takes much longer without a dedicated home button. Occasions also arise when menu items are hidden off screen with no way of finding them save through swiping about randomly.
We’re not sure that the iPod nano always waking to the Now Playing screen, if something is, was the most elegant option. There isn’t really any other way Apple could have introduced a quick way to access the Now Playing screen from outside the iPod app, though; and as basically all the new iPod nano can do is play music it’s not like you’ll be unlocking it for any other reason. It’s also possible to set the clock to appear on waking the iPod nano instead, in which case the Now Playing screen is left a tap of the display away.
Navigation may be a little hamstrung by the relatively lower size and resolution of the iPod nano’s display than the iPod touch and iPhone, but it doesn’t take too long to appreciate that as much as the click wheel was the best input we’ve ever seen on a portable media player, touch-sensitive controls are blissfully easy, and eminently intuitive.
The iPod nano is just as easy to control as the iPod shuffle, when out jogging, or boating about on a rowing machine. In fact, whereas the scroll wheel could be a little difficult to make fine adjustments on sometimes, the physical volume buttons and lesser need to make small, precise movements to navigate menus mean that the new iPod nano is often easier to use than the old.
Multi-touch is woefully underused throughout the iPod nano’s OS. A two finger movement to re-orient the display any which way you chose isn’t exactly revelatory; even if it is useful for making the display easy to read when the iPod nano is attached to an arm band. Otherwise there’s no multi-finger control at all, which seems silly. Okay, so the Photos application is a bit pointless given the tiny display, but we’d still like to see pinch-to-zoom implemented.
The gap between the iPod nano and iPod touch is wider than ever now. The latter may have gained a camera this generation, but the iPod nano has lost its. Gone, too, is video playback, although that’s less lamentable as the screen is far too small to make it a worthwhile experience.
The radio introduced on the last iPod nano is still present on this one – though we at TR still have no desire to ever use it. As before, live pausing and ‘tagging’ of songs you like for later purchase in iTunes are possible and both work as advertised. Sadly there’s no feature for getting DJs to shut the heck up and play some damn music.
Also missing from the new iPod nano is the ability to play the games made available for previous devices. The reason is obvious: those games were made for a device with a click wheel and the iPod nano now has none. What’s surprising is that there’s no suggestion from Apple that any will be available.
In fact, we’re left to wonder why there’s no facility for augmenting the music playback ability of the iPod nano with any other applications (outside of a clock and Nike+). Obviously the number of apps that could work on the tiny resolution display is limited, and running them would detract from iPod nano’s the impressive 24 hour battery life, but there’s definitely potential. If Steve Jobs announces the ‘revolutionary’ introduction of iPod nano apps at a future event, remember: we predicted it here first.
Where the iPod nano doesn’t surprise is its pricing. At £159 for a 16GB and £129 for an 8GB device, it’s definitely the most expensive device in its class. It’s possible to pick up a Sony E-Series Walkman for half the price at the same capacity and the Sony player isn’t so much bigger or heavier than the iPod nano as to be a notably worse companion. And of course Sony doesn’t force you to use iTunes (or any software) to put music on its device and we all know iPods will never be the class leaders in sound quality – although the iPod nano is actually a decent sounding device.
Whether anyone thinking about buying an iPod nano will care is debatable, but as sales of the MacBook Air reveal, Apple customers tend to have a certain blindness to the premium they are paying for (arguably) unnecessary style. Nothing about the iPod nano makes us think that its buyers will be any different.
To purchase an iPod nano, you have to be happy to do so fully aware than you are paying well over the odds for what is admittedly a beautiful piece of industrial design, but also a work of form over function. But when the form is so exquisite, should you care?
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8
|Internal Storage (Gigabyte)||16 GB|
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