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Posted on September 2nd, 2010 by Barry Collins

iPod nano (sixth generation) review: first look

Apple refreshed almost its entire range of iPods last night, with the iPod nano given the most radical overhaul.

I have a vested interest here: the fourth-generation nano remains one of my favourite ever tech purchases. It’s unobtrusively lightweight, boasts enough storage to hold almost my entire music collection, and the battery lasts an entire commuting week.

iPod nano

After a brief play with it at last night’s Apple launch, I’m not sure its sixth-generation successor is going to prise my wallet open once more. The new nano dispenses with the familiar iPod click-wheel, and replaces it with a square, 1.54in, 220 x 220 multitouch display. The only hardware buttons on the device are the power button and the volume controls.

Can multitouch work on a display that dinky? I’m far from convinced. While Apple has done its best to revamp the iPod UI for the new nano, problems remain. Although it was hard to tell from the limited selection of albums stored on Apple’s test devices, I suspect scrolling through long album/track lists is going to be an immense chore, because naturally the device can only fit three or four listings on the screen at any one time. If you’ve got 200 or 300 albums to wade through, that’s a lot of finger flicking required.

The shrunken, square dimensions also mean that video has been squeezed out of the nano’s feature list. Now I won’t pretend watching video on the fourth-generation nano’s  320 x 240 pixel screen was a cinematic experience, but it was sufficient at a pinch. I watched an hour or so of Alan Partridge on the plane to Las Vegas this year, when my iPhone battery was (as ever) threatening to keel over and the seat was too cramped to get out my laptop, and it was perfectly adequate. The video camera that was introduced with the fifth-generation nano hasn’t made the cut either.

Criticisms aside, the new iPod nano is a delightful piece of engineering. It feels solid, it can now be clipped to your lapel or (if you want to look less of a berk) your inside pocket, and that display is awesomely sharp for a touchscreen. And, heaven forefend, Apple has finally decided to pop an FM radio into an iPod (Correction: the fifth-generation iPod also contained an FM radio, as reader Jim noted below. Apologies for the mistake.)

But my overwhelming first impression is that the new nano is a miniaturisation too far.

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15 Responses to “ iPod nano (sixth generation) review: first look ”

  1. Jim Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Erm, the 5th iPod Nano was the first to get an FM radio;). I note you skipped that generation but all the same;).

    It’s not clear from your article but, is there no video at all? That’s definitely a retrograde step in that case. Dispensing with the video camera too was a bit of a bummer but I suppose that would detract from the new iPod’s.

    Ho hum.

     
  2. op Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Apple made a mistake here.
    The nano was mainly for people who jog or on the move, how you suppose to change songs without looking on the screen?
    screen too small, so as the reviewer said, unclear how you suppose to go through 100 albums.
    You can see how hard it is even in Steve presentation .

     
  3. Ian Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Or google “Cowon D2″ for a device that’s been around for ages, has FM and DAB radio, a better battery, proper EQ controls, is generally agreed to have better SQ, supports video, accepts (swappable, natch) 32Gb SD cards giving a capacity 3 times the size of the Nano, uses non-proprietry cables, and (dammit) supports MSC mode.

    On the other hand, the Nano is quite pretty.

    Yay for progress…

     
  4. colsmith Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 11:27 am

    The 4 and 5 gen Nano’s were deeply flawed in that the Apple connector and headphone sockets were too close to allow connection to both cables at the same time. This new one appears to have a lot more separation so I can upgrade to a new nano for the car, which charges from the cigarette lighter and outputs to the audio aux. Impossible with gen 4 or 5.

     
  5. Barry Collins Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Jim – you’re absolutely right on the FM radio. Apologies for the mistake. Copy now corrected.

     
  6. Mat Bailie Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    @Ian: In what regard does the Cowan D2 compare to an iPod -Nano-? An iPod Touch or iPod Classic maybe, but this article is about Apple stuffing up their Nano…

     
  7. Ian Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    @Mat
    The author starts by discussing what might convince him to “open his wallet”, then goes on to discuss a number of “innovations”.

    In that context, it seems appropriate to wonder why other, possibly better, and certainly more innovative products are not being discussed.

    It also helps that the D2 has a very similar form-factor as the Nano – slightly larger overall but still, the similarity struck me immediately.

     
  8. Chris Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Video is pretty important for this sort of device. I regularly watch the Tea with the Economist podcast on my 4th gen nano and I’ve watched iTunes U lectures on it in the past. There’s no obvious replacement. I don’t even know where to start with the Cowon gizmo. I think I’ll skip this generation.

     
  9. David Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    This is a school which charges annual fees of between £3950 and £6260 per pupil. No doubt they can afford the iPads, but I can’t see state schools being able to do anything like this!

     
  10. Burt Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Hello David.

    @Ian, don’t bother mate, you’re wasting your time again trying to argue with the iZombies.

    @Barry, having said that to Ian, do try to wake up mate, there is a whole world outside the Jobs marketing bullosphere.

     
  11. Chris Says:
    September 2nd, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    “there is a whole world outside the Jobs marketing bullosphere.”

    You arrogant pos. It’s more like a small moon with a few craters and a space habitat. I’ve tried alternatives to the iPod and they just suck. And who in their right mind cares what Steve Jobs thinks? He just makes great products. When somebody else suddenly has the urge to pay attention to detail and make products that work how you expect them to, I’ll switch from Apple.

     
  12. MCDC Says:
    September 3rd, 2010 at 2:05 am

    As an avid fitness nut, the old nano was not an ideal size imo. The shuffle is more ideal. Scrolling on the nano during a workout was too delicate. This will make it much easier. For me it seems to have exerciser, mover in mind…

    also looks app ready. App designed for aforementioned people. Could be very cool

     
  13. VJ Says:
    September 3rd, 2010 at 2:14 am

    Apparently touchscreen makes products good, stylish, and edgy. Honestly, this is a huge blunder for Apple.

     
  14. Janet Says:
    September 3rd, 2010 at 4:27 am

    yup, agreed with Chris,
    Video is pretty important for this sort of device.
    But, well maybe I’d like turn to iPod touch, Juse magical!!! With Retina display, Led Flash, iOS 4.1 with Game Center, Facetime with front camera. wow, OMG, just thinking to buy a new one!
    The Game Center really stunned me, can’t wait to experience it! you know Im a totally ipod tunch games fanboy, have collected many games online!!! like this: http://www.ifunia.com/ipod-column/free-ipod-touch-games.html

     
  15. bob Says:
    September 3rd, 2010 at 4:41 am

    I think apple is trying to force more users into the Ipod touch, where they make more money from apps.

     

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