iPod nano 4 GB
Developer: Apple Computer
Price: $199 (2 GB); $249 (4 GB)
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.4 or Windows 2000 SP4, USB port
Recommended: USB 2.0
There it was, hiding in Steve’s watch pocket the whole presentation, and none of us saw it coming. The iPod nano is a testament to good design engineering. The best way to explain the size of the iPod nano is to ask someone to take out a business card and lay it flat on the table. It’s as long as the long edge of the card, and 2/3rds of the width. It’s smaller than a stack of 15 business cards. That right there is reason enough to consider shelling out for the iPod nano.
I saw the keynote and ogled at what Steve hath wrought with his incredible team of design and test engineers, and felt the technolust rising within me like the mercury on a Central Valley summer day. It was too much to behold. My old 3G iPod is approaching its end of life as the battery slowly and surely dies, and my Shuffle can’t hold but a quarter as much, so it was off to Pentagon City two days after Steve had announced the Nano.
Taking it out of the box will cement with you just how small this technical marvel is. The packaging is along the same vein as the packaging for Apple’s other small technical wonder, the AirPort Express, featuring a box that opens much like a book to reveal the new member of your technical stable. It sits there, wrapped in the usual plastic skin that reads “Don’t Steal Music.”
Now, this is not your father’s iPod anymore: FireWire docking is sadly gone with this new machine, rendering all those FireWire dock cables you have lying around obsolete, fodder for Craiglist and eBay. It does, however, fit in an old 3G dock quite nicely, provided that you swap the dock connector for a USB 2.0 version. Of course, there are many who would object to such a transition, and I cannot say that I blame them. Few computers older than a year have a USB 2.0 port on them, leaving the user to suffer through transferring large files over a piddling USB 1.1 connection in its wake. This move is not lost on me, but I will say this: I do not mind seeing more companies adopt USB 2.0 as a decent serial standard. Perhaps this will encourage people like Canon and Nikon to consider adding it to their digital cameras for speedy downloading of images.
Once full of tunes, contacts, and calendars, I took my black Nano out for a spin. Sure enough, the sound quality astounds, once you drop the little white iPod earbuds in the nearest trash receptacle. Listening on my QuietComfort headphones, I was astounded by the depth of audio ranges, from thumping bass to crystal clear treble on all my recordings, from Switchfoot’s new CD to the Swedischer Rundfunkchor’s Brahms’ Requiem. One thing that has taken some getting used to is the location of the headphone jack, now ensconced on the bottom edge of the iPod next to the dock connector, causing me to hold it upside down the first time I grab it from my pocket. The tiny hold switch that sits atop the Nano is also something of a departure, I felt. It’s smaller and with less feedback than previous models, and I found myself having to stare at the iPod to search out the orange field behind the hold switch’s on position to make sure it was properly set.
One thing to worry about as a purchaser of iPod accessories is which ones will work with the new Nano. Forget about the iTrip; there’s no remote switch. Forget about the FireWire charger for your car; that’s right out. Basically, there are a lot of changes, so don’t necessarily expect everything to work. Thankfully, the Internet being what it is, people are trying and will tell you what they find. Phil Torrone’s dissection of what what works and what does not is the most exhaustive search of devices that you might have that might not work.
Something new to the iPod nano, aside from its fresh color screen, is the ability to lock the screen of your iPod to outside influence, including prying eyes. So set up the lock, and protect your contacts and calendars from the random people who might put their grubby hands all over your iPod. Of course, your own grubby hands are another problem as the back of the iPod will look like a scene from CSI after the fingerprint crowd has been through, and beware of even breathing at your iPod’s screen, as that might well scratch it. (Despite what Apple says, I think it’s is more scratchable than other iPods’ screens.) Get a nifty case, and do yourself a big favor in the process.
I will say that this is the best iPod I’ve ever owned. Small, long-in-the-tooth-battery, good and visible color screen, and the ability to get lost in my jeans. It’s not perfect though, with an easy-to-scratch screen and the problem with the accessories not all working, but overall, if you’re in the market for a new iPod, give the Nano a look. You won’t regret it.