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iPod nano slimmer, lighter than original

Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, September 12, 2005

Apple’s advertising juggernaut used a simple, undeniable phrase to turn the iPod into a cultural and consumer sensation: 1,000 songs in the palm of your hand.

Last week, the company took another giant step ahead of its competitors, offering up the latest gadget in the growing line of iPod portable digital music players – the iPod nano.

Impossibly small (as the ad campaign insists), the newest iPod incarnation is both appropriately named and a technological marvel.

The iPod has been on top of the digital music hill for so long that critics have raised concerns about Apple becoming complacent with its trademark brand. The recent release of the iPod shuffle hasn’t helped matters. Although it was touted by Apple for its miniature size, taking up the same space as a pack of chewing gum, not all buyers were impressed. Essentially a memory stick with a play button, the shuffle model did little to push the envelope for functionality.

Enter the iPod nano. Apple wisely chose to apply all the stylized features that made the original iPod and iPod mini models so successful. The iPod nano is smaller than a business card and thinner than a No. 2 pencil. Essentially, it’s an ultra-slim version of the 20 and 40 Gigabyte (GB) iPod models, forced into an appliance that can be twirled in between a person’s fingers.

The click wheel, a staple feature for previous iPod models, has been applied to the nano as well. Featuring a color screen, previously only available in the most recent iPod models, and a battery life maxing out at 14 hours, the nano is the latest whiz creation from a company that has made the iPod its bread and butter product.

The color screen is an especially nice touch for the nano. Not only does it beautify the overall aesthetic nature of the model, but it allows album art to be shown on-screen during music playback. And as an added bonus, users can take entire digital photograph collections with them. Up to 25,000 photos can be housed in the nano’s tiny package.

While a few aesthetic and functional changes have been made to the iPod nano, most of the features are familiar to current iPod owners. The headphone port has been moved to the bottom of the unit, leaving the tiny hold button on the top face of the nano.

But a few fun gimmicks have been thrown into the mix that are exclusive to this model. A stopwatch feature has been added, letting users keep track of run or lap times. Finally there’s a new Screen Lock feature, letting owners lock the iPod contents with a four-digit code, deterring prowlers from discovering socially embarrassing songs.

The iPod nano comes in two different sizes – 2 GB and 4 GB – and lets buyers pick between two available colors, black or white.

Deciding on a starting price of $199, Apple has carefully maneuvered the nano to fill the void vacated by the iPod mini, a model the company discontinued to create more market space for the latest iPod manifestation. In terms of price, functionality and size, the nano trumps many of the features that made the iPod mini so popular. This prompted Steve Jobs, Apple’s chairman, to confidently proclaim the nano as “the biggest revolution since the original iPod” during his introduction of the new product.

Recently, there have been rumors circulating in the music industry that Apple was planning a new generation of iPod players, capable of storing and playing video files. But while iPod fanatics will continue to wait for that leap in portable entertainment, the nano gives musicphiles plenty of reasons to rejoice.

A smaller, sleeker device, the iPod nano will further cement Apple’s deserved stranglehold on the portable music battleground. It’s only appropriate that the product responsible for rejuvenating an entire company continues to be the pinnacle of cool functionality.