Apple seems to completely reinvent its small, slim-line iPod nano with each iteration, and 2012 has been no exception.
The 2010 model, for example, (there were no new iPods in 2011) was square and had a clip, so you could wear it like an iPod shuffle. This latest 2012 version, launching alongside the iPod touch 5th Generation, has a completely different design again; it loses the clip and returns to your pocket.
This time around it looks more like a minaturised iPod touch, complete with a little Home button and multi-touch display.
This release also sees the return of video playback, a feature removed, and greatly missed from the last nano, but it hasn’t regained its ability to shoot video, which the 2009 model was notable for.
The iPod nano now comes in nine different colours – white, grey, black, green, blue, purple, pink, yellow and Product Red.
It’s got Apple’s new Lightning connector, which replaces the rather large 30-pin Dock connector and as well as a Lightning to USB cable you also get Apple’s new improved EarPods earphones in the box.
The new iPod nano runs apps, but it doesn’t run a full-fat version of iOS, so you’ve only got a few basic Apple apps to play with – there’s no App Store, and no iTunes Store either. So, what you’re looking at here is Music, Videos, Fitness, Podcasts, Photos, Radio, Clock and Voice Memos. We’ll go over them all in detail here, and see how they performed in our tests, so read on to find out more.
As a device the nano is much more dependent on connecting to iTunes than the iPod touch since there’s no way to download or buy content on the device itself – everything must be downloaded through iTunes on your computer, then copied across.
There’s also no Wi-Fi connection, so streaming music isn’t a possibility either. The only wireless capability is Bluetooth, which is a new addition in this year’s model and adds an extra string to the nano’s bow.
Like its bigger brother, the iPod touch, it’s only the back of the iPod nano that has the colour on, with the front face bezel always being white in all cases.
The screen itself has a 2.5-inch diagonal, with a resolution of 240×432 pixels. At just 233 pixels per inch it’s not a Retina display, but the colours look quite vibrant.
It’s capable of playing back movies you’ve brought or rented on the iTunes Store, but watching an entire HD movie on a tiny 2.5-inch screen is hardly ideal, but its perfectly acceptable for watching short video podcasts on.
The multi-touch screen works really well. As you’d expect from Apple, the nano feels responsive and the control method is completely intuitive. The home screen can fit six app icons on it at a time, in two columns of three.
Music App: Let’s start with the Music app. If you’re already familiar with iTunes and the concept of playlists then there will be no surprises for you here. It’s very similar to the iPod touch app.
You can browse by Song, Artist or Album and it has the Genius Mixes feature, which creates playlists for you based on songs which go together. You get to see album artwork, but it all feels fairly flat as there’s no Cover Flow view available.
Videos app: The Videos app is even more basic – just containing a list of all the videos you’ve transferred to the device. The Podcasts and Photos app work in just the same way as well, requiring iTunes on your computer to dictate their content.
Fitness app: The Fitness app takes advantage of the iPad nano’s built-in pedometer to track your steps, or distance run, telling you how many calories you’re burning during a workout. It’s really for runners. Your trainers voice (male of female can be selected) tells you what’s happening as you run; double tap on the sleep-wake button and you get a spoken progress report telling you how far you’ve run and how long you’ve been running for.
It’s intelligent too, so if you stop moving it will pause your workout for you then start it off again once you’re running again. You can also set up a PowerSong, so that once your workout is running you can give yourself a quick boost by one simple tap.
The iPod nano is compatible with the Nike+ system, so you can track your runs over time by logging in with the website.
In our tests the iPod nano accurately logged all our runs, and its step counter seems also very accurate.
If you’re a fitness fanatic then having all this built-into a lightweight music player gives you reason enough to buy an iPod nano on its own.
Voice Memos: Next, there’s Voice Memos. There’s no external microphone on the iPod touch, so this app requires the earphones to be plugged in to work – if you unplug them the app simply disappears from the screen. This means its usefulness is limited – you can’t put your iPod nano on a table to record an interview or conversation, for instance.
Clock: The final app we’ll look at is the Clock. The shape and design of last year’s iPod nano gave people the opportunity to wear it as a watch, thanks to some 3rd party developers who created watchstraps that the nano fitted into. It worked really well, as the clock face fills the whole screen, but the iPod nano watch concept never really took off – the main problem being that to save battery the display on a nano always turns off if its not being used.
So, you always had to tap the ‘watch’ to wake it before you could tell the time, which defeated the purpose of wearing it on your wrist.
The new iPod nano, without a clip, puts the concept of the nano watch firmly on the backseat, as there’s no way to wear this on your wrist. As a clock app it does pretty much everything you’d want – there’s a choice of six clock faces, a timer and stopwatch built in.