Ho hum. Another September, another iPod Nano launch. We've seen them again and again, and we're pretty bored with the whole affair. Sure, the new Nano is decked out in nine pretty colors, and we even like its curvy oval cross section, too. But we're just not all that excited about it. Here's why.
1. Its screen is too small. Who on earth would want to run down its four hours' worth of battery charge watching movies on a screen the size of a quartet of postage stamps? We're getting eyestrain just thinking about it. It would have to be some pretty unimportant content for you to waste it on such a micro-cinema. Maybe aspiring film auteurs could put together some flicks especially crafted for the teeny-tiny medium, shooting with lots of close-ups and accompanying the nano-pic with big sound effects and such. Could happen, but until then, we're yawning.
2. Its earphones are substandard. Now Steve Jobs has so much as admitted the iPod Nano's earbuds are crappy, offering a pair of proper in-ear phones, each earpiece equipped with a separate woofer and tweeter. But you're going to have to pony up extra for that privilege, buddy — $79 to be exact, and you'll have to wait until October. That's not a bad price, though, considering that some dual-driver earphones cost $1150.
3. It doesn't do anything else. Where's our Bluetooth headphone connection, and built-in Nike+ support for the player that might actually find itself in a gym? With the iPhone and iPod Touch boasting 3,000 applications, the abilities of the Nano are looking damn limited. Music and video are definitely still the iPod's prime functions, but every player does that, many just as well if not better than Apple. What else ya got, Steve?
4. Extra sauce where none is needed. We get it. It's thin. But pointing out that it's "the thinnest iPod ever" doesn't really mean anything at this point. Check out our size comparison to get an idea of just how incremental its smaller waistline is, with hardly a diff between Nanos old and new. How thin does the Nano really need to be, anyway? Should it carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding? And what's with that shaking feature? It sounds like fun, but we make gestures like that when we think somebody is, uh, pulling our leg.
5. The Nano still steers you into DRM-infested iTunes. This is especially true with songs you've bought at the iTunes Store. We've never been too thrilled with the digital rights management woven into music and video on iTunes. The Nano can play back music and video content with quality that's about the same as its competitors, but the iPod forces you to use iTunes software even if you don't want to. We'd like to decide what we do with our music, and don't like being treated like criminals, no matter how fair the software pretends to play. And I tried the new "Genius" feature — it feels more like a salesman than a physicist. Note to Apple: Consider changing that nuclear icon to a plaid sportcoat, you know, like the used-car salesmen used to wear.