New iPod nano: More than Just a Pretty Wristwatch



Steve Jobs launched an insta-meme today by suggesting in his keynote that Apple’s new multi-touch iPod nano could be worn as a wristwatch.

The meme becomes a fad next week when the nano arrives in stores and people start actually wearing them on wrists. It’s going to happen, especially when third-party companies begin offering special-purpose wristwatch straps for it. I know it’s going to happen because I’m going to do it.

Talk is cheap, but a Huffington Post poll at post time was running over 67% in favor of wearing the iPod nano as a wristwatch.

But serving as Apple’s first-ever foray into the wristwatch racket isn’t what’s ground-breaking about the device.

What’s important to note is that the new nano is by far the smallest ever gadget with real MPG (multi-touch physics and gestures). It’s the first significant consumer MPG device that’s not a so-called “computer” or cell phone or multi-purpose device. As such, it represents the future of mobile gadgets in general.

During the past 20 years, we’ve seen a lot of analog “stuff” replaced by digital equivalents. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are being upended by online eBook stores, for example. Since the iPhone mainstreamed the MPG interface three years ago, a new era emerged whereby real, physical buttons are being replaced by touch screen controls.

All Apple’s previous MPG devices were in the same “family.” There was the iPhone, then the “iPhone without the phone” iPod Touch, then the “giant iPhone” iPad. But the iPod nano is an entirely different device in function, purpose, scale and kind. It’s the first Apple multi-touch product, for example, that does not run iOS. It’s the first without apps. It’s entirely different, yet feels exactly the same.

You swipe your finger across the screen to see icons on the next screen. You use two fingers and twist to change the orientation. Touch to play. It’s just like an iPhone. It will easily pass the “two-year-old test.” where toddlers use it successfully without instruction.

And it puts to shame tablet and phone efforts by other companies that cluelessly unveiled touch devices without MPG.

In addition to being ground-breaking, the new nano is just generally cool — and useful. Jobs said in his keynote today that it’s 46% smaller and 42% lighter than the old version. It has a built-in pedometer and an FM radio with TiVo-like “pausing” of live radio. The device gets 24-hour battery life and comes in silver, graphite, blue, green, orange and pink for $149 for 8GB and $179 for 16GB of storage. A red nano will be available exclusively in the Apple store.

Ultimately, the “importance” of a device depends on how strongly it influences other companies and other products. Of course, Apple products get copied. But I believe the new iPod nano will trigger a tsunami of tiny appliance devices, from TV remote controls to fitness gadgets to digital cameras that mimic or copy of the iPod nano user interface.

If the iPhone ushered in the consumer MPG computing era, then iPod nano has ushered in the MPG consumer appliance era.

And it just might save the wristwatch concept. Time will tell.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.