As we prepare our comprehensive reviews of new iPod models, we wanted to share some early discoveries with you, covering all four of the new 2009 iPod models. There are actually a lot more than 15 new details below, but we’ve grouped them into categories for easier reference. Enjoy!
15. iPod shuffle (Third-Generation, Fall 2009 Versions): The latest color-swapped versions of this year’s third-generation iPod shuffle are not considerably different from one another, except for one thing. All of the anodized aluminum iPod shuffles weigh the same 0.38 ounces, while the stainless steel $99 model preserves the same 1.8” x 0.7” x 0.3” dimensions, expanding in weight to 0.61 ounce. All of its surfaces are polished except for the top and bottom, which are matte-finished.
14. iPod shuffle, Colors: The pink, green, and blue shuffles do not precisely color-match any of the past four generations of iPod nano colors. Blue is similar in tone to the iPod mini; green is close but not identical to the second- and fourth-generation iPod nanos; pink is a rose shade unlike any of the nanos, but possibly similar to some of the pink iPod minis during a period in which pink was not uniform between production batches.
13. iPod nano (Fifth-Generation): One underpublicized difference between the fifth-generation nano and its predecessors is screen technology. Apple has changed its specs page to reflect the use of thin-film transistor screen technology, whereas it previously referred to the screens as being “color LCD with LED backlight,” a phrase it still uses for the iPod classic screen. In our testing, the new screens are brighter at their maximum than the fourth-generation version’s, though more obviously pink-tinted when not at their maximum, and possibly with more dithering. Compared directly against the iPhone 3GS at its brightest, the nano actually rendered color gradations in movies better than the iPhone.
12. iPod nano Battery: The third-generation iPod nano was promised at 24 hours of audio playback time and 5 hours of video, the latter number seeing a decrease in the fourth-generation model to 4 hours. Actual performance testing showed both models delivering in excess of 30 hours of audio play time, with the third-generation model running for 5 hours and 47 minutes of video, and the fourth going for 4 hours and 52 minutes. By comparison, Apple’s promises for the fifth-generation iPod nano are the same as the third-generation model: 24 and 5 hours. We’re still in the midst of testing under different scenarios, but preliminary findings show the nano getting just around 5 hours on 50% volume with headphones connected, and under 4 hours when using its speaker at 100% volume—enough to be heard at a couple-foot distance in a quiet room. Notably, the iPod nano we were testing for video with speaker output completely died on its second attempt at running the test, only 1 hour and 19 minutes in, and does not appear to be able to turn on again. Pure audio playback times will again most likely surpass the promised number.
11. iPod nano Colors:
Silver: Substantially similar to the fourth-generation version except for the high-gloss finish; one of only two models to preserve black Click Wheel, top, and bottom surfaces.
Black: Nearly identical in color to the fourth-generation charcoal version, save for the high-gloss finish.
Purple: Decidedly different from the fourth-generation purple, possessing a darker, more blue purple tone.
Blue: Decidedly different from the fourth-generation blue, with a stronger blue color.
Green: The single most different color of the bunch from the fourth-generation predecessor, green is now more blue-shifted, to an almost pine tone. We’ve already watched someone pooh-pooh this color in the Apple Store—“why did they have to change these colors again?”
Yellow: Now an Apple Store exclusive color, due most likely to lower demand than anything else. Very similar to last year’s yellow, but seemingly more saturated due to the glossy finish.
Orange: Slightly darker than last year’s orange, this model is now approaching a copper penny in coloration.
Red: Once again, an Apple Store exclusive color with some proceeds going to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa, bundled with a red card noting as much. This year’s tone is candy apple red, darker than its predecessor, and again shifting a little towards the third-generation nano’s color.
Pink: Shifting away from hot pink, this tone is a little rosier than the ones in fourth-generation and second-generation models, and darker than the ones used in third-generation nanos and iPod minis.
10. iPod nano Software Versions: For some reason, some of the fifth-generation iPod nanos initially shipped from Apple’s factories came preinstalled with software version 1.0, while others included version 1.0.1. Apple does not disclose what changes have been made in the newer software version, but it should be installed by connecting the iPod to your iTunes-equipped computer and then using the Check for Update feature.
9. iPod nano Photos Mode: The fifth-generation iPod nano’s Photos mode has again changed in transition effects. Most notably, it now includes a Ken Burns effect, which pans and zooms in on images, as well as a Cube effect, which transitions from image to image with the very rough appearance of a side-shifting cube, and a Flip effect, preserving Dissolve and Push from the prior model. It loses Slide, Fade Through Black, and Zoom. Videos mode now shows thumbnails for all of the choices on its main screen.
8. iPod nano Games: The fifth-generation nano is compatible with games released for the prior two generations of iPod nano; games display on its wider screen with black letterbox-style bars, rather than rescaling the prior graphics for a wider aspect ratio. The 1/16” smaller Click Wheel does make game control a little more difficult than before, as bigger fingers will slip off the Wheel more often.
7. iPod nano Font and Layout Changes: The Now Playing screen has changed, placing the album title, artist name, and song title together in a gradated black bar immediately beneath a redesigned black top of screen bar that now displays the current time by default, rather than the words “Now Playing.” This three-line display eliminates the fourth-generation nano’s need to flip between artist and album names, which it used to do in a thin white font; now both lines are light gray and in a heavier font weight. When you view the About screens, the name of your iPod is placed to the left of the screen, unlike the fourth-generation version, which centered and then scrolled the name. Virtually every other element of the fifth-generation iPod’s interface has remained the same as the fourth, except with added space above and/or below. Twelve lines of standard menu text can now fit on screen rather than ten.
6. iPod nano, Capacity Designations: iPod nanos have for the first time lost their “8GB” and “16GB” capacity designations, following the second- and third-generation iPod shuffles. Three lines of text on the back have shrunk to two, removing the reference to its power requirements.
5. iPod classic (Second-Generation 160GB), Capacity Designations + Engraving: The iPod classic has seen its capacity badge shrink significantly in size, and its engraving shrink from three lines to two, removing Apple’s copyright and trademark references, plus its reservation of rights.
4. iPod classic 160GB, Battery: Other than a capacity bump, Apple has made no documented changes to the 160GB iPod classic from its 120GB predecessor. Last year’s promised 36 hours of audio and 6 hours of video run time have carried over to this year’s 160GB model, at least in Apple’s official specs pages. We’re testing the new classic to see how it actually performs, but the 120GB predecessor model exceeded run times in both cases—42.5 hours of audio and almost 8 hours of video. Our first video test of the classic showed battery performance roughly equivalent to the prior model.
3. iPod touch (Third-Generation 32GB/64GB), Battery: Apple’s specifications pages show a marked decrease in audio playback time for the new 32GB and 64GB iPod touch models, down from 36 hours to 30 hours. Our tests of the second-generation touch saw it exceed Apple’s promised audio run time by 3.75 hours and miss the promised 6 hours of video by 1/3 of an hour. We will be running tests to see how the device actually performs.
2. iPod touch, Microphone and Voice Control: Without calling much attention to these changes, Apple now includes the Earphones with Remote and Mic with the third-generation iPod touch, as well as the ability to use Voice Control for music playback purposes. The microphone in the headset can also be used for other voice-ready applications, including Apple’s previously developed Voice Memos recorder. Second-generation iPod touches can also use Voice Memos, but you have to buy the Earphones separately, and Voice Control is not available.
1. iPod touch, CPU + Graphics Performance: Though Apple has not discussed the specifics of its new CPU and graphics chipset for the third-generation iPod touch, the company’s promised “50% increase” in performance points to the new model possessing an 800MHz CPU, up from 533MHz in the prior iPod touch. The CPU in the iPhone 3GS is reportedly an 800MHz CPU downclocked to 600MHz, suggesting that the same CPU has been used for the iPod touch, and allowed to run at its higher clock speed. Last year’s iPod touch offered superior framerates in 3-D games to the iPhone 3G released only months earlier; this year’s model should do the same. Battery life when using the new iPod touch for games remains a question mark at this point.
We’ll have more on all of the new iPod models in our full reviews, coming soon.