Denki News

September 12, 2006

It’s Showtime! — Today’s iPod announcements

Filed under: iPod & iTunes, Macintosh — icruise @ 2:00 pm

Apple’s been busy recently. They refreshed the entire iPod line, released a new version of iTunes, added feature films to the iTunes Store (no longer called the “iTunes Music Store”) and in a very unusual move, they even announced a product that won’t be shipping until next year — a box that will stream video content to your HDTV from your computer. I’ll be talking about each announcement soon, but let’s start with the iPods. (More after the jump.)

First of all is the full sized iPod. A lot of people, myself included, were hoping that when Apple started selling movies on the iTMS (or I guess I should say the iTS) they would move to a widescreen design for the iPod. Unfortunately this did not happen. In terms of its design, the new models look identical to the old ones. They have, however, been “enhanced” in a variety of ways. They are now available in 30GB and 80GB sizes (the previous top size was 60GB). They’re a bit cheaper than before, at $249 for the 30GB model and $349 for the 80GB. The screens are 60% brighter than the earlier screens (and I thought they were plenty bright). Battery life has been significantly improved, with the 80GB model getting 20 hours while playing music and 6.5 hours while playing video (this is up from 2.5 hours on the old models). Because it is thinner, the 30GB model gets less, but I don’t have exact numbers. You can now search for text in song names, artist names, etc using an onscreen “keyboard” (keynote images courtesy of Engadget).

A huge number of games have been also added, including things like Pac-Man, Tetris, Mini-Golf and Zuma. It’s not clear what games the iPods come with, but new games can be downloaded from the iTS for $4.99. Gapless playback has also been added (allowing one song to smoothly transition into another without a gap of silence in between), although it sounds as if this may be limited to songs purchased from the iTS. And finally, they are including a different kind of (presumably better?) earphones. There is no mention of whether the last-gen (video capable) iPods will get a software update to allow them to use some of these features.

The iPod nano has been completely redesigned. It looks like a cross between the old nano and the iPod mini. It features an anodized aluminum case in a variety of colors. The low-end 2GB ($149) model only comes in silver. The 4GB ($199) model comes in silver, green, blue, and pink. And continuing the trend that Apple started with the MacBooks, the top-of-the-line 8GB ($249) model only comes in black. Battery life has been significantly increased to 24 hours. I don’t know how much of the full-sized iPod’s new functionality will carry over to the nanos. The games probably won’t be compatible because of the lower resolution screen, but I would think gapless playback and maybe the searching feature would be.

Finally, the lowly iPod shuffle has been totally redesigned and now looks something like the iPod radio/remote accessory. It’s supposedly the smallest MP3 player in the world. It comes in only one size — 1GB — for $79.

While I was disappointed in the lack of the “real” video iPod, these are some impressive updates. I wonder if the iPod’s most recognizable feature — it’s central scroll wheel — isn’t making it difficult for Apple to go widescreen. There has been talk of a touch-screen iPod, where the scroll wheel appears onscreen, but I’m not sure if that is feasible. The lack of a widescreen iPod means that I won’t be buying any of these new models, so in a way I guess it’s a relief. But for anyone in the market for a new iPod, these should all be great choices.

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