Review: Apple iPod nano (Sixth-Generation)
Pros: A smaller touchscreen revision of Apple’s mid-priced flash RAM media player, available in seven colors. Twin user interfaces include one optimized for the 1.54” display, and another that mimics the iOS operating system of the iPhone and iPod touch. Swipe and tap gestures are used for most of the device’s controls, while using album art and wallpapers to nicely fill the screen with color. Integrated FM radio, pedometer, and accelerometer components carry over from the prior-generation iPod nano, along with sufficient 8GB and 16GB storage capacities. Includes an integrated clip that renders it instantly wearable. Superior audio battery life and volume to predecessors; remains compatible with Dock Connector accessories, including the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. Version 1.2 software update reduces need for the Nike + iPod kit by utilizing pedometer hardware for simple run tracking. Dramatically enhanced Clock features enable the nano to be used as a watch, albeit with certain practical limitations.
Cons: Feels like a first-generation version of a new product line rather than a sequel to the iPod nano. Video, gaming, camera, speaker, and microphone features are amongst a laundry list of capabilities dropped from the new model, precluding it from being used as a complete or even substantial replacement for its three most recent predecessors, primarily by users with video needs. New glossy body colors are weaker than ones introduced in last two years. Multi-Touch screen has only one multi-touch gesture, lacking for others that might have made the device more interesting. Use of rear clip, as well as connection and disconnection of some accessories, can be a modest challenge while the device is being used.
Battery life for the sixth-generation iPod nano is one of the new design’s highlights. Despite the significant size reduction in this year’s model, which always forces compromises on battery size, the new nano once again handily surpassed Apple’s promised 24-hour audio run time in our testing, achieving 33 hours and 19 minutes of continuous playback before emitting a quick chime and turning off. It notably did so while playing at a 50% volume level that’s louder than its predecessors, while squeezing nearly an extra hour of life out relative to the fifth-generation model, and over two hours more than the fourth-generation nano.
The 8GB iPod nano has 7.35GB of usable space, nearly 1GB more than the 8GB iPod touch, while the 16GB iPod nano has 14.8GB of usable space, just a little more than twice the lower-end model’s capacity. Loss of some of the stated capacity is, as always, due to both differences in formatting the devices’ flash memory and the space required for the operating system. In any case, the new iPods have enough space for between 2,000 and 4,000 three-minute songs at 128kbps, respectively, with fewer songs as length or quality improves.
Filling the new iPod nano with music continues to be as fast and painless as with prior models. Once you’ve downloaded and installed Apple’s iTunes 10 software, you can select music, audiobooks, and podcasts—including music videos and video podcasts, as noted earlier in this review—to just drag and drop on the iPod nano icon. Transferring 1GB of files to the device took 1 minute and 45 seconds, a little faster than doing the same thing with the new iPod touch (2:05), and more than three times faster than the nearly 6-minute duration of syncing with the new iPod shuffle. The nano’s superior transfer speed means that refreshing its content is easier than with most other iPods, so you can quickly load it with new songs before leaving the house; the only delay is its requirement, unlike the iPod touch, that you hit an eject button in iTunes before disconnecting it.
What’s missing from the sixth-generation iPod nano relative to its predecessors? Without going into greater detail, here’s a quick list.
Music: Cover Flow, search, and the built-in speaker are gone.
Video: Cannot play movies, TV shows, or the video portions of music videos and podcasts.
Video Camera: Gone entirely.
Microphone: Gone entirely.
Photos: Poor video output quality, no automatic musical slideshows.
Games: Free games are gone, downloadable games are not compatible.
Extras: Alarms, calendars, world clocks, contacts, and notes are gone.
Accessibility: Large fonts are gone.
There are other comparatively minor and related omissions from the new iPod nano, as well, but the ones you’re likely to notice are all above.