As anticipated, yesterday Apple unveiled a completely updated line of iPods in advance of the holiday season at a special event in San Francisco. In addition to a refresh of all the current iPod models, including a redesign of their popular “Nano” line, Apple introduced a new direction in their iTunes Music Store business model… wifi access to purchases directly from their newest iPod model. Here’s a quick breakdown of the latest iPod line:
The iPod Shuffle, a button sized player with limited capacity aimed at the ultra portable market, got just a simple facelift with some new colors but the specs and price remained the same.
The iPod Nano got a complete makeover. Gone is the ultra slim design with the addition of a video capable screen. The Nano is now a full fledged video iPod, capable of playing the movies, TV shows and games that previously were only capable on it’s full sized brethren.
The iPod with Video has been renamed the “iPod Classic“. It’s design remains basically unchanged except for an all metal enclosure, but it’s capacity has been increased dramatically. The new models come with either 80GB or 160GB of storage.
The software used by both the Nano and the iPod Classic has been updated as well. Still using the “click wheel” the interface now features “Cover Flow” and other enhancements. It’s much more “iPhone like” but sans the touch screen technology.
Which brings me to the really big news. Apple has released a touch screen iPod, dubbed the “iPod Touch” using the same OS X based software as the iPhone. Like the iPhone, it can be turned sideways for widescreen format video, Cover Flow browsing and photo albums using the touch screen technology. Also like the iPhone, the iPod Touch is wifi enabled, and will feature the Safari web browser as well as the You Tube application, calendar, contacts and other iPhone software. Basically it’s the iPhone without the phone, and with a few subtle changes to the interface.
The wifi aspect is probably the biggest innovation, especially in conjunction with the iTunes Music Store’s new wifi capabilities. Now you can access a wifi network, browse the store for music, sample 30 second clips of whatever interests you, buy it right on the spot and have it playing on your iPod Touch in seconds. That capability is something that’s been lacking in iPods (and Apple TV) for years. Very cool. They also announced a deal with Starbucks, where you can access wifi in a Starbucks and get access to the music playing in the shop at the time… with the ability to sample and buy.
Now for the bad news. The iPod Touch is a flash based gizmo (no hard drive), so the largest available capacity is 16GB. That’s it.
Personally that’s a deal breaker for me. Right now my 5th Gen iPod with Video is a 60GB unit at about 70% capacity with all my music, audiobooks and videos on it. That total portability of all my media is a key point for me, and the iPod Touch can’t deliver that same convenience. Obviously Apple believes that the iPod should not be considered a full media storage solution, but more of a “media wallet” that you place a selection of books, videos and CDs into that you’d like to use on trip A, then replace that content with different content for trip B, and so forth. That’s just not the way I see it, and my current iPod won’t be going to pasture unless they makes a high capacity iPod touch down the road. My iPhone works fine as a “media wallet” for selected videos and such on a given trip.
Actually the iPhone will be getting all these enhancements as well, including the ability to buy songs on the go. I can also make certain songs I’ve bought into ringtones via a custom ringtone program… for an extra $.99 per ringtone. Neither of those options interest me much.
Overall, a few good steps for the Apple iPod. They just need to make a high capacity iPod Touch and that might be a must have gizmo.
755 My cover art for the next issue of MAD, exclusive sneak peek from @entertainmentweekly website
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