It’s here! Okay, it’s not really exciting by comparison with the 8GB and 16GB versions of the fourth-generation iPod nano, but it’s great to finally have our hands on the considerably rarer 4GB model. (Thanks, Alicia Bankhofer, for making this happen!)
As you may or may not have heard, something weird was going on with the capacities of the fourth-generation iPod nano. On September 9, Apple announced that the device would come in 8GB and 16GB capacities, with the 8GB ones available almost immediately and the 16GB ones to follow soon thereafter. Then, some 4GB units started showing up in a handful of European cities. An Apple representative conceded that a small number of 4GB nanos were being sold in select countries, but oddly declined to say where, or why. They also showed up in Canada, where our editor Jesse Hollington says that they’re being sold on a “one-per-household limit” through third-party retailers such as Best Buy, and according to a report, U.S.-based Apple Stores received them, too, before being instructed to quietly return them. They were made in every color of the new nano’s rainbow.
Our previously mentioned best guess was that Apple was taken off-guard by Microsoft’s decision to sell $199 16GB flash-based Zunes and moved—a little late in production—to counter these with same-priced iPod nanos. Stuck with already-made 4GB units, Apple needed to decide whether to try and quietly sell them, bury them, or hold onto them for some later date. A semi-plausible alternative explanation was that Apple was so desperate to win over some countries’ budget-conscious customers that it made versions just for them, an explanation that seems unlikely if the U.S. Apple Stores in fact received and returned these units. It’s also possible that Apple was preparing to sell $129 4GB nanos and $149 8GB nanos—the sort of product transition-related price drop that it seemed to be hinting at in an earlier conference call—but changed its mind at the last minute. Notably, the purple 4GB model number MB657 is numerically much closer to the purple 8GB model MB739 than the higher 16GB model MB918. The second-generation 32GB iPod touch has an earlier model number of MB533, and the 120GB classic a model number of MB562. This seems to suggest that Apple internally prepped the new touch, then the classic, then the nanos, with the 16GB model coming much later than the others, but there may be another explanation.
What’s noteworthy about the 4GB unit we received is that the packaging is a little different from the 8GB and 16GB U.S. models. Instead of an Apple logo on the back of the box, there are content descriptions and system requirements in three languages, none English. The instructions inside are similarly in foreign languages, just as one would expect from a nano sold outside the U.S.; it’s possible that Apple saw the withdrawal of these foreign-packaged nanos as more difficult than the purely English ones destined for U.S. consumers.
In any case, the 4GB nano seems like it’s going to be something of a collector’s item—at least, as much as anything made in a quantity of a million or so units could be—so it’s nice to have one around. It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple releases the English-boxed ones more widely.