Is it just me, or was the recent Sept. 1, 2010 Apple event kinda hit and miss? The new shuffle? We appreciate that buttons are back. The new iPod touch? Thats cool -- Apple’s fully embracing the front-facing camera and pushing Facetime (which we’re still waiting to see on the iPad). The new iTunes 10? It’s okay. But did anyone else shrug when Steve Jobs introduced this year’s Apple TV and iPod nano?
I’ll start with the nano. I understand that Apple, as well as any modern devices company, feel the need to go more compact. But I’m pretty sure that a product already described as “nano” is probably tiny enough. Even so, I applaud Apple for trying even harder to finish ahead in the race for smaller form-factors: engineering in such a tiny space is mind boggling and can only be appreciated when you hold something like the iPod nano in your hands and think, “Wow, how did they do this?” But come on! The nano was already measured in millimeters! It could have already easily been lost amongst seat cushions or swallowed. As of today, however, Apple made it even smaller.
Steve Jobs came out on stage and said that they at Apple had pondered how to make the iPod nano even better. With a healthy respect for the engineering talent at Apple, I have wondered on many occasions just how anything so finely detailed like an iPhone or iPod could get any better. Steve’s answer to that was, as usually always is, that it has to be smaller. Smaller, huh? Did I mention that I’d lost one in the couch cushion already? In order to replace that one, now I have to buy one even smaller? I wouldn’t mind as long as I could still count on the same functionality of the previous generation. And like any sane person would assume, an updated product would undoubtedly pack new functionality to accent previous features, right? However, it seems the tiny square touchscreen that is the new nano is missing a few things.
Apparently, this little beauty (they always are at least beautiful) does not do video.
For a few years now, from the introduction of the iPod Video, mobile video has been a mainstay in the promotion of mobile digital media devices. iPhones and iPod touches, Sony Walkmans, and Microsoft Zunes now all support high-quality video playback. And as of yesterday, so did the iPod nano. But the tiny touch-screen square they call the iPod nano today has been stripped of those previously touted features: not only video playback but also video recording. Last year, September 2009, Steve Job’s pulled the ol’ “one more thing...” trick out of the hat to introduce video recording on the iPod nano. And though last years event was relatively uninspiring, I believe that was and still is the epitome of the nano’s engineering, not to mention its domination in market-share. But now it’s gone, with only a new glossy square touchscreen to shine back in our disbelieving faces. Really though, I don’t mind the touchscreen on the nano; in fact, I believe going touch is the most logical next step. The entire time I was watching today’s unveiling, however, I couldn’t help but scream that it should have been at least twice the size -- a rectangular shape the same dimensions as last year’s screen. Take the previous nano, get rid of the click-wheel, make the screen multitouch so that at least three rows of icons could be displayed, and then put video playback on the device so we can turn the thing sideways and watch a movie! But what do I know? I’m no engineer.
The bottom line: the new nano looks like an updated iPod shuffle. It has lost too many features -- video capabilities and screen real-estate -- to be declared “better” than its previous generation. I appreciate the more technologically advanced and versatile user interface that a touchscreen provides, but on this device it comes at a higher cost than I’d be willing to pay.