Gone is the iconic click wheel that helped bring MP3 players to the mass market. Instead it uses Apple’s now almost obligatory multi-touch screen, allowing you to flip the display around to whichever way you are holding it.
The new Nano is now closer in size to the old iPod Shuffle, even featuring the clip that made its little brother so popular with joggers. And this seems to be the audience the Nano is aiming for: the option to download games, for example, has gone (for now at least), the small screen presumably too fiddly to make them viable. The clock display, turning the Nano into a tiny pocket watch, is an inspired feature. But with fewer knobs and whistles, the £129 price-tag isn’t cheap.
The iPod Touch is the sleeper success story of the Apple portfolio. Derided by many as an iPhone without the phone, it has, according to Steve Jobs, gone on to outsell Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS combined. This is the market Apple sees the Touch competing in – a fairer description would be an app machine with a built-in MP3 player. Spot someone with one on the Tube and they’re as likely to be playing Angry Birds as listening to Jay-Z. The new Touch is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It is slightly thinned down and even sleeker than its predecessor. The main difference is the new crystal-clear “retina” display that makes reading books (or City A.M.) even easier, meaning you can share files between this and your iPad. At prices ranging from £189 (8GB) to £329 (£64GB), it’s not cheap. But short of an iPhone 4, you won’t find anything else this cool to play your tunes on.
The new Shuffle looks positively retro compared to the Touch or Nano. Stylistically, it is something of a step backwards for Apple – it is almost identical to the second generation version (this is the fourth). It is also the only new iPod to retain the familiar wheel design. But as far as functionality is concerned, it’s business as usual. Put your tunes on it, hit shuffle. That’s it. The only addition is Apple’s VoiceOver technology that will read aloud the name of a track and its artist. The main draw is the price – if you want a lightweight, clip-on music player but don’t want to shell out for a Nano then this is for you. At just £39 for 2GB of storage this is the cheapest quality MP3 player on the market.