Editorial: How Apple Quietly Killed $149 Video iPods… And More | iLounge Article

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Editorial: How Apple Quietly Killed $149 Video iPods… And More

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Articles Categories: Editorials

As is always the case when Apple holds special events, today was a day to celebrate successes and new products—tons of app and song downloads, hopping retail stores, three new iPods, a new Apple TV, and of course, a new version of iTunes. Better yet, there were some real gains: the weak third-generation iPod shuffle received a proper replacement, the iPod nano gained a touchscreen, and the iPod touch received two cameras, an integrated microphone, and a Retina Display—plus some less obvious features, including 802.11n, a gyroscope, and HD video capabilities on both the recording and playback sides.

But once again, there were some inconvenient truths that were papered over by all of the announcements—an Apple trick in which the latest bright shiny things are used as a distraction from previously heralded features that have unceremoniously disappeared. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of things that have quietly changed with the latest round of iPod releases, some of which may impact your shopping during the holiday season.

The $199 price point. There used to be an iPod touch at the magic $199 price point—the one that Apple said last year was guaranteed to boost sales of its entry-level device. Now the base level price for an iPod touch is $229. Will this really matter? Possibly: we’ve already received some reader comments that the price difference will be a deal-breaker for their iPod touch purchases, though we’ll see whether the new features inspire new interest from a new and less price-conscious crowd.

The $99 price point… and the $79 price point. Apple also used to have mid-ranged iPod options at the $79 and $99 price points—both steps up from the basic model iPod shuffle, with higher capacity and then a special metal as upgrades. They’re gone, so if you want an iPod, you either go for the super-basic shuffle at $49 or the iPod nano at $149; there’s nothing in between. Our feeling: this doesn’t matter a ton. The basic shuffle’s price has dropped again to $49, and there’s always the new $99 Apple TV if you have some extra cash burning a hole in your gift-giving pocket.

If you want video playback or video recording in an iPod, you now have to buy at least a $229 iPod touch. Without mentioning as much on stage, Apple removed video playback, gaming, and video recording from the iPod nano—arguably huge features that had helped to justify the device’s $149 and $179 prices. So for the first time since the introduction of the third-generation iPod nano several years ago, users with an interest in video playback have to buy a substantially larger device—either the iPod touch or iPod classic—and video recording remains an iPod touch- and iPhone-only feature.

The iPod classic. Well, technically the iPod classic is still in Apple’s lineup, but it looks like it’s the same stagnant model as has been available now for years, complete with the 160GB hard disk that was almost secretively added to last year’s modest revision. Apple keeps leaving the iPod classic out of these events, going so far this year as to claim that it was replacing all of its iPods—then doing nothing with the classic, as if it didn’t exist. It’s there at the same $249 price, seemingly just waiting for the axe to fall. At this point, Apple should just call it the iPod zombie.

Apple’s Earphones with Remotes and Mics? According to Apple’s pages, the three-button remotes that were previously integrated into the headphones packaged with the iPod shuffle and iPod touch are now gone; all of the iPods are shown as coming with the same plain old earbuds, which would mean that the iPod touch now needs to rely on its rear-mounted microphone for audio input unless there’s something else hidden inside, or attached as an accessory. Apple’s base model Earphones with Remote + Mic sells for $29 as an upgrade, with virtually all competing third-party models going for considerably more.

The iPod nano’s Nine Colors. Gone are purple and yellow, with shifts in tone and finish for the rest of the models back in the direction of the fourth-generation nano. Yellow never seems to have been a popular color for Apple, but we loved those purple nanos. Also gone is the stainless steel special edition iPod shuffle, which we don’t suspect will be hugely missed, though it was the most handsome version of an otherwise dopey product.

Obviously, there are other potential feature drops yet to be discovered as the new iPods make their way into users’ hands—audio quality, screen quality, and actual battery life, just to name a few. But with the exception of the changes to the iPod nano, they’re likely to be largely offset by the new features that have been added to the devices. The iPod touch in particular has been groomed to be the star of the lineup, which may push people to spend a lot more than they might have last year to get all of the added features.

How do you think Apple did today? Are you okay with or disappointed by the dropped features? We’d like to hear your views in the comments section below.

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Comments

1

I consider the removal of said features off the nano a warranted compromise - why go for a shiny nano when you can have a feature speck ipod touch? however, i do not agree with the massive price increases - the nano is not worth that amount of money - its just an ipod shuffle with a screen. the ipod touch is way too bells and whistles for some kids - the 8gb model should be still on $199 price point.
leave the classic alone - its there for audiophiles and makes the family seem serious about music - the ipod for grown ups.
apple will not remove it until the ipod touch capacity is bumped to 100+ gigs - inevitably next year when they cant think of anything else to throw on the touch to stop people whining about wanting god amounts of space.
for those prices, we should be getting 100 plus gigs - these features are not essential in an ipod. audio quality, storage and convenience - thats the important stuff. ill gladly take a camera, but not if it costs me my 100 plus gigs. im spoilt however with multi touch and will not go back to a click wheel - ever!

Posted by Alan on September 1, 2010 at 2:39 PM (PDT)

2

Not really, you just have to buy the refurb and wait a month.  And its really no big deal because the refurbs have the same warranty anyway.

Posted by Ron on September 1, 2010 at 3:01 PM (PDT)

3

Since the headphones with remote have big issues with sweat, it makes sense that the clip-on nano and shuffle no longer include them, since they are the most likely iPods to be used while exercising.

I like the changes.  Would prefer the nano be a bit less money for the basic model but they are packing a lot into that small package (Nike+ ... hurray!)

Posted by BrennerM on September 1, 2010 at 3:07 PM (PDT)

4

My daughter is entering the Peace Corps in October and I was hoping the Touch with Face Time rumor was true. Thankfully it is. Of course I’ll need one also (I’ll have no iPhone ‘til they’re on Verizon.) Price isn’t an issue. She also needs a Shuffle for music only. I’m glad to see they got rid of that last edition, while bringing the price back to 2nd gen. I could care less about video recording in any model.

Posted by gspet on September 1, 2010 at 7:27 PM (PDT)

5

The previous price drop in the iPod Touch was done to make it competitive with the iPhone.  But that made no sense, since the iPhone came with an expensive two-year contract & the iTouch did not.

So the price increase is a correction of a previous error.

The long-term trend in electronics is for prices to drop.  If Apple drops their prices at the drop of a hat, their margins will suffer.

Posted by Jonathan on September 1, 2010 at 8:51 PM (PDT)

6

These are all excellent points. One thing not mentioned was the stagnation of capacity for the whole iPod series. The capacity of the nano has been the same since the fourth generation, the 4GB shuffle is gone and the entry level iPod touch has stayed the same since it was first introduced in 2007. At this time all the devices should have double the capacity, especially the nano since the number of features were reduced.

Posted by Propeciakid on September 1, 2010 at 9:25 PM (PDT)

7

The new iPod Touch price is because there isn’t any competition around until the new breed of Android based PMPs get off the ground.

Posted by Just a commenter on September 1, 2010 at 9:40 PM (PDT)

8

I’m not quite sure what the big deal is with the 8 GB touch jumping a few dollars. Keep in mind that in the previous generation, the 8 GB iPod touch was NOT up to par with the 32 or 64 GB models. It was just a repackaged older iPod touch! No faster processor, same hardware as the previous generation.

Now the current 8 GB iPod touch has total feature parity with its more capacious siblings. The display, cameras and blazing processor more than justify the $30 price increase.

Now if Apple will just make a 128 GB iPod touch…

Posted by Daniel S. on September 2, 2010 at 12:00 AM (PDT)

9

I think there is still a need for an iPod with a huge storage capacity. There is no real competition for the iPod Classic, so it makes sense to keep it in the iPod lineup. But I think it should be possible to put a bigger hard disk in it. At least I would instantly buy a new iPod Classic with 256 or 512 GB.

Posted by gewappnet on September 2, 2010 at 5:44 AM (PDT)

10

I find the announcements mostly unimpressive. However, I found the new Nano a loss in terms of functionality. I (and a number of people I know) bought the Nano for it’s small size and use during exercise. With it’s touchscreen control, I can’t imagine how I’d change or skip songs without looking and especially with a sweaty hand…I’ll be keeping my nano 5g for a long time to come at this point. I need physical controls. And, no, using Apples uncomfortable headsets with controls isn’t a good option (and why should I have to pay extra?).

Posted by Daniel on September 2, 2010 at 6:13 AM (PDT)

11

#10 : quote from Apple:
“Fitness: The new iPod nano design actually helps keep you fit. It’s portable and wearable, which makes it runnable, walkable, and workout-able. Clip it on and control your music with just a tap or swipe of a finger, so you can stay focused without fumbling around. For your run, walk, or trip to the gym, a little iPod nano goes a long way.”

So I presume there are gesture controls for pausing and advancing to next song without looking at the screen.

Posted by BrennerM on September 2, 2010 at 6:43 AM (PDT)

12

The biggest disappointment to me was keeping the shiny chrome (like) backing on the ipod touch. Even the demo already had little scratches on it in the photographs on this site, gizmode, engadget, etc! Does apple keep the shiny back as a deal with 3rd party case makers? or do they keep to gauge the use when an owner brings it to the genius bar. That along with the water sensors in the headphone jack and 30 pin slot probably give apple a good idea what kind of user they are dealing with…

Posted by bruno on September 2, 2010 at 7:28 AM (PDT)

13

IDEA - A HEADLESS IPOD CLASSIC

i posted this a couple months ago on macrumors but i’ll share my idea again. How about Apple gives us 500GB or 1 TB hd/brick without a clickwheel, it’s basically a WD passport with the itunes/mp4/aac codex and just a wired remote and small screen that can carry even the largest itunes collection. it could plug into your car’s stereo or any portable stereo system.

Another commenter added to my idea and said it could be used in conjunction with an ipod touch or nano and it could have MIFI capabilities (think 3G/4G time capsule). i think this would be a great way of moving the classic ipod on to the next level. but i agree with iLounge, Apple seems hesitant to give us very large capacities. perhaps the movie co’s (disney) are afraid of rampant piracy if the average joe has a 1 TB ipod in his pocket and 75 blu-ray films ripped to it…

Posted by bruno on September 2, 2010 at 7:38 AM (PDT)

14

The biggest “feature drop” IMHO is the loss of purchasing (and season passes?) on AppleTV, to be replaced by rentals.  For many people who are dropping their $50-60/mo. basic cable media-center PC coupled with a Hulu or NetFlix subscription, this move by Apple puts them out of the running.  Who needs an AppleTV, with its proprietary access to limited channels, at $1 a show?  Watching 1-2 shows a night will quickly run up a $50/mo. bill, just like cable.  Who needs an AppleTV box to watch NetFlix when you can already stream it thru a PC?  What if you already have an old AppleTV loaded up with purchased shows?  The new model doesn’t look very appealing.

If they’d at least given it a USB port with the ability to connect an external drive, then it might be worth it, but currently it’s just $99 which would be better spent on a decent video card for your media PC.

Posted by Virgil on September 2, 2010 at 8:26 AM (PDT)

15

To Virgil: You can still purchase season passes of shows on your computer, and then stream them to the Apple TV.

Posted by KC on September 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM (PDT)

16

The step back for the shuffle was a no-brainer and the iPod Touch revision was about what we all expected.

The nano, IMO, is now not even as good as the 3G (which old Steve pictured but gave almost no mention to). They took a great device at an attractive price for young people and crippled it severely. It’s back to being a simple music player with photos and a fancy interface. They could have taken the old design to the next level by adding a few things like wi-fi and Bluetooth.

As far as the Classic goes, it’s still my preferred design but there are a few things that could make it relevant to more people. Wi-fi and Bluetooth to increase connectivity, a capacity bump to 320 gig and (here’s the big one) the ability to use it as an outboard HD for the iPad and Macbook Air.

Posted by ScooterD35 on September 2, 2010 at 2:44 PM (PDT)

17

Personally, I like the new iPod nano as a product in itself, but not as the next generation of the nano. I think the nano should have remained, holding on to its general design and function: clickwheel, video support, camera, etc., and the new nano should have started a new iPod line.

Even if you looked over the drastic change of features (loss of camera, video, clickwheel, addition of screen), it just is a completely different product in its form factor. The clip on the back makes it into something completely different from what the nano has always been in the past. Not something bad, but just not a nano.

Posted by unitof on September 2, 2010 at 5:51 PM (PDT)

18

My take on the whole thing?  Starting at the bottom end of the line and working up:

The shuffle - about time they returned to what actually worked.  Basically it is the second generation made “new” again.  Reminds me of the old coke, now the new “new” coke, because what was the new coke, well, sucked.  Anybody that’s been around and grew up through the 80s knows what I mean here.  Would’ve been nice if they also offered a 4 gig version at the coveted $79 price.  That way, they would still have something to fill that big gap between the low end 2-gig shuffle and the next model up, which would be the 8-gig nano.

And speaking of the Nano.  I’ll admit that the new design is pretty darn cool.  Kinda looking forward to getting to check one out in person.  However, with the 5th gen models, I thought Apple may have very well perfected the small solid-state player.  For those that have no desire to replace their 5th gen Nanos, I don’t blame them.  In my case, for the gym, I got my trusty ol’ Creative Zen that I have no desire to replace either, unless the thing dies.

The iPod Touch - I figured that was what we would get.  I may seriously consider getting one to replace my 2nd gen iPod Touch.  To bad it doesn’t have GPS, though.  That would’ve been really nice.  Yeah, 128 gig capacity would’ve been really nice as well, but I still think that is to expensive yet and don’t anticipate seeing that for another year or two.  At that point, it would very well be the end of the “classic” line.

Ah yes, the venerable Classic.  I till have and frequently use my 160 gig Classic.  I have to agree with the comment at #16 in that it would’ve been sweet to see a 320 gig capacity, along with bluetooth or even WiFi.  That would’ve been sick to be able to hook it up to an iPad as an adjuct hard drive as well via the Dock Connector.  Alas, I have a feeling for the 10th anniversary of the iPod (introduced in October of 2001), we may see something special, but after that, I have a feeling, it may be the end of the line and Apple will just let it die on the vine and quietly take it away in a couple of years.  By then, flash capacity will most likely be cheap enough to make a 128 gig or more iPod Touch feasible and still offer it at somewhat decent prices (for Apple, at least).

Posted by SkiBumMSP on September 2, 2010 at 7:27 PM (PDT)

19

Forgot to mention something about the Apple TV.  Personally, they can keep it.  I don’t even watch enough TV to justify getting something like that.  Between the Wii and my PS/3, if I want NetFlix streaming, I’ll go either or those routes.  I’d be more inclined to spend the few extra bucks and buy an Xbox 360 before getting an Apple TV.  I think that is downgrade from the current hard drive based models.  If I am really dead-set on having Apple components, I’ll get a Mac Mini, although considerably more than the Apple TV.

Posted by SkiBumMSP on September 2, 2010 at 7:30 PM (PDT)

20

Apple continues to phase out the shuffle by album option in the iPod line (never was available on the iPhone or iPod Touch), which I find very annoying. Some albums are meant to be listened to as a whole. And certainly that is essential for classical.

I also agree strongly on the stagnant capacity issue: it is a major negative for me. Because hard drive capacity on computers now is so inexpensive, I have put most of my CD library into Apple Lossless format and put the CDs away. By now the Classic should be at 240 or 500 GB and the Touch at 128, which would amply handle much of a Lossless library and work with both high-end headphones or a home stereo.

Posted by Al Gordon on September 3, 2010 at 9:17 AM (PDT)

21

I’m baffled by the new iPod nano.  In what way is this an improvement on the previous ones?  You can’t play video on it any more.  It doesn’t hold any more songs.  And it’s now TOO small.  What was the point of making the screen bigger last time only to make it tiny now?  It’s not an attractive design.  It’s just a square.

Why is smaller better?  Why not just make it completely invisible and have done with it?

Posted by Ben Cook on September 3, 2010 at 11:49 AM (PDT)

22

Why are you automatically assuming that the nano and touch are not coming with the remote and mic earphones? I figured that the remote and mic earphones were the new standard as of last year and didn’t come with the 8gb touch because voice recording was added in iOS 3.0 after the 8gb’s original release. If the remote and mic earphones are the new standard wouldn’t it make sense to drop the “remote and mic” title? Plus, the new nano, which lost all video features, still has voice memos as feature with it’s own icon so why wouldn’t it come with the mic equipped earphones?

And did I hear wrong or did Jobs mention something about HDR photos coming to the iPhone 4, iPod touch AND iPad? Last time I checked the iPad didn’t have a camera, so how would that work? Maybe second gen iPad with cameras coming around the holidays?

Posted by Joe on September 3, 2010 at 10:28 PM (PDT)

23

#22 its obvious 2nd gen ipad is getting cameras, i predicted (apple prove me wrong) as soon as they annouced the ipad, if apple can add facetime to the ipod touch its inevitable the ipad will get it soon enough (for me dont care, i dont know anybody who has a facetime enabled device/interest to get one)

i hate the new nano design, i have the 5th gen i love it, to me that design is nice, its a great ipod to use in the car, i dont have to look at it as i change tracks i can just hit next the FWD button to change the track, try doing that with an ipod touch.  and id have to imagine the third party acessories companies are no ttoo thrilled about losing the ability to make a armband case for it

Posted by mario83 on September 3, 2010 at 11:20 PM (PDT)

24

The new nano is a slam-dunk for me.  I’ve been looking for “a smaller nano” for a while now and my 1st-gen is on its last legs.  Video isn’t a loss for me as I playback on other devices anyway and barely capture on my iPhone (which I always have with me anyway) as-is.

Why do I use an iPod?  For running an exercise - and I love Nike+.  None of that in the shuffle, so the nano has long been the only choice for running.  Now I get exactly what I need with half the size & weight - though I will likely use a pair of the “remote” earbuds with it for the ability to ffwd and rwnd when needed.  Otherwise, the nano is what I’ve been waiting a few years for.

Posted by jimmymac on September 4, 2010 at 9:05 PM (PDT)

25

Agree on the pricing holes. The shuffle is at an attractive price point but the next step-up at $149 is too high. And yes the 8GB Touch should be $199.

The improvements in the Touch are mostly the obvious ones given the iPhone 4. Too bad about the crap camera. Sacrificed to the pointless thinness I guess. And yes there should be a 128GB Touch by now. Apple clearly isn’t feeling any pressure at all.

I’m conflicted about the new nano. The new touch interface is clearly better but the tiny screen seems pointlessly small. Yet we have one and except for initially messing around we don’t use the video camera (it didn’t do stills remember) and the screen was too small to look at photos or video really so no big loss. And seriously, trying to use all these functions with the scroll wheel was stupid. Dunno. But it’s pointlessly small and too expensive for what it is.

We need more space. We need wifi syncing. We need apps on the Apple TV. The rest of this is minor in comparison.

Posted by Fanfoot on September 4, 2010 at 10:20 PM (PDT)

26

Bought a 5th gen Nano before the Apple Store is out of them Sep 7/10.

I don’t like the new Nanos,they look to me like iTouch Minis. They should be related to iTouch not the Nanos.

Apple will use this to say ‘If you want to play videos, you should really get the iTouch - it’s only $100 more’ (wink wink)

The previous version of the shuffle was a cool design - but it should have had larger storage space. The new version looks more like the old mini iPods.

I think Apple is trying to make everything, in stages, with a touch screen. One thing Apple needs desperately to remember is this - not everyone wants/needs/uses touch screens in their daily lives. And most importantly, who really wants to constantly spend time (with or without screen protectors) to wipe off all that annoying smeared finger poo??

Posted by joe on September 5, 2010 at 1:20 PM (PDT)

27

Reinventing the wheel has officially reached obsessive compulsive status. Case in point: the new ipod nano. It’s so small that at first, I thought it was the new shuffle, still mini, but with touch features. Of course, had they done that, price would’ve had to remain mini too. I prefer a click wheel myself and agree with 26, plus, our skin releases tons of oils and bacteria (worse than dust for electronics). This alone could make this small nano self destruct (just kidding, guys).

My nano was stolen, and I’m replacing it with a 16g purple nano (slightly used, of course). I’m all for progress, but totally against Apple’s mantra of overwhelming the market (and our pocketbooks) with nothing more than size and look variations and a little features “window” dressing to justify pricing. Let’s face it, they got rid of buttons, but still know how to push ours.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been strictly Apple for over 26 years, and won’t buy any other brand, regardless of price. Apple makes quality products, (minus the iBook), and stands by them. I’ve never bought a protection plan and, with or without warranty, they’ve taken care of me when anything’s gone wrong. Then again, I won’t give up my first-born for shiny new toys.

Apple should sit back, take a breath and think of ways, (like giving us real features we can use), to reward loyal customers who stuck by them in the lean years when they were on the brink of closing shop. If we hadn’t, there’d be no ipod nano to complain about. Obviously they’ve forgotten. Now, they stay up nights figuring out ways to add a little flash for a lot of bucks, but nothing in between.

Maybe if enough latest-invention-crazed loyal customers “pulled their coat,” (as we New Yorkers would say), for these razzle dazzle antics, they would give the people what they want at a fair price. Then again, some can afford to buy the latest toys, even if they’re not really “latest” in technology. But, hey, it’s the principle of the thing, people.

Posted by G. Alicea on September 18, 2010 at 8:32 AM (PDT)

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