It’s a curious one, this new iPod. The first dramatic shift in form factor since the Nano’s brief portly era back in 2007. The click wheel and wafer thinness of Apple’s “mid-range” MP3 player have disappeared, replaced with a square touch-screen form that’s either the coolest watch face or tiniest photo frame in the world.
The interface has been overhauled in favour of an iPhone-esque navigation system. Some features, such as the video camera and video playback, have disappeared altogether, while long-due tweaks like a physical volume control have finally got their due.
It’s interesting to ask if the Nano really needed this change. The click wheel was once the iPod line’s iconic centrepiece but has fallen out of favour since the iPod Touch’s popularity. The deletion of features is also strange—it appears that Apple wants to focus on the “audio” part of the Nano, while trimming everything it deems superfluous. The new Nano is lighter, smaller and more prone to being lost in the cavernous confines of your handbag. But is it better?
The new Nano carries forward many of the strengths of the product line, while adding the useful interface advantages that the iPod Touch brought with it. Navigation is a joy, and minor response problems notwithstanding, very intuitive. The FM Radio, in particular, has a great interface. Swipes across the screen take you forward and back, and a long press boots you back to the home screen.
The battery life is fantastic. You can comfortably get a day’s worth of music on a full charge. The anodized aluminium shell feels versatile and the build quality is solid. Sound is also fairly well-rounded, though Sony’s Walkman delivers better bass.
The built-in pedometer is useful for fitness tracking, although you’re locked into creating an account with Nike.
Here’s the problem: While the strengths of the new Nano are evident in isolation, they break down when compared with its past. The screen is tiny to the point of being difficult to use for some. Navigation was equally easy on the old click wheels, especially on the move (try creating a playlist in an autorickshaw). Battery life was just as good. Contacts and calendar functionality are gone, along with notes and alarms. While one could argue that these features were secondary (maybe even tertiary) concerns, it is important to remember that the new iPod retails for exactly the same price as the previous, fifth-generation Nano. This means you have to make a trade-off—marginally lighter, smaller form factor or a larger list of features (including a camera)?
The answer, for most people, would lean towards the latter.
The new iPod nano is available for Rs10,700 and Rs12,700 for the 8 GB and 16 GB variants, respectively.