A long, long time ago, in a universe far, far away, I worked at a weekly newspaper called India Week, published out of New Delhi. Full of talented young people who did their jobs rather well, it was a great place to work for a young photographer like me. Apple was revolutionizing desktop publishing and the entire newspaper was designed and sent to press on two diminutive Apple Macintosh SE computers. Featuring the then cutting edge specs of 4MB of RAM, 40MB hard drive and a dual floppy disk drive that could handle 1.4MB high density (HD) floppy disks, the Mac SE started off my love affair with many of the products that Apple and Steve Jobs have bestowed upon us.
A lot of people love to hate Apple products. I suspect this is because Apple is more than a company that simply makes consumer products; it’s an ideology, a way of life. As a result, people either love it or hate it. People either want to be, or want to beat up, that guy in his fashionable clothes, sitting in the airport lounge listening to his iPod or writing an assignment on his MacBook. People see my iMac-filled office as a progressive, fun place to work, or how many more hulking PCs, the colour of curdled milk, I could have got for the same wasteful cost.
Apple unveils the new Nano
Well, I can report that using an Apple makes you smarter, sexier, funnier, better looking and just so stylish. Take the new iPod Nano with its gorgeous screens, beautiful interface and video capabilities that make it one of the finest portable music players around.
The third generation of the Nano packs in long expected features like video support and an overhauled menu system. The new Nano is packaged beautifully in a clear plastic case which looks a lot like a jewellery box if wrapped in gift paper (hint to wife). A pair of Apple’s standard (and not very good) earbuds and a USB charge/sync cable are included in the box.
The new Nano ditches the stick-like appearance of its predecessors for a fatter design that makes room for the expanded display. It aesthetically blends elements of other iPod designs, adopting the brushed metal face of the new iPod classic and returning to the mirrored metal backplate of the original iPod line. The first thing you notice when you pick up the Nano is that it has a size-defying solid feel to it despite being a 6.5mm thick (thin) device that weighs less than 50gm. The second thing that will strike you when you get the iPod Nano out the box is that it almost seems like it’s the wrong shape—at 69mm x 52mm, it’s almost square and squat compared with the previous Nano. But when you actually use one, you’ll realize that it’s comfortable to hold and operate, and it occupies that much less place in your pocket.
A marvel of engineering, this tiny device squeezes in a 2-inch, 320 x 240 pixels colour screen, up to 8GB of storage, a full clickwheel and can also now play video. Add to that 24 hours worth of battery life and draws attention wherever you take it. What more could you ask for? One might bring out the same litany of ‘no FM radio; no line-input recording; no SD memory expansion; no custom equalizer; no native support for WMA and subscription music services’, et cetera. et cetera., but you’ll be flogging a dead horse. Apple’s competitors may have fuller featured products, but the company has been clear in rejecting the need to go head to head with its rivals in any aspect other than sex appeal—and this time around too, it will be extremely difficult to derail the iPod train.
The new user interface of the Nano combines the nicer touches of the iPhone’s user interface such as ‘Cover Flow’, a cool graphic effect that organizes album artwork in a horizontal array, a split screen which shows album covers for highlighted songs and a new ‘Now Playing’ screen. The iTunes 7.4 update is required to load music, videos and podcasts on the Nano. File support for the Nano offers no surprises. For audio, it plays AAC; MP3 (all bitrates, including VBR); Audible files; AIFF; and WAV. Video support is the typical H.264 aka MPEG-4 with a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at as much as 30 frames per second. All my MP4 files loaded and played without a hitch on the crisp screen (ahem, a lot of third-party video converters do a great job converting videos for the iPod). Video looks amazing on the Nano and you can watch on full screen or widescreen. Apple claims the LCD is 65% brighter than the previous Nano, and I can see what Apple is talking about. The screen maintains the same 320 x 240 pixel resolution as the video iPods (now called classics), but since it is 0.5 inches smaller, everything appears sharper.
I prefer my trusty Bose in-ear earphones, and once I ditched the supplied earbuds, the player sounded great. Also, the Bose earphones with their soft rubber tips tend to stay in place while on the treadmill. There are no customizable EQ settings, but there are EQ presets which work well for my undemanding ear—I usually choose to leave my EQ flat to begin with.
Though you will not be ditching your PSP in favour of the Nano, plain old Solitare has been souped-up (Klondike), and Vortex and iQuiz are also in the mix.
The chaps at Apple were not very forthcoming in providing review units of the Nano or the Touch, so the latter could not be included in this column, which is a pity since, by all accounts the Apple Touch takes the game to a new level with its touch screen and Wi-Fi capabilities. The iPod Nano 4GB version (Rs8,800) comes only in silver, the 8GB is offered in black, silver, teal, red and lime.
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