New-look Nano Highlights Apple's IPod Changes

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Apple revamped its iPod line Tuesday, highlighted by a new version of the iPod nano with a curved aluminum design and built-in accelerometer.

In addition to the nano, Apple also introduced a single iPod classic model and changes to the iPod touch.

The new iPod nano, introduced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during a press briefing in San Francisco Tuesday, is touted as the thinnest iPod ever built and features a taller form factor with a larger screen than the previous nano.

The revamped nano line comes in a host of colors--purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, and silver. The 8GB nano sells for US$149 while the 16GB model sells for $199; both nanos are now shipping.

Apple also pared down the iPod classic line to just one model--a 120GB music player that costs $249. Previously, the classic line came in two versions--a $249 80GB model and a $349 160GB model.

The remodeled iPod touch adds integrated volume controls, a built-in speaker, and the same tapered back as the iPhone 3G. curved aluminum design and built-in accelerometer. The company also introduced several changes to its iPod touch line, while paring down the iPod classic to a single offering.

The changes to Apple's iPod offerings came as part of the company's "Let's Rock" event in San Francisco Tuesday. Fall overhauls of the iPod line have become a staple for Apple in recent years, as the company tries to convince holiday shoppers to load up on its music devices. During the 2007 holiday season, for example, Apple sold more than 22 million iPods from October to December.

If the company is to achieve a repeat performance this year, it will be the iPod nano and iPod touch leading the way. Those two models have undergone the most substantative changes from Apple's previous offerings.

iPod nano

The new nano ditches the compact size introduced in last year's third-generation model while retaining that version's ability to play video as well as music and photo slideshows. The new nano measures in at 3.6-by-1.5-by-0.24 inches compared to 2.75-by-2.06-by-0.26 inches for the previous model. The color display remains the same size, though users can now view content in both portrait and landscape modes.

That capability comes courtesy of the iPod nano's new accelerometer which, like both the iPod touch and iPhone, senses which direction a user is holding the device. Rotate the nano to a horizontal orientation when listening to music, and the device will switch to the Cover Flow view, displaying album covers. Shake the nano, and it will automatically jump into shuffle mode.

Touted as the thinnest iPod ever, the nano features a curved aluminum and glass design. Because it's contoured, Apple says, the small music player should fit more comfortable in users' hands.

Introducing the new nano at Tuesday's briefing, Jobs touted the redesigned device as more environmentally friendly than past models, using arsenic-free glass, free of BFRs, mercury and PVC, and made of more recyclable materials. "There's more we're going to do in the future, but these are the cleanest, toxic-free iPods we've ever built," he said.

The nano incorporates Genius, the automatic playlist-generating feature added to the just-released iTunes 8. Nano users can tap into Genius to automatically create playlists on the go.

Apple says the new nano's battery life offers up to 24 hours of music playback and four hours of video playback. Music playback is the same as it was with the previous model, but the third-generation nano offered five hours of video playback when it shipped a year ago.

The revamped nano line comes in nine colors-purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, black, and silver. The 8GB nano sells for $149 while the 16GB model sells for $199. Previously, the nano came in 4GB and 8GB capacities for $149 and $199, respectively.

Both fourth-generation iPod nanos are are now shipping.

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