File this under “pure speculation” and “food for thought,” emphasizing “pure speculation.” Because it seems like no one* outside of Apple knows for sure what the bodies of the next-generation iPods are going to look like, apart from the iPod touch screen assembly, and there has been almost no buzz on what the components are going to be in the new iPod nano.
So, that aside, there’s been talk for two years now that Apple’s next step down from the 3.5” touchscreen of the iPhone and iPod touch would be a 2.8” display. There were photos of a supposed iPhone mini touchscreen assembly that never materialized in a product and—as noted at the time—might never do so. In the intervening years, the App Store’s roaring success made the thought of a smaller screen and different form factor a little dicey. But since June, there are now three totally different iOS device resolutions and two screen sizes, with a third apparently on the way. Apple wouldn’t have to fear splitting the App Store market again, because there are so many apps and well over 100 million devices out there. To be totally realistic, no one’s catching up with Apple any time soon.
So a 2.8” screened miniature iPod touch with 480×320 resolution wouldn’t be a huge leap of faith at this point, and the fact that there are still little chirps here and there about 2.8” and 3” screened iPods has had us curious. We did a little measuring to compare a hypothetical design against the fifth-generation iPod nano and came up with the image you see here, using plausible assumptions, showing a couple of interesting things. First, the device would be a bit wider than the current nano because of the screen, but not much taller, even if the Home button was around the same size as the ones on full-sized iPod touches and had around the same space to breathe. The loss of screen space would be noticeable but not terrible, leading more to a question of whether Apple would just shrink the existing iOS home screen or crop it with fewer icons—the squinty size of Home screen text would seem to suggest the latter, though games and other apps could be updated on an individual basis with larger buttons where necessary. It would work—at least as well as with the iPad, only in the opposite direction. You can debate whether Click Wheel or touch is the right interface for a device like the nano, what the correct physical size is for a device that fits the nano’s target markets (athletes/kids/etc), and so on, but that’s roughly what a 2.8” touch device would look like dimensionally. Shave down the screen and the rest of the device can obviously get smaller. Will it show up this year? Next year? Never? We don’t know yet.
An interesting comment regarding the continually rumored iOS refresh of the Apple TV (or, maybe iTV) comes from our own Charles Starrett, who says: “The more I think about it, I get the feeling that a $99 Apple TV might require an iOS device to serve as a remote—positioning it as an add-on to the iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad you already have, as opposed to being a standalone device, could actually boost sales. There seem to be too many missing pieces for it to actually be running iOS, be capable of running apps—as in, playing games—and still use a traditional remote. And if they have a shiny new iOS-based iPod nano that they can sell you for another $99 should you not already have an iOS device, it makes even more sense. The message: all of our media devices are now running the same OS, and use (basically) the same interface.”
Again, just food for thought. A $99 iPod nano with touch is probably too much for Apple to pull off this year. Maybe if it had a smaller-screened touchscreen device. But the idea of an Apple TV or iTV as an “iOS accessory” for the 100-million-plus iPhone/iPod touch/iPad owners—and the next 100 million that will follow sooner rather than later? Sort of like AirPort Express as a Mac accessory, only with video? Yeah. That makes some sense. To us. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
(* = Well… There might be one or two people.)