Apple had their annual iPod announcement and it is quite a head scratcher this year for me. I will leave the iPod touch, which is even more an iPhone minus the phone, for later. I want to concentrate on the shuffle and nano for now. Oh and the classic, well it seems forgotten at this point.
It appears Apple has pretty much admitted failure with the 3rd gen shuffle by rolling back the design to the model introduced originally in 4 years ago almost to the day. The new 4th gen shuffle is almost identical to the 2nd gen other than shrinking a bit. The 2nd gen was 1.62 x 1.07 x 0.41 inches versus the 4th gen at 1.24 x 1.14 x 0.34 inches, basically a half inch narrower. For weight it has slimmed down from 0.55 ounces to 0.44 ounces, if you can tell this difference good for you. The final revision of the 2nd gen had 2 GB of memory just the same as the 4th gen. Meet the new shuffle same as the old shuffle from 4 years ago, except maybe a bit cheaper?
If the shuffle lineage is confusing the nano is jut mind blowing for me. The nano has been a steady improvement of features and design from its first release in September, 2005 following the basic size and shape of the Mini before it (other than the case misstep with 1st gen and the fatty 3rd gen shape). Each of the previous generations have added nice features and refinements with 5th gen adding audio / video recording, improved video playback, game support, pedometer and radio reception. The 5th gen was simply an amazing amount of tech jammed into a tiny little device. For me it seemed like a Flip camera and a iPod squished into a smaller, cheaper and generally better device. One might assume the 6th gen would further refine this by adding maybe a HD video recording upgrade or increasing storage space options to include 32 GB, however you would be totally wrong.
Instead of refining the nano Apple with the 6th gen threw it out completely and started over from scratch with a device that is basically a mini iPod touch that is crippled. Gone is the clickwheel (did Apple learn nothing from the 3rd gen Shuffle?) and replaced with a tiny touch screen. Also dropped are audio / video recording and video playback. The screen is smaller (2.2-inch vs. 1.54-inch) and lower resolution (240x376 vs. 240x240), although slightly higher pixel density (204 vs. 220). It is definitely smaller in some dimensions now at 1.48 x 1.61 x 0.35 inches versus 3.6 x 1.5 x 0.24 inches and weighs less at 0.74 ounces versus 1.28 ounces. There is no increase in storage space however nor has playback time increased. There is a possibility I suppose for nano apps on the new touch screen but Apple has not indicated as such so I am not sure that will ever happen. I am seriously considering now getting a cost reduced 5th gen before they are out of stock since I have no desire for a 6th gen whatsoever.
The other interesting comparison now is the 4th gen shuffle versus the 6th gen nano. The most obvious is size 1.24 x 1.14 x 0.34 inches versus 1.48 x 1.61 x 0.35 inches, the nano is between a quater inch and a half inch bigger in height and width respectively. It does weigh almost twice as much but that difference is 0.3 ounces. The three big differences between the two devices are now clickwheel versus touch screen, 2 GB vs 8 /16 GB and $50 versus $150/180.
I am left wondering if next year at this time will we see the 6th gen nano replaced and quietly forgotten by a 7th gen more like the 5th just like what happened with the shuffle. I for one hope so, if I want a touch screen I will get an iPod touch.