With trademark fanfare, Apple today unveiled the next generation of iPods, significantly upgrading and reducing the price of every model of the current lineup, but stopping short of announcing a new widescreen, video-specific version of the megapopular music player. The most dramatic change is to the iPod shuffle, whose entire form factor has morphed from a white slab shaped like a stick of gum to a smaller silver slab with a built-in clasp for easy clipping to a shirt pocket. It's available in just one capacity, 1 GB, for $79 (the 512-MB version has apparently been discontinued, and will not be missed).
The iPod nano also got a makeover, now available in multiple colors (just like its predecessor, the iPod mini): silver, pink, green, and blue — but only if you get the 4-GB version (now just $199). If you opt for 2 GB ($149), your choices are silver and silver. Apple also added an 8-GB nano to the lineup for $249, available in black only. And nano battery life jumped up to 24 hours.
As for the flagship iPod, there are still two models, but the top-shelf one gets an increase in capacity from 60 to 80 GB and a reduction in price to $349. Impressive. The smaller model stays at 30 GB but also gets a $50 price drop, to $249 (yep, same as the 8-gig ninja nano). The screens on the new models are said to be 40% brighter, too — so much the better for watching those new movies from the iTunes "music" store. And yes, the oft-criticized battery life has been improved, with the 30-GB model clocking in at 3½ hours for video and the 80-gigger lasting 5½ (for music, it's 14 and 20 hours, respectively). Still just black and white for the iPod, though.
And what of the heavily rumored, widescreen, touchscreen, crystal-clear, nirvana-bestowing Video iPod? Fictional, at least for now. Maybe it'll come next year when Apple officially releases its "iTV" gadget for streaming you PC/Mac media to your TV. Stay tuned.