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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My new iPod Nano 6g

I wear out equipment pretty quickly. In fact I'm surprised my Nexus One has lasted for almost a full year without a major scratch. But iPods, well, those I wear out pretty quickly. And in the last two years I've really started to listen to podcasts and audio books, and so my iPods have been well loved.

My last one, the iPod Nano 4g had one newer feature that I really relied upon: sleep mode. I'd put something in the dock, and set it to sleep in 30 minutes. By then I'd be fast asleep. It was a good, reliable pattern.

Then my Nano broke. I pulled out a 2G Nano which worked, well, it worked OK but didn't have the sleep function. I'm still not ready to go all-out with my Nexus One. The battery life isn't quite ready for it, and, let's face it, I break stuff like that, and I'd rather keep it around for phone calls.

So I ordered the iPod Nano 6G.

In short, I just love it. Engadget has a review that covers the iPod's features; feel free to read that for something thorough.

The good:
  • The new UI is snappy and easy to use. The replacement of a the scroll wheel with a touch screen makes for easy interaction. I didn't have to learn how things worked, I figured it out naturally. It's meant to look like iOS, but isn't iOS. For instance, if my research is right, you can't write apps for it.  Given that there are five, pages for apps in the home screen and only fifteen apps, there seems to be natural room for expansion in future firmware updates.
  • Radio! When I showed this to my wife, she brought out her iPod envy. It's got a sufficiently workable radio receiver.
  • Pedometer. Nice feature, it's even gotten me to walk more. Allegedly you can publish your pedometer data to some Nike service, but I'm not particularly interested.
  • Sleep Mode is still there. Given that they removed so many other features (see below) I was glad to see the sleep mode was still there. It took a while to find it (it's in the Clock application.)
  • Also, When it's showing a clock face, it feels a bit like a pocket-watch. A very lightweight back-lit faux-analog pocket watch, but a pocket-watch nonetheless.
The bad:
  • Clumsy buttons. The use of more hard buttons on the iPod Nano feels like a bit of a cop-out, and even on my smaller hands, they're a bit hard to fumble with.
  • No video playback. Not even for video podcasts.  I don't mind much, they're clearly drawing a line between iPod and iPhone (or iPod touch.)
  • No games, no video camera, no contacts, no notes. I don't care about most of those, well, except for games, but I can always fall back on my phone if needs must.
  • Clumsy access to the dock connector. The headphone jack is so close to the dock connector that you have to remove the headphones before disconnecting the iPod. It's an irritating usability fumble, but understanding given the tiny form factor.
  • Tiny Engraving. I opted for engraving the device with my email address in case it gets lost. It's difficult to read the engraving without a magnifying glass. I'm guessing it's a 6-point font for a 20-character message.
The fact that they've removed features that might make someone more likely to purchase an iPod touch makes this feel much like the IBM PC Jr (a little nod to my fellow dinosaurs.) In some ways, it's like the PC Jr (replace chicklet keyboard with clumsy buttons.) Sure, they want you to buy an iPod Touch, but I'd rather have the lightweight device, and I already have a large bulky video-playing computer.

In short, this is great as a companion lower-power-consuming audio device.

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