Apple has never been known to skimp on displays, and the 1.54-inch screen on the new Nano makes no exception. It rivals the iPhone 4 in brightness, clarity, and with 240 by 240 pixels packed into such a tiny space, even comes surprisingly close to the fabled Retina display on resolution. It’s also just as responsive to fingertips, picking up even the lightest jabs and swipes with zero delay and total accuracy.
But there’s no escaping the fact that it is, at the end of the day, a little bigger than a postage stamp. If you’ve been on this planet over half a century, trying to read text or closely examine photos on the Nano will probably make it feel like the harbinger of some technological dystopia. Text is, even to our relatively young eyes, tiny, and while a zoom function makes photos viewable, we can’t imagine showing off anything we really care about on a screen this size. The square aspect ratio does lend itself nicely to showing album covers, though.
Apple bundles the Nano with standard-issue iPod headphones and a cable for syncing and charging. Like most devices this size, there’s no AC-power-to-USB adapter, so you’ll need to buy your own or simply use a computer for charging.
While video playback is conspicuously absent from the new Nano, it does carry over a number of other important features from the last Nano, including the aforementioned photo viewer, an FM radio, and even a pedometer. The FM radio benefits most from touch capability, making it easy to zoom through the dial with the swipe of a finger, but panning through photos and dialing in your weight for calorie counting on the pedometer are also a breeze. Unfortunately, while the pedometer will spit out calories burned based on that input, it offers no step calibration to translate steps to miles, which means you’ll need to break out a calculator if you care.
Apple advertises up to 24 hours of music playback for the iPod Nano, and anecdotally, that holds true. Even running well short of a full charge out of the package, we never had to charge it in all our testing, and the battery meter dipped almost imperceptibly, making the Nano a true MP3 player for the long haul.
After 10 years of iPod domination, Apple appears incapable of building a bad MP3 player. But it’s not above stumbling over its own feet now and then. Trimming the Nano’s features while keeping its price locked in at $150 has left it as the awkward middle child of the iPod line. If you’re looking for a sporty, go-anywhere MP3 player to keep your heart pumping on a 60-minute run or hit the gym, the $50 iPod Shuffle with physical controls makes a far cheaper, more practical choice. If you’re looking for a robust player that can keep you entertained wherever you go, the cheapest iPod Touch buys you more extra features (superb video playback, HD video recording, Web browsing, apps) than you can dream of for an extra $80.
Imagine walking on a car lot and spotting a Fiesta for $13,000, a Focus for $32,000, and a Mustang GT for $38,000. Whether you cheap out or go all in, there’s no way in hell you’re driving out in that Focus. So it goes for the Nano, which, despite a touch interface perfectly adapted from larger Apple devices, falls short on the value scale.
If price isn’t an issue, the Nano makes one of the most user-friendly and downright fun-to-use players this size. Just be aware that its touch screen, while novel, limits its on-the-go usability at times.
- Almost impossibly tiny
- Ultra-intuitive touch interface
- FM radio, photo browsing and pedometer
- Sleek, solid design
- Long battery life
- Missing camera, video playback, notes, games, etc.
- Touch controls limit ‘blind’ operation