The iPod nano is Apple’s fourth digital audio player combining features of both the iPod shuffle and iPod. It was introduced on September 7, 2005, replacing the iPod mini, which was discontinued on the same day. The replacement of the mini took Macintosh websites and the press completely by surprise since, although there were rumors about a new flash memory-based iPod, there was no prior notice of the mini being discontinued.
Work on development of the new design of the iPod nano started only nine months before the launch date. The iPod nano has more flash memory storage than is used in the iPod shuffle and has a miniaturized version of the color screen and click wheel found on the full-sized iPods. The screen also has a higher resolution than the old grayscale iPod, allowing one more line of text than the mini’s screen. The battery and other internal parts were also reduced in size. The surface of the click wheel is slightly rough, allowing greater tactile feedback for out-of-sight operation.
Size comparison of iPod nano and standard-sized mouse.Advertising emphasizes the iPod nano’s small size: it is 1.6 inches (40 mm) wide, 3.5 inches (90 mm) long, 0.27 inches (6.9 mm) thick and weighs 1.5 ounces (42 grams). Its stated battery life is 14 hours. The screen is 176 x 132 pixels, 1.5 inches (38 mm) diagonal, and can display 65,536 colors (16-bit color).
The iPod nano works with iTunes on Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows (third-party software is available for platforms that Apple does not support). It connects through the same proprietary dock connector as the third-generation iPod, the fourth-generation iPod, and the iPod mini, using a USB 2.0 port on the user’s computer. Although it uses the same connection of Apple’s FireWire iPod Cable and can charge its battery over FireWire, the iPod nano does not support synchronizing over a FireWire connection. The iPod nano includes a stop watch and a multiple time zone clock function. There is also a combination lock feature that makes use of the click wheel to lock the iPod, and serves to secure the user’s calendar and contact information. It was also the first iPod to include a new lyrics screen, modifiable using iTunes.
The nano was launched in two colors (black or white) with two available sizes: 2 GB (roughly 500 songs) for $199 USD and 4 GB (1000 songs) for $249 USD. On February 7, 2006, Apple updated the lineup with the 1 GB model (240 songs) sold at $149. Apple also released some accessories, including armbands and silicone “tubes” designed to bring color to the nano and protect it from scratches, as well as a combination lanyard-earphone accessory that hangs around the neck, and avoids the problem of tangling earphone cords.
The iPod nano uses flash memory instead of a hard disk. As a result, it has no moving parts, making it immune to skipping and far more durable than disk-based players. The tradeoff is, like with all flash memory, it has a finite number of read/write cycles. Testing by technology-enthusiast website Ars Technica has shown that even after being driven over twice by a car, the unit’s screen was damaged but that it could still play music. The unit finally stopped playing music after being thrown 40 feet into the air.
Although the iPod nano costs more than the iPod mini range it replaced, it should be noted that the iPod nanos are priced exactly the same as the iPod minis (2 + 4GB) were when they were first launched back in 2004. Unlike previous iPods, Apple is not offering an optional FireWire cable for the iPod nano (nor the fifth-generation iPod). The lack of the remote connector found on the top of the iPod mini and Generations 3 and 4 of the iPod meant that a number of third-party accessories will not work with the iPod nano. However, since the removal of the remote connector from the main iPod line to the switch of the Universal Dock connector, manufacturers have been forced to develop alternatives to accessories that used it. The nano also lacks the TV-out and voice recording options of the larger iPods. Apple has also said that, unlike other iPods capable of storing photos, the iPod nano will not work with either Apple’s iPod Camera Connector or any camera connectors from third-party manufacturers.
Nike+iPod, released May 23, 2006, is one of the many accessories designed specifically for the iPod nano. The advantages of the Nike+iPod is to sync information including the distance traveled, running pace, or burned calories to the Nike+ website.
The iPod nano uses general-purpose integrated circuits (IC) instead of smaller, low cost custom developed chips, possibly to reduce time-to-market. This design, however, increases the number of electronic components and increases the cost. Japanese engineers estimated the component cost of the 2 GB nano as between JPY22000 and JPY27000, which is high compared to the retail price of JPY21800. The cost of 2 GB NAND flash memory is about JPY14000. Apple opted for the higher cost 0603 (0.6 x 0.3mm) components, the latest surface mount technology, as opposed to cheaper but larger 1005 (1.0 x 0.5mm) components. In fact, there remains available real estate on the motherboard.
iPod nanoThe initial consumer response to the iPod nano was overwhelmingly positive and sales were heavy.The nano sold its first 1 million units in only 17 days, helping Apple to a record billion-dollar profit in 2005.
Apple’s release of the iPod nano as a replacement for the iPod mini is viewed by many as a risky move. The mini was not only Apple’s most popular MP3 player, it was still the world’s best-selling player up to the end of its lifespan; and sales of the mini did not appear to be slowing down. Steve Jobs has argued that the iPod nano is a necessary risk since competitors are beginning to catch up to the iPod mini in terms of design and features, and believes the iPod nano will prove to be even more popular and successful than the iPod mini. Analysts see this as part of the corporate culture of Apple, which relies heavily upon innovating to continue appealing to consumers.
Within days of the nano’s release, some users reported damage to the nano, suggesting that the LCD screen had become so scratched that it was unreadable, even when the backlight was on. Many have reported fine scratches on their nano caused by microfiber cloths. Other owners reported that their nano’s screen cracked with no provocation.On September 27, Apple confirmed a small percentage (“less than 1/10 of 1 percent”) of iPod nanos shipped with a faulty screen and agreed to replace any nanos with cracked screens, but denied the iPod nano was more susceptible to scratching than prior iPods.Apple started shipping iPod nanos with a protective sleeve to protect them from scratches. In October 2005, a class action lawsuit was filed against Apple, with the plaintiffs seeking reimbursement for the device, legal fees, and “unlawful or illegal profits” from sales of the iPod nano. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that the devices “scratch excessively during normal usage, rendering the screen on the nanos unreadable, and violating state consumer protection statutes”.Similar lawsuits were later filed in Mexico and the United Kingdom.Some commentators such as BusinessWeek’s Arik Hesseldahl have criticized the lawsuits. Hesseldahl dismissed them as “stupid” and suggested that they benefitted “no one but the trial lawyers,” but also suggested that Apple could have avoided litigation by offering “full refunds on unwanted nanos” instead of charging a re-stocking fee and lengthening the return period from 14 (if bought online) or 10 (if bought at retail) to 30 or 60 days.
Pope Benedict XVI owns a white 2GB iPod nano, becoming the first Pope to own an iPod.