The 2012 iPod Nano: An Agglomeration Of The Best Features Of Every Nano Ever [Review]


Does the 2012 iPod nano offer anything new?

For all intents and purposes the latest, 7th generation iPod nano is nothing new. We’ve seen it all before: the widescreen form factor, the touchscreen display. What is new is that we’ve never seen these features in this configuration.

That’s what paradoxically makes the 2012 iPod nano the best one yet: it’s an agglomeration of the best features of the nanos that came before.

It is as though the best features of all previous generations of this protean device are refined and combined into this latest “Lucky Seventh” iteration. Now the iPod nano is the right height, the right shape, the right screen size, the right colors, and perfectly simple. It is what the iPod nano was always meant to be — a good-looking, on-the-go music player.


Still in its box: The 7th-generation iPod nano with multitouch interface displaying circular icons.

The iPod nano is Apple’s most constantly changed and redesigned product line. It’s where Apple regularly experiments, the only product Apple habitually redesigns every year or two from the ground up, never seemingly happy. Over the seven years since its first inception in 2005, the humble nano has gone from plastic to aluminium, thin to fat, tall to short, small-screen to cinematic, black or white to shiny or matte colors, had different memory capacities, employed a click wheel, multitouch, integrated speaker… it has even had a video camera and built-in microphone in one of its reincarnations.

The trajectory of iPod nano’s evolution has not been a straight series of improvements. The third-generation model, for example, was comparatively corpulent. Then it went back to being skinny again. Some later models had less battery life than those they replaced, and less-fetching looks. Last generation, the hapless nano was more like an iPod shuffle than a nano, with a clip to wear it like a wristwatch.

The trajectory of iPod nano’s evolution has not been a straight series of improvements, but with the latest version, Apple seems to have got the iPod nano just right.

Like the previous iPod nano, which did away with the familiar earlier click wheel, iPod 7th Gen employs a multitouch interface and adds a new iPhone-like “home” button. It uses 16GB of flash memory (holds 4000 songs or 14,000 photographs) and the same iOS-inspired operating system as the previous nano. It has Apple’s dedicated apps for music, videos, photos and FM radio installed. (It is not compatible with iOS apps and won’t download additional software from iTunes.)

The 2012 iPod nano also seems finally to have settled on the color scheme that suits it best, with a choice of five soft, matte, pastel hues, black and silver models. It will play an impressive 30 hours of music per full battery charge, and has pedometer / Nike + iPod support for fitness training, shake-to-shuffle and VoiceOver capability.

Portable music, videos and pictures: iPod 7th Gen measures 3.0 x 1.5 inches and has a large, 2.5in screen.

Even so, the iPod nano already had most of these features. The biggest question facing anyone considering the new iPod nano is “so what?” After all, it’s hard to justify the cost of a standalone MP3 player when everyone has iPhones and iPod touches.

There are a smattering of new features in the new model, it’s true. The 2012 iPod nano is the first version with Bluetooth 4.0, so you can now listen to it on Bluetooth-enabled headsets without those pesky wires that pull down on your earbuds, or pair it with speakers without having to dock on your stereo or comp. That’s certainly nice, as it the tiny, reversible, Lightning connector.

On the other hand, the new iPod nano still doesn’t have WiFi, so you still have to load its music and picture contents by plugging into your computer and syncing with iTunes… which seems like a positively antediluvian way to sync a device these days. And while the new nano does come with Apple’s redesigned headphones, the EarPods, they  are just as tinny and only slightly more robust in the lows than the old ones were.

The new 5.4mm-thick iPod nano is ultra-lightweight at just 1.1 ounces.

Otherwise, the iPod nano still works and sounds the same as it pretty much ever did. Consequently,  to many people, the 2012 iPod nano might seem like a lost opportunity for greater innovation of the long-running device. But that’s missing the point. It’s not really new. Rather, it is streamlined to optimal: the perfect MP3 player for people who want just an MP3 player.

The new iPod nano is streamlined to optimal: the perfect MP3 player for people who want just an MP3 player.

I am certainly not the kind of person who advocates giving away, selling, or otherwise abandoning your faithful old digital devices each time a newer model comes out — but with the 7th-generation iPod nano, for once, I might: because this version improves upon not only the one before, but all previous versions at once. The nano might not convert the iPod touch and iPhone faithful, but if you rely upon an iPod nano already, this is an upgrade in every conceivable way compared to every past generation.

  • TylerHoj

    Personally I think Apple REALLY missed the mark with this generation. It was obvious [to me anyway] the iPod nano shaped as a watch wasn’t going to stick around, but I had hoped for something a little more refined then this little turd of a device. What would have been so wrong about just stretching out the watch style iPod nano!? It didn’t have a home button, it doesn’t need one. If Apple wanted to differ the software from iOS, why would they add a home button – as made popular by iOS? Without the click wheel, I’m not sure Apple knows how to make iPods anymore. The iPod touch being an exception because it’s an iOS device, [just] an iPod with a music app. The nanos loss of identity is driving me insane. I used to update my iPod every fall, and used to look forward to it! Now it’s just the poster-child of a product line, that’s not living up to it’s potential.

  • Shaun Green

    Continuing the move towards turning the nano into a watch based device was absolutely the right way to have gone. This new nano is neither one thing nor the other. You can’t wear it as a watch any more, you can’t download apps for play games, etc. It’s a confused device. It’s like a faded pop star trying to regain their former glory by singing the tired old hits rather than seeking to re-invent themselves with new material. It will be an epic fail IMHO. I simply don’t agree with the viewpoint that the touch should be an iPhone without the phone – I think they should give it it’s own identity as a portable games/entertainment device with a 5″ screen aimed at the PSP Vita and Nintendo DS market. A device with it’s own set of apps, etc. That would be bold thing to do. And the nano as the ultimate “watch” for portable wireless music on the go, in the gym, etc or simply as the coolest, must have iPhone accessory. Again that would be the bold thing to do.

  • SamuelBrock

    Basically, everyone who wants the watch form factor back should email Tim Cook.

    The way it sounded to me, even in the keynote is that Apple responded with the iPod nano to customer requests. Everyone wanted Bluetooth and everyone complained about video so Apple set out to combine the two most-asked for features of the iPod touch over the last two years into a form factor that served them best. The truth is, people didn’t want video, they were just used to having it with previous click-wheel nano’s so people complained. If you want video, you spend 50 dollars more and get an iPod touch. Bluetooth could also easily fit into the watch form factor with the lightning cable and a little engineering. People wanted bluetooth to turn the iPod into a smart watch that communicated with their phone, not because they use bluetooth headphones or they want to hook it into their cars (If you drive a bluetooth-equipped car, you don’t carry around an MP3 player, you have a smartphone).

  • beachcoaster

    I don’t mind the new iPod nano. But as Apple has demonstrated before, if the customers are not happy they will fix what was working. They did it with the iPod shuffle. They went from having buttons, to no button except on the headphones, back to buttons.

  • hanhothi

    I was hoping the last two nano generations would evolve into a smart watch (without the stupid clip to double its depth) that would link with my iPhone and display data such as who is calling, messages and so on.

    The I’m Watch is a great concept, but the company who make them don’t seem keen to deliver (having taken customers $) and being Android driven, they don’t appear to interface with the iPhone well. An Apple iWatch along those lines would be great, maybe Apple will announce that at the next session along side the iPad Mini.

    Having become used to the touch interface, I now find the click wheel clumsy to use, and so I am considering upgrading to the latest nano. Just need a good Bluetooth enabled light weight speaker system for when I am travelling, which is when I use my current nano.

  • Michael Snape

    As being said. This generation (including the iPhone) is a flop. They ignored their prime principle of making great products and always perfecting every detail. This time they just threw shit together, ignored developer demands, and made some UGLY devices. I hope this is not the decline of apple, I grew up with Steve jobs apple.

  • Flu Guy

    I personally like the iPod Nano 5 with the vcam & mic… it’s been the best I’ve ever owned. I currently have two 16GB – one to fly with and one lives in the car. They feel right and just work the way a Nano should.

    Too bad they didn’t offer the new Nano 7 in 32GB. I don’t want an iPod touch because of the size. I use iPods for music only and the touch is just too big. And on flights – I don’t want to waste the battery on the iPhone.

    Give me a 32-64GB Nano with a vcam – and I’ll upgrade for sure. Never know when you might need to cap some live action.

  • PitchBlank

    Redesigning products based on customer requests is a very ill-advised and very un-Apple idea. It’s design-by-committee, except the committee is more clueless than usual. “We want video playback!” Yeah? You want video on a stamp-sized device? Why? So you can say ‘check out this awesome clip’ and hold it up to a group of people who happened to bring binoculars? The Shuffle-with-display form factor was a brilliant idea that could’ve been refined, and the only one worthy of being called “nano”. The 2005 original may have been ‘nano-sized’ given that the full sized iPod was a brick by today’s standards. This one should be called iPod touch mini.

  • tippi

    It’s bothering me that none of the reviews mention the tiny detail that, as far as I can work out, this version of the iPod is designed not to play music sequentially. You either listen to one song over and over, or shake it for a random next selection. This is…sorry, does this not seem insane to anyone else? How does this work if it’s raining or snowing, and you don’t want to keep pulling it in and out of your pocket? Do you walk along shaking it in your pocket, because, um, this will look as if you’re scratching yourself or making a “wanker” motion? And the usability is almost impossible. Using such a tiny touch screen is not easy for human-size fingers. It’s too easy to pause by mistake when using the tiny rocker switch for volume at the side, but incredibly fiddly to use the touchscreen option. Do any reviewers actually product test these devices, or do they just look at them and comment on the info they are given about its capabilities? Oh, and I’m geting about 4 hours battery life at the moment. For the 1st time when buying an Apple product I’ve had to download the manual, and am trying to work out the code of 1 click on the exact middle of the rocker switch for repeat, 2 clicks on the exact centre of the rocker switch to move to the next track…..or whatever it is. I loved my 2nd gen iPod, and didn’t need a manual to be able to use it either- the usability was INSTINCTIVE, as Apple products should be. Does anyone know who I can contact to try and find out what they were thinking when they foisted this horrible product on an unsuspecting public? And the white plastic panel on the front- cheap and nasty looking. They didn’t even bother to try and match the colour to the metal. It doesn’t even look good. What was the problem with the click wheel, again? That was what set the 1st iPods apart from the rest, and made them better. I am beyond frustrated with this device.