by Steve Hildreth
For the 2011 model year, Volkswagen decontented the Jetta. That is to say, they took the Jetta downmarket by removing features and subsequently lowering the price to better compete with what they consider to be their competition in that market segment. For 2010, Apple decontented the iPod nano. They took away the clickwheel, took away the video camera, and made the screen smaller. In their place, they added a touch screen with icons, a la the iPod touch, but without access to the apps, and a clip on the back a la the iPod shuffle, but without the buttons on front. For this, they toed the line on price, offering an 8GB model for $149
and a 16GB model for $179
Another way of looking at the new nano is that it represents a luxury shuffle. That is, you get access to songs and playlists, a touch screen with external buttons for volume, a standard iPod connector on the bottom, an FM radio tuner, and a couple of apps (pedometer, photos, and clock). All in a package thats essentially the same size as an iPod shuffle.
Two of my family members took one look at the new nano and immediately declared that they preferred the previous-generation nano with the video camera, and there remains a certain appeal to that model. But after playing around with the '10 nano for a while, I began to appreciate it from a purely music-playing standpoint. You get access to your music and playlists, which isn't so easy in a shuffle, and it's not nearly as large as the touch. It fits in my car much better than the touch, and I don't have to take my eyes off the road to unlock the thing each time I want to make a change. For this reason, it would also work well in a gym, and including the clock (with day & date) means you don't need to wear a watch while working out.
Even though it looks similar to iOS 4, the nano actually runs a different OS altogether, so it's not compatible with Apple's app store. At least for now. We can see that changing with future generations of this model.
In the end, we think this iPod nano will be a hit. But maybe not the smash sensation that was the previous model. We give it 3.5 stars out of 5.