For me, it all started with an iPod. The iPod nano was my first Apple product (got a fourth-generation one for Christmas a long time ago). From there, I went to an iPod touch. Then another iPod touch, which I used for workouts and whatnot. Then this happened, and now I’m back to the nano. This year’s iPod nano was unveiled at Apple’s iPhone 5 event, along with the new iPod touch. It’d make a great Christmas gift, so I’m writing a quick review on it.
First Impressions and Design
It’s really interesting to see what Apple does with the nano each year- it seems like they’ve made it their design playground. If you look at what the nano was before (essentially, a 1.5″ square), you can see that it got changed up quite a bit. You can’t wear it as a watch anymore, and the “stick of gum” form factor is back, with a 2.5″ screen, and a home button. Like the last generation, it comes in a variety of colours, including (PRODUCT) Red, which is the colour I got (which I really recommend you get, it looks great) It looks like an iOS device, but it isn’t.
“This thing is so light” was pretty much the first thing I said when I took the new nano out of its box. It is so impossibly light, and thin. It’s not awkwardly small, either, and feels great to hold in your hand. The home button and sleep/wake buttons both feel incredibly tactile- not cheap at all. The nano gains a volume rocker this year, with a button in the middle that will let you skip songs (back/forward) and pause/play. These buttons feel great too, and I use them a lot more than I thought I would. Anyone working out would love this feature, especially if your earphones don’t have a remote.
There seems to be a huge play on colour here, because everything in the OS corresponds to the colour of the exterior. For example, when I power on the nano, I’m greeted with an Apple logo on a red background (and here’s what that looks like) If you had a black nano, you’d get the Apple logo on a black background. You can change the wallpaper, too- but are limited to wallpapers with your colour (and grey).
It feels invisible in your pocket, which is great. If I ever carry around two devices, (which would be my phone + this iPod) I don’t want to feel like there are two devices there. The anodized aluminum feels as good as it looks, too.
Once again, Apple nailed it in the design area. They took a slab of aluminum, and made it great.
Features and OS
This year’s iPod nano has an operating system really similar to the one last year, but Apple decided to shake up a few things. For one, the icons are circular instead of rounded squares. To compliment this, your home button now has a circle in the middle. Your icons will still shake when you tap and hold on one of them. It feels a lot like iOS, but isn’t iOS at all. You cannot load custom apps onto this. You can’t browse the web. Yes, you still have to plug a cable into your computer and sync your iPod with iTunes. At the very least, however, the nano has the new Lightning connector (just like the new iPhone and iPod touch), which feels great.
Where features are concerned, we lost a few, but we gained some impressive ones. First off, obviously, you can’t wear it as a watch anymore. Subsequently, there’s still a Clock app here, but with not as many clock faces as the previous generation nano. Next, we lost the ability to have nice looking wallpapers. The ones Apple includes correspond to your colour of nano. Mine are all red, and one is grey. We did gain two impressive things to start off with: video playback and Bluetooth support. Granted, video is going to be hard to watch on this screen, and Bluetooth will drain your battery, but both are very welcome improvements. We’ve still got a radio, and it looks great on this size screen. You can still tag songs you hear on the radio, and have them show up next time you connect the device to iTunes. There is still no built in speaker nor microphone (as we saw in the fifth-generation)- both would be useful features but their loss isn’t that substantial. Apple bundles their EarPods with this nano, which have really great bass, but might leave you wanting more. There’s no remote or mic on them, either.
The main thing I use my nano for is working out. Tracking runs and walks with the built-in Fitness app is ridiculously accurate, without the Nike+ Sport Kit. Even on a treadmill, runs track perfectly, and when you change your walking speed, your nano responds. It’s a great fitness partner. When I run, I usually hold it in my hand now, and I don’t even feel it there. As a side note: you cannot sync walks to the Nike+ website after you’ve walked. At this point, you can only sync runs. After contacting Nike, they told me that the ability to sync walks will come “soon”. I don’t expect it’ll take too long.
The OS is snappy, and transitions are fluid. Lastly, the nano comes in only one storage capacity- 16GB. This is more than enough to hold the average person’s song library, and toss in some photos and videos.
In the end, there isn’t much I can really say about the OS. It does what it’s built to do really well. You can listen to music, podcasts and the radio, view photos and watch videos, track your runs and walks really accurately, check the time, set some timers and use a stopwatch, record voice memos, and tweak some settings. For a product this small, it’s a great feature set.
From my testing, the iPod nano’s battery did really well. I only charge mine about once a week- typically, a single charge is what I need to get me through what I need to do. Apple claims it lasts 30 hours playing audio, and 3.5 hours watching videos. While I don’t watch much video, I do listen to podcasts regularly on it, and a decent amount of audio. I also track some runs and some walks, in a week. The screen usually is off, but when it’s on, I keep mine at about 30% brightness. Usually, that’s a pretty good setting to keep it at (or my eyes are just really good) I was very impressed with the nano’s battery life, overall.
Since the nano is relatively new product, accessories for it are taking a while to get themselves out to production. There are a few accessories available for sale now, though.
Sometimes I like to use an armband during workouts. I picked up an Incase armband from the Apple Store, hoping that it’d have great quality, but it didn’t impress me. It provides great protection for your nano, but fits very snugly, causing it to be really hard to take out of the armband afterwards. While the home button and sleep/wake button are both easy to access and press, the buttons on the side are near-impossible to use with the armband on. If you have earphones with a remote and mic and this doesn’t matter to you, this armband is great. Otherwise, I’d wait for something better to come along.
On a lighter note, Switcheasy released their ‘Colors’ line of cases for the iPod nano. They come in a variety of colours, made to match the one of your device. They come with two screen protectors, a cleaning cloth (which actually looks decent), and two sets of port protectors, that keep your Lightning connector and earphone jack free from dust when not in use.
(my review unit was green)
The Colors case impressed me in every aspect. It’s a well designed product, made of silicon. There are other cases like that, but this one feels really durable. It covers the entire nano, except for the screen. There’s a cool-looking “Jelly Bean” home button, which feels great to push. All buttons are extremely tactile with this case. As for the screen protector, you can’t even tell that it’s on, and it was really easy to install. It won’t distort colours on your screen, either. The port protectors can be irritating to store and take off, but I like the dust protection benefit. If you’re going to spend $149 on a music player, you should probably be protecting it. I can now throw it into my pocket or bag without worrying about scratching it up.
I’ve been using this case for a while now, and it doesn’t even add that much bulk. It’s worth it for the amount of protection it provides, and hey- it looks great too. It’ll run you $15, if you choose to buy one.
Should you buy the new iPod nano? It depends on your needs more than anything. If you’re the type of person who can find a use for an iPod, or a dedicated music player period, this is the best one you can buy. If you’d like a nice, light device to be working out with, the new nano would be an great choice. If your phone has replaced your music player completely, or you like streaming music through a cloud service like Rdio, this isn’t for you. The $149 price tag is a bit of a big one, but if your needs are correct, you’re going to love this iPod.