Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Apple iPod nano (2012)
The smallest proper iPod gets a video-friendly screen, Lightning and Bluetooth
- Compact, smart design
- Bluetooth 4.0 is useful
- Missing features from previous nano
- Screen isn't great for video
Apple's constantly-reinvented iPod nano gets a video-friendly screen and Bluetooth in its latest update. It's a user-friendly device as portable media players go, although it's missing a few features we liked on previous incarnations.
Price$ 169.00 (AUD)
The ever-evolving iPod nano is in its seventh regeneration now, with an announcement alongside the iPhone 5 and iPod touch that promised a redesign around a new 2.5-inch widescreen display, Bluetooth, a pedometer and Lightning.
The iOS-lite operating system hasn’t changed greatly since the last nano, and neither has the internal hardware. So does a bigger screen and wireless connectivity make the nano more appealing?
Apple iPod nano (2012): Design and features
Our test 16GB iPod nano — that’s the only size available — came in an emerald green finish, although black, pink, blue, silver, yellow and PRODUCT (RED) finishes are also available.
In lieu of an in-line volume control on the bundled EarPods, the new iPod nano has a multi-function control on the player’s top left side, where you’d find the volume and mute switch on an iPhone. The multifunction centre button serves to skip, pause and play tracks, and it’s intuitive without offering a confusing array of options.
The power button is on the player’s top, and there’s a simple Home button on the lower front bezel. It doesn’t have the same functionality as a full iOS interface like the iPod touch’s or iPhone’s — apart from unlocking the device and powering up the screen, its only other feature is a triple-click that can invert the screen’s colour (for accessibility) or turn on VoiceOver.
The new nano is thinner than the previous incarnation, and is now the thinnest iPod around — just 5.4mm thick, in part enabled by the abandonment of the integrated rear clip. The move to the thinner and more compact Lightning connector is also necessary — there’s simply not enough room for the old 30-pin socket and a headphone port on the nano’s lower panel. There’s also a white plastic panel that hides the Bluetooth antenna — the aluminium case is otherwise impervious to radio waves.
Apple iPod nano (2012): Usage and performance
The iPod nano’s interface is very simple, and relies on you adding music, video, podcasts and photos through a connected computer running iTunes — there’s no Wi-Fi inbuilt, and the nano can’t run any iOS apps anyway.
The interface runs on swipes, moving through menus and across the nano’s home screen to access different features. The main screen holds Music, Videos, Fitness, Podcasts, Photos, and Radio, with a second screen showing the Clock and Settings icons. You can customise the layout like on other iOS devices.
As a portable music player, the iPod nano is simple and perfectly usable. Load your music on via iTunes — we took the opportunity to purchase Channel ORANGE by Frank Ocean — and then hit the Music icon to be presented with the traditional iPod touchscreen music interface.
The nano is able to power the bundled EarPods headphones to uncomfortably loud levels, which is more than it should ever need to do. If you value your hearing, you’ll buy better headphones before maxing out the volume with cheap ones.
We also sync’d the iPod nano’s Bluetooth connection to a pair of Denon AH-NCW500 wireless headphones, and used them for a few hours of cable-free playback. The connection process is as simple as you’d expect from an Apple product. We were able to move around within a roughly five metre range of the nano while maintaining a strong connection, and within around ten metres the connection was mostly reliable.
The iPod nano’s screen is bright, but with a 430x242 pixel resolution (202ppi) it’s not especially detailed. It’s OK for watching TV shows and movies, but you won’t get a particularly cinematic experience. We also found we tended to hold the screen up close to see what was going on, which might look a bit weird on a crowded bus.
It’s also important to note that the nano won’t play HD TV shows or movies that are downloaded from the iTunes store — you’ll need to purchase the standard definition versions to transfer to the iPod nano, since iTunes doesn’t automatically downscale video in the sync process.
We did notice that the new iPod nano hasn’t re-added the features from our much-loved 2010, fifth-generation model — there’s no camera, no microphone, no speaker or alarm clock function. These aren’t really important on such a small iPod since most buyers will have a larger phone that does the job, but it does make the nano slightly less appealing to a small part of the market.
Apple iPod nano (2012): Conclusion
The iPod nano serves its role as a portable music player well. The addition of Bluetooth is convenient, and the new screen suits the common widescreen video aspect ratio — as long as you don’t try to sync HD TV shows or movies.
Apple’s nano hasn’t always gone forward in its evolutionary process — it’s shed some features throughout its short history — but the current model is perfectly capable at the tasks it’s been assigned.
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