This is the first of a three-part series about Apple's new iPods and the newest version of iTunes. Part 1 focuses on the iPods, while Part 2 will talk about the new iPhone/iPod Touch OS, and Part 3 will talk about the new iTunes. Please either check back later to see the other two parts of the series or subscribe to keep updated on all Apple news.
Every year in September, Apple hosts a conference where they update their iPods, talk about their new ideas, and generally have fun with music. This year's conference was no different, as Apple not only showed that they love the number ‘9’ (hosted on 9/9/9, of course), but released tons of new products. Among these releases were several new and updated models of iPods:
The iPod Nano is, more or less, the main iPod these days. Small enough to fit into any pocket, yet with a big enough screen to watch movies, the Nano is the versatile MP3 player that everybody wants. As it is clearly the mainstream iPod, Apple worked hard to make sure that it stays in the limelight. To do this, Apple made sure that it got the most changes:
- Camera – Becoming the first iPod with a camera of any sort, the iPod Nano got a new video camera. While this sounds cool, and means that you no longer need that digital camera, the video camera really isn’t that great. Not only is the quality sub-par, but the placement is in the worst place ever – right where you hold it.
- FM radio – While the Zune does have HD Radio, the new Nano has regular old-fashioned FM. This should help relieve the boredom when you run out of songs, or it will just allow you to listen to the game. Oh, and a little known fact: you can pause and rewind the radio shows.
- Microphone and speaker – While these seem stupid to add to the Nano (who would take audio notes on it?), once you realize that they are needed for the video camera it makes perfect sense. Plus, you can now play your obnoxious music for everybody to hear.
- Pedometer – One of the pluses of the Nano’s size is how often people use it when they walk or jog – the new pedometer should help these people keep track of their fitness goals.
- Coloring – While the previous Nanos were colored brightly, Apple outdid themselves this year. They have released several stunning and vibrant colors.
- Battery life – While life for standby and music remained the same, the battery life for playing movies jumped from 4 hours to 5.
- Capacity and pricing – At either 8GB ($149) or 16GB ($179), the new Nano should be able to hold all of your music, plus a few movies.
While the new Nano looks all pretty and cool, there are also a few odd changes that Apple made. For starters, while it utilizes voice speech over music (similar to how the Shuffle tells you what songs are playing), there are no current headphones that support this system. Additionally, Apple moved around the placement of the headphone and adapter sockets, which means that current peripherals might not work with the new model.
Overall, Apple released a strong candidate that will help it to firmly hold onto the middle market of MP3 players. While they added several new features, they made sure to keep the price in the same range. I expect the iPod Nano to continue to dominate sales.
While the iPod Nano might be their biggest seller, Apple is counting on the iPod Touch to continue to be a strong second. With over 20 million sold, they are betting on a winning horse. Apple believes that the iPod Touch is far more than a MP3 player; rather, that it is a jack of all trades. You can watch videos and TV, play music, browse the Internet, and play games. With access to the iTunes App Store, the iPod Touch is the most versatile iPod out there.
While Apple did not do the new Touch justice, they did update some of the feature:
- New OS – Apple released OS 3.1 for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The new OS will bring Genius Mixes, voice control, and other features to the devices. More on this in Part 2 of this series.
- New management of apps – The new iTunes features on-screen management of apps. Having used this for my iPhone, I can say that this saves time and is extremely easy to use. More on this in Part 2 of this series.
- New internal parts – The new iPod Touch features new parts on the inside, making it much faster. Included in these is a new processor that should speed it up by about 50%. NOTE: the cheap iPod Touch does not have these features!
- Battery life – Not much has changed in this regard, as the iPod Touch has a life of 32 hours for music and 8.5 hours for video.
- Capacity and pricing – 8GB ($199), 32GB ($299), 64GB ($399)
With only a few changes, and no camera, the iPod Touch has been altered very little. In fact, it is probably advisable to buy a new generation 2 device, as it is cheaper, and just as good. You can update the OS and get the new iTunes abilities on an old one. While I think that the iPod Touch is still the best of the MP3 players out there, I believe that Apple needs to step it up if they want to keep it a popular device.
While most people had expected Apple to phase out the iPod Shuffle, they were surprised when Apple instead expanded it. The Shuffle is an MP3 player that has no screen, controls, or even buttons. Instead, it uses a voice to tell you what it is playing, and controls that are built into the headphones. Oh, and it used to play the music in a random order (hence the name).
Apple added a bunch of new features to it:
- Colors – Just like the new Nano, Apple is releasing the Shuffle in half-a-dozen bright and vibrant colors
- Special edition – From the Apple Online Store, you are able to order a special edition Nano in stainless steel. This variation only comes in 4GB and costs $99.
- Controls from other vendors – Apple announced that other companies (yes, third party companies) are now allowed to make headphones with the controls built in. This should yield better quality headphones for the iPod Shuffle.
- Battery life – Similar to the last model, the new iPod Shuffle still gets about 10 hours of playtime
- Capacity and Pricing – 2GB ($59) or 4GB ($79)
The iPod Shuffle is the smallest MP3 player out there, and probably one of the best. With the cheap price tag, and the light weight, the Shuffle is a perfect workout companion. Plus, with the fact that you can now arrange the songs yourself (via a typical iTunes playlist), the Shuffle has become even better.
The iPod Classic is the oldest of all iPods, but it is still going strong. The device is perfect for those with an exceptionally large music library, or those who love to watch movies. However, Apple did not see fit to change the device in any way, except to alter the capacity and the price of it. You can get 160GB for only $249.
While Apple did update their iPod models, and they released some pretty cool new ones, they also did several other things to help the iPods out. In Part 2, you will see several new features in iTunes that really help to make the iPods shine, and make them much easier to use.