The iPod nano is the iPod that has undergone the most changes throughout its life. A direct descendant of the iPod mini, released in spring, 2004, the first iPod nano, introduced in September, 2005, was a tall, slim device with the then-familiar scroll wheel and a small screen. In 2007, the third generation iPod nano featured a squat shape, much wider then previously, and a wider screen. The 2008 model returned to a taller body, with a tall screen, and finally, the latest version – first released in September 2010 – is a small, clip-on device like the iPod shuffle, but with a touch screen.
Unlike the iPod classic, which still looks a lot like the first iPod, the nano has constantly searched for the right shape and size. It has been a popular device, offering limited storage, but at a lower price than the iPod classic or the iPod touch.
Reports from a Japanese website, www.macotakara.jp, suggest that the iPod nano will abandon the flawed touch-screen model and return to a shape and size closer to earlier versions. This one would have a home button and a touch-screen interface that may be similar to that on iOS.
Of all the iPods, I find the nano to be the least usable. The current version has a touch screen which is very hard to use. There are two types of actions you perform with this screen: you either tap it or swipe it. I’ve found that swipes are often interpreted as taps, and it constantly irks me to have to try to navigate that device. For I do use my iPod nano regularly, when walking, to listen to podcasts. I like the fact that it has a clip, and it is much better than the iPod shuffle, but the interface is flawed.
Of all the iPod nanos, the fourth and fifth generation models were the most practical. Light and slim, easy to slip into a pocket, they were easy to use with their scroll wheel, and the standard menu-based screen was easy to navigate. However, a newer model with an improved touch screen – inspired by iOS – could do the trick.
It’s odd that the iPod nano, one of Apple’s best selling iPods, has changed so much. It’s almost as if Apple can’t make up its mind which form factor and size to use. It’s certainly less of a priority to the company now that iOS is where the real money is made, but it’s still a great device for when you want to carry a small amount of music or spoken word programs on the go.
Apple will most likely introduce new iPods in September, which is when the company also tends to update iTunes. We’ll see then if the shape-shifting iPod nano looks different yet again.