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

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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.