Fifth-Generation iPod Nano

Apple cleverly uses the accelerometer to let you shoot video with the Nano in any orientation you want-any edge of the Nano can be "up," including both landscape and both portrait orientations. (It may be my imagination, but the player seems to notice you've, er, flipped it to a new orientation more quickly and accurately than the previous Nano or the iPhone 3GS.) I still had trouble figuring out the best way to hold the player to record video, though-if you hold it as shown in this new commercial, your index finger is dangerously close to the lens and mike. (And if you're a lefty, you'll almost certainly cover the camera if you try to hold the Nano by the clickwheel.)

After a bit of practice, I ended up holding the Nano tightly by one of its lower corners-along the edge of the screen if I was using my left hand, and towards the edge of the clickwheel when I used my right hand. Which worked just fine. I also discovered that when I was shooting in bright outside light, I needed to crank up the iPod's screen brightness beyond the default to see what I was doing.

So how's the 640-by-480, 30-frames-a-second video and monaural sound? Good enough to have lots of fun with, but not good enough to render even the lowest-end standard definition Flip. Smart reviewers are disagreeing about how the video compares to that of the iPhone 3GS-the New York Times' David Pogue found it to be "exactly like" that of the iPhone, while Macworld's Chris Breen says it's "not as good." I haven't attempted a rigorous comparison, but the first videos I've shot haven't looked as crisp as those from my iPhone.

Here's one of the first Nano videos I took, of a San Francisco street scene (and yes, that's my finger making a guest appearance at the start):

The new Nano's tiny speaker is useful for reviewing your videos before you've synced them back to your PC and Mac; it can also play back music, the audio portion of movies and TV shows, and voice memos. As you'd expect from a speaker tiny enough to fit in a device this thin, it's really, really tinny (it reminds me of my Flavoradio).

I was startled to discover that my second favorite new Nano feature is the pedometer. (I'm not sure if Apple is trying to tell America anything, but between this and Nike+ the iPod is developing into a sophisticated weight-loss device.) You can use it in one-off sessions or keep it turned on all the time, set daily goals, and use a tiny calendar to review just how much you've walked and how many calories you've burned. As someone who totes an iPhone rather than an iPod, this is one Nano feature I'm officially jealous of. (There are third-party pedometer apps for the iPhone, but I want one like the Nano's that runs in the background so it's monitoring my meanderings no matter what.)

Harry McCracken is founder and editor of Technologizer. For more smart takes on technology, visit Technologizer.com.

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