Hold the phone: New iPod has iPhone qualities

IPod Nanos that do video. Thin, traditional-style iPods — renamed iPod Classic and housed in silver and black — that can hold up to 40,000 songs. A brand-new iPod called Touch with the same multitouch widescreen display as the iPhone.

Apple aapl didn't break lots of new ground last week. But as a whole, the revamping of the iPod lineup makes the first family of portable media devices even better.

I'm most jazzed about the new iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, for iPhone and iPod Touch owners. And I'm infatuated with the custom ring-tones feature for the iPhone, even at 99 cents plus the cost of the original song. I've had early access to the Wi-Fi store and have been testing the new Nano and Touch devices. A closer look at my experiences:

•The Nano.

To accommodate video and such preloaded games as the brick-bashing Vortex, the new Nano sports a dramatically different design. It won't please everybody. It is a wider (but still thin) rectangle, with a small click wheel below a bright and larger, 2-inch display. Previous Nanos — which were very popular and are now extinct — were taller and more stick-like. The hold switch has moved to the bottom of the new Nano, next to the standard iPod dock connector and headphone jack.

Prices range from $149 for a silver Nano with 4 gigabytes (about 1,000 songs) to $199 for 8-GB versions in several colors. The design grows on you.

Apple has also dressed up the user interface for Nano and iPod Classic. The main menu screen is split in half: On the left are items for music, videos, photos and such. On the right, random images are panned that pertain to the menu item you've selected. You'll see album covers if you've highlighted music or podcast images from podcasts, etc.

Quibble: Sometimes an album cover appeared that made me want to listen to that artist immediately. But you still had to drill down into the menus before being able to do so. You cannot click on the album cover from that main view.

On Nano, you do have the option of scrolling through your collection via the Cover Flow view. It shows album images for your entire library. But Cover Flow is tougher to maneuver using the Nano's click wheel than by flicking your finger on iPhone or Touch.

Songs sounded fine. Music videos looked good. But while watchable, theatrical films such as A Bug's Life made me long for the iPhone's larger display.

Apple says Nano can operate for up to 24 hours of audio playback or five hours of video playback off a single charge, both excellent.

Worth noting: As the independent iLounge website first reported, Apple "locked" a setting inside the new Nano and Classic that prevents you from watching video on a TV or some of the portable video docks popular among airplane travelers. For future video accessories to work, they must have an Apple-authenticated chip. Apple is also selling optional $49 cables that would let you connect the new iPods to a TV.

•Touch.

The top surface of iPod Touch is a near dead ringer for an iPhone; the rear shows the same smudge-prone mirrored finish of traditional iPods. It's thinner than the iPhone, but at 4.2 ounces — iPhone is 4.8 — it feels heavy.

Touch has no phone, camera, built-in speaker, Bluetooth, weather/stock widgets or e-mail.

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