Review: Apple iPod nano Fourth-Generation (4GB/8GB/16GB)
Pros: Apple’s highest-capacity mid-range flash player to date, with an outstanding array of nine color options that for the first time are available at a $149 base price rather than as a premium option. Preserves most of the features of last year’s flat A-rated version, adding an accelerometer that adds modestly to photo, game, and audio functionality. Includes font size options and optional voice prompting to aid those who would otherwise have trouble reading the small screen. Streamlines prior features, including Cover Flow music browsing and Nike + iPod, while adding new ones such as Genius playlist creation. Doubles past year’s storage capacity for same price. Best audio quality yet in an iPod nano.
Cons: Battery life for video and game playing has dropped from prior version, though audio playback time is roughly the same. New tapered shape feels like a dull knife in the hand, versus the softer curves of prior iPods and nanos, and requires rotation for playing videos and most games. Audio recording functionality has changed from past version, losing settings control and now outputting in Apple Lossless rather than the more compatible WAV format. Curved glass screen cover is a little more fingerprint- and glare-attractive than the predecessor, though also likely to be more durable. Incompatible with past FireWire charging accessories; will not charge when placed in Bose’s SoundDock, Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi, or certain car kits.
Apart from the difference in voice recorders, there’s only one other notable accessory change from the third-generation iPod nano to the fourth-generation model: like the iPhone 3G, the fourth-generation nano no longer supports charging from a collection of past iPod accessories, including Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi and Bose’s SoundDock, which used an unpublicized charging technology called FireWire charging.
There’s no way to assemble an exhaustive list of all of the accessories that used FireWire charging rather than Apple’s subsequently preferred standard, USB charging, but it suffices to say that a number of old iPod speakers, car accessories, and docks won’t charge the nano. They will still generally perform properly for any feature other than recharging the nano, and most accessories released—not sold—in the past two years will work without any issue at all.
As we noted with the release of the iPhone 3G, Apple alerted developers to this change quite some time ago, so the only people who will be surprised will be the many users with incompatible accessories, including some high-end car kits. Thankfully, it doesn’t disable most accessories entirely, but it’s yet another example of a disconnect between Apple’s “Made For iPod” program and the customers who have relied upon it to purchase add-ons.
Other past accessories, including the iPod Radio Remote, continue to work with the new iPod nano. Notably, the nano gets a new radio tagging menu option when connected to the Remote, enabling you to save track data on certain stations and use it to purchase songs through the iTunes Store. This feature is not yet widely supported by FM radio broadcasters, but may interest some users; there is not a comparable feature on the new iPod classic, and the iPod touch does not support the Radio Remote at all.
Apple has announced only three new accessories for the new iPod nano: an $29 Armband, a $29 pair of microphone-equipped earphones for use with the Voice Memos feature, and a $79 pair of dual-driver in-ear headphones. We’ll review each of these items separately as they become available.