7 October 2005

Review: Apple's own iPod killer, the Nano

ipod_nano1Call me a Luddite if you will (okay, okay, stop now) but I never really ‘got’ the Sony Walkman thing. I really love music of every variety (except, of course, country and western), and thoroughly enjoy listening to a very good audio system, so listening to music through scratchy little earbuds with the sounds of the outside world disturbing the rhythm and sanctity didn’t seem all that appealing. Besides, most of the time I actually enjoy interacting with the world outside my head, rather than retreating into the twisted space within.

So Walkmans, Discmans and MiniDisc players came and went, and I remained disinterested. Even the iPod, for all its obvious style, didn’t do much to change my mind. Admittedly, I did take to listening to music on my PDA from time to time, but I wasn’t exactly hooked. I did it simply because I am a gadget freak and I could.

When I added the Orange C500 Smartphone to my gadget arsenal, the first signs of enlightenment quickly followed. At last, here was a device small enough and with good enough battery life to make listening to music on it seem pointful. Besides, it was already with me all the time. Recently I have found myself watching movies and TV programs on it, as well as listening to language learning CDs for my holiday in Barcelona last week.

But the iPod Nano has almost got me convinced. If you haven’t yet seen one, it is very small, if not quite, as Apple claim, ‘impossibly’ so. And it’s absurdly stylish, which will surely be the main motivator for sales. On top of that, it has a number of excellent features such as syncing with Outlook on the PC, a built in stopwatch, and an inbuilt screen lock function that may discourage theft. I’ve blogged before on my view that portable electronics, in particular digital cameras, should have inbuilt security, so it’s good to see Apple doing something on this score.

But the iPod Nano is still far from perfect. Some of my gripes:
  • It needs a larger capacity than the current 4 Gb if it is to serve a serious photo storage device. Of course, that will come soon enough (as soon as Apple have sold out of full-sized iPods, I imagine)
  • The headphone socket should be on top of the device. At the bottom it pulls on the connector, requires more trailing cable and looks less cool
  • An FM Tuner in there would be really nice
  • It is flawed as a photo viewer—the screen is not really of high enough resolution and the inability to pan or zoom into a photo is a surprising omission
  • Some people will also feel the lack of Firewire syncing and the absence of a remote control are also issues, though neither of them worries me.
But minor issues aside, there’s no doubt that the Nano is tiny, light and gorgeous and it sounds good to boot. It’s the iPod killer that none of Apple’s competitors have managed to build. I mean, who would want to carry around a huge iPod when they could have a Nano? Does anyone really need to have their entire music collection on hand all the time?

Actually, I don’t need even need to carry 4 Gb of music with me. A 1 Gb card in my phone holds all the music I need, plus all my TomTom maps for my mobile GPS. And I can watch videos, run applications, use it as a powerful alarm clock and make telephone calls, all without needing to carry a second device. That’ll do me just fine until Apple bring out a Windows Smartphone with an iPod Nano’s size, style and functionality. Until then, I can't see the benefit in giving up telephone, GPS navigation, video player etc just to get more music and more cool.

At the end of the day, if the ultimate converged device is the goal, then my Smartphone is closer than the iPod Nano. But my advice is rush out and buy an iPod Nano today. I have a birthday coming up soon, and it would be the perfect gift for a gadget-obsessed guy like me.Go to eebahgum!


Anonymous said...

An entertaining and well-balanced review. Interesting to see someone actually make intelligent criticisms ratherr than just say how great it is. That headphone socket on the bottom is just weird!

Jez said...

I read your post on 'bad langauge', lazy typers etc. I couldn't agree more.
I would welcome your input on my blog(s). Honestly, I'm open to suggestions on how to make a better blog.
First off, I'm not sure how to use italics, links and other fancy stuff when posting a comment, which is why you'll have to go via my profile. It's worth it though!

Miranda said...

It seems "mine's smaller than yours" is the new "mine's bigger than yours." :)

But who would want a full-sized iPod when the Nano is available, you wonder? Me - and a pretty fair number of others like me who prefer slightly larger cell phones, digital cameras and so on: proud owners of large hands and long fingers, who are likely to heave something micro-miniature against a wall before long because the controls are way too small. I had my choice between iPods when I got mine as a birthday gift, and chose the full size over the then almost brand-new Mini for that reason.