In this age of portable music, the iPod has downloaded itself into the public consciousnessï¿½where it won’t be leaving any time soon. Not that we mind. Despite a large pool of reputable competitors, such as Sony and Dell, who manufacture their own slick mp3 gizmos, the iPod is still the most popular and best-selling of the bunch. Just think of buying an mp3 player, and I bet your knee-jerk reaction will at least be to consider, if not choose, the iPod.
When Apple Computers’ CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod Nano in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, it immediately became known as the smallest member of the display-bearing iPod family line and successor to the iPod mini (the updated version of which was released a mere 7 months prior to the Nano). Compatible with both Mac and Windows-based computers, the iPod Nano comes in two colors, white and black. You also have your choice of a 2GB version ($199) or a 4GB version ($249), which is a bit steep given the fact that the iPod mini held the same price tag for the 4GB and 6GB models, respectively. The iPod Nano’s storage drive is flashed-based, which means no moving parts inside (decreased wear-and-tear and breakage potential), higher durability, and no sound skips while jogging, biking, or stumbling home after happy hour. Given the increasing capacities and capabilities of flash drives, I wouldn’t be surprised if some day Apple starts implementing this technology into more of its major products. But that’s for another article.
The first thing one is likely to notice is that the Nano, as its name implies, is tiny. You have to actually hold one to see just how astonishingly small this device is, and my first thought was that the small pocket of my jeans might now finally serve a greater purpose. The Nano measures 3.5″ long, 1.6″ wide (smaller surface area than a credit card), and just .27″ thick (thinner than a AAA battery). Sleek and serene, the Nano is characterized by the simple elegance familiar to Apple fans. Yes, it certainly is a gorgeous-looking little machine due in no small part to the shiny, thin layer of acrylic applied to its surface. But the downside to the finish is its susceptibility to scratching and/or fingerprints (especially on the black version of the Nano). Weighing in at only 1.5 ounces you could conceivably move the Nano across a flat surface by sneezing on it, though I don’t recommended this for health reasons.
The main features: Like all other iPods, the Nano is primarily designed to play digitized music such as mp3 files. And like its relatives, the Nano excels when doing what it does best. According to my research, the Nano uses the same sound chip as the Mini, and as mentioned before, overall quality is excellent. The included earbuds do a decent job delivering the sound, though I would prefer higher-end headphones to take full advantage of the audio experience. Fiddling with the included equalizer settings also seems to make noticeable sound adjustments, so fickle sound connoisseurs may have something to smile at here.
Owners of previous iPods shouldn’t have a problem navigating the interface, as selecting songs, play-lists, and the like using the touch-sensitive click-wheel is still as user-friendly as ever (but I hate leaving behind those darn fingerprints!). Setting up and connecting to iTunes on both Mac and Windows machines was smooth and straightforward as well. According to information available at Apple’s website, the 2GB iPod Nano holds 500 songs while the 4GB version stores about 1,000, assuming that the average song is 4 minutes long and compressed at 128 kbps using AAC encoding. And like the larger iPods, the Nano recognizes songs encoded in the following formats: mp3, AAC (and protected AAC format from the iTunes Music Store), AIFF, and WAV.
Unlike the iPod mini, however, the Nano sports a color display as well as the same photo capabilities as the top-of-the-line iPod Photo. This might have been a “just because we can” idea cooked up by the engineers over in Cupertino, as I received some strange looks while sharing my latest photos on a screen that’s barely the size of a postage stamp. But I admit it’s a fun feature to be included on such a small device. Complete with the usual organization options, you are able to create slideshows (with music and transition effects) and categorize your pictures any way you want. The Nano recognizes images in the following formats: JPEG, GIF, PSD (Mac only), TIFF, BMP, and PNG. I’ll take this time to note that the camera connector for the iPod Photo, used for transferring pictures directly from a digital still camera to the iPod Photo, will not work with the iPod Nano. Also, other current third party devices such as voice recorders and FM transmitters are not currently compatible with the Nano.
There are also features that exist exclusively on the iPod Nano, such as the World Clock function, which allows you to see the local time anywhere in the world. Once you select a region (or major international city), a clock will appear on the display. The clock graphic will darken or lighten depending on what time of day it is at the other region, which is handy for frequent travelers. Feel like prank calling your friends in Egypt at 3AM local time? The iPod Nano can help! (Of course, I do not condone this sort of behavior- use this feature to make sure you don’t accidentally call your friends in Egypt at 3AM).
Other Nano-exclusive features include a screen lock and stopwatch. The screen lock allows you to create a 4-digit combination to prevent others from going through your music and photos. This would seem like an effective method of deterring would-be thieves (or nosy exes), but since I already have so many passwords and codes in my life to remember I can do without it. Besides, such a pricey gadget like the Nano should be kept in a safe place anyway. The stopwatch feature is pretty neat, and allows you to record your best lap times or to keep track of how long tech support puts you on hold.
Battery life: The iPod Nano claims 14 hours of music playback, though battery consumption increases when using the photo slideshow functions with music playing in the background. Charging via the included USB 2.0 cable, which connects to the dock connector on its underside, it takes the Nano about an hour and a half to reach 80% capacity, and 3 hours to achieve a full charge. At present, the iPod Nano is not firewire capable. In my research I’ve also learned that the Nano’s battery appears to be permanently soldered into the unit, which leads me to question the feasibility (or even possibility) of future battery replacement. Information regarding this will be updated as it is found.
– USB 2.0 cable (backwards compatible with USB 1.1). This connects via the dock
connector underneath the Nano. NOTE: Don’t confuse the dock connector with the
dock itself. The iPod Nano dock is an accessory that costs an extra $29. Over USB 2.0,
the Nano transfers music at about 5 mb per second.
– iTunes software (Mac & PC)
– Earbud headpones: They’re white, (even for the black iPod Nano).
Great sound quality, easy to use, beautifully stylish, extremely lightweight, portable, and durable. Nice color display, handy extras such as photo viewing and international clocks. Flash memory design prevents skipping, integrates easily with iTunes. Mac and Windows compatible.
High price for relatively small drive space (compared to other iPod models), lack of more advanced iPod features/support, no present firewire capability, surface smudges and scratches easily if not protected.
Despite the relatively hefty price tag for its storage capacity, the new iPod Nano by Apple is certainly a cool device for most gotta-have-it gadget-philes and for those who just want a reliable, easy-to-use high quality mp3 player. If you want to play your favorite songs while relaxing or running, the Nano and its few extra functions will make you happy. Those who are big on more complex functions may be disappointed with the present lack of features available (no support for FM transmitter, camera connector, firewire, etc.). But its ease-of-use, intuitive interface, style, and quality make this a very difficult gizmo to resist.
4 stars out of 5