Overview:

Pros

  • Roughly about half the size of the earlier model.
  • Uses a unique multi touch screen navigation
  • There is a provision for a clip so making it convenient for people on the move.
  • Superior battery life and volume when compared to its earlier versions.
  • The new user interface resembles the OS used in the iPod Touch and iPhone.
  • Compatible with earlier dock accessories.
  • The interface is swift and responsive.

Cons

  • Does not feel like sixth generation of the iPod. Gives you a feeling it is a whole new product.
  • No Video capabilities or Games either.
  • No Speakers.
  • Just one multi-touch gesture.
  • No click wheel and it takes time to get used to the swiping.
  • Expensive.
  • Earphones with mic and playback controls should have been included.

Review:

The iPod Nano is a device that has rivalled the iPod classic in terms of the change it brought bout in the gizmo industry both in terms of legacy and popularity. Its popularity is justified considering its improvements every generation. Ever since it debuted in 2005, it has received high recommendation in its entire previous version from us. The first version was prone to scratches, and apple used aluminium for the second version. The third version had video capabilities and gaming.

There were improvements in the body for the fourth generation and everything else we wanted was in the fifth version. However, this year Apple decided to try for something new and came out with the sixth generation Nano, placing a new device that is a hybrid of the iPod Nano and iPod touch with the size of a iPod shuffle minus all the features we have been used to expect from the Nano. Despite these radical changes and the cost factor, we would not be writing off the Nano. It has a fantastic battery life, a convenient small size, an OS like the one on iPhone rather than the one on the iPod and “multi-touch”.  A super-shuffle or sub-Ipod Nano model, the sixth generation could be a hit in the lower end price segment. That is where the problem lies. We are not coming to terms with the fact that it has come as a successor to device that did twice more the stuff for the same price. Has apple taken it is first ever mis-step? Read on to find out if the Nano’s worth it.

Apple iPod Nano Sixth Generation

Design:

iSquare:

When we saw the 2009 variant of the Nano, we thought it was impossible that Apple could make something smaller than it. But little did we know that in late 2010, Apple proved us wrong.  The sixth generation iPod Nano is only slightly larger than the iPod shuffle with an extra of half an inch to accommodate the 1.25″ touchscreen. The device measures 1.61 inches wide, 1.48 inches long and 0.35 inches thick including the rear clip. While screens are not new on such small devices, the fact that it is an Apple device indicates the high quality and functionality of the device.

Weighing around 21 grams, iPod Nano 6th Gen Player is much lighter than the earlier version. It is SO light that when you clip it to a shirt, you will not notice it hanging there.

Anodized Body and Colour Variants:

This year’s Nano features a polished anodized aluminium body, similar to the fourth generation iPod shuffle. It is not as shiny as the last year’s Nano but yet vaguely similar. The device is available in seven colours down from the nine available with Apple ditching yellow and purple colours. The other colours have also witnessed a shift in the tone including the nearly purple blue, a bronze toned orange and a rosier pink. A rose red version is offered as an option through the Apple stores and a graphite colour model replaces the the black charcoal Nanos with a lighter tone.

iPod Nano 6th Gen Player Colours

The Screen:

While the casing is pretty cool, most people would rather want to know about the screen.  6th Generation Nano has a 240 x 240 resolution with the screen measuring about 1.25 inches and 1.54 inches diagonally. It is the smallest screen ever since the Nano was capable of a having a display. Its resolution is 160 odd ppi higher than the iPhone 3G and the earlier counterparts. With having to squeeze more into a smaller space, you would not expect great viewing angles. But be prepared to be surprised, we had crystal clarity from a fairly sharp off angle. The artwork is pretty decent but the text seems shadowed compared to what we see on the iPhone.
Obviously, Apple must have given thought on how to make a touch screen so good that people would not miss the physical button experience. Apple has managed to create a replica of the iPod touch/iPhone interface with a few home screens, and the ability to hold down any icon and shift its location across home screens. There are little dots right at the bottom of the screen that tell you how many more screens are available. There is not any unlocking screen and you have the option to choose the background from a set of a few built in images. But what was disappointing is the lack of an option to substitute our own photos as a background.

Controls:

When the screen is switched off, the device looks jet black in contrast to the sides which are tinted thoroughly except for the ports and the three gray buttons which are similar to the ones found on the iPhone 4 except they’re smaller and used for volume and Sleep/wake controls. The plus sign on one of the buttons marks the volume up button and a minus is the volume down button. These buttons are included on the device as there are no touchscreen equivalents for these operations.  Same is the case with the Sleep/Wake button, there’s no iPhone like alternative.

Navigation:

For years, people have considered the click wheel the best possible way to navigate and now that is gone. Apple could have included the 3 button remote equipped earphones but chose to include the older standard ear buds. Their inclusion would have made it easier to overlook the lack of physical playback control buttons. So in order to control playback, you need to pull out the Nano and then navigate it appropriately. While it is not too much of a deal, it is inconvenient during active use. At the bottom of the device are the 30 pin dock connector port and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The device is compatible with a few accessories of the earlier generation such as the standard earphones.

Shirt clip:

The addition of a rear shirt clip makes it wearable for the first time and is one of the features it has inherited from the shuffle. Though it is bigger than the ones found on the shuffle, it’s slightly smaller than the rear surface. The clip does not hide the rear service compartment like it did in the shuffle.  All of the internal components are fit into a model by inserting them and fills the large hole making it a highly elegant design to hold with the only challenge being the screen being accidentally activated.

Interface:

When you first turn on the Apple iPod Nano 6th Generation, there are icons deleted to items that previously appeared under the Music menu such as Now Playing, Artists etc. The iPod Nano’s interface resembles the one found on an iOS device. However, Apple has confirmed that the Nano does not run iOS nor can you install newer apps from iTunes. On the first screen are also present Playlists and Genius mixes. The second and third home screens have Radio, Podcasts, Photos, Songs, Albums, Genres and Composers. The fourth screen has a Fitness screen and a Clock along with two blank spots. When you plug in an accessory, an option called the Voice Memos turns up that allows you to record Voice with a few small adjustments.  You can use iTunes to synchronize an audio book to the Nano. However, there is no option to delete any icons, you need to shift them to another page. While giving each of these features an own icon seems absurd, Apple obviously did it to make it look feature rich and better than white screens with little black text as in the case of the  earlier Nanos.  There is an extra white space on all the sides to allow slight imprecision in the finger movement.  Because only three to four artist names appear on the screen at once, get ready for a lot of swiping.  There is a god-sent miniature alphabetical navigation bar on the right of the screen that is pretty nifty if you have a firm finger.

The absence of a faithful Home screen also means that you will have to swipe from left to right or vice versa till you return to the home screen. Quite inconvenient for someone who is used any of the earlier Nanos. Another oddity is the inability to set the time before which the screen dozes off. The screen dims around 20 seconds and goes to sleep after 60 seconds; an extra tap for this.

Multi Touch Gestures:

Apple has promoted the device as a multi-touch but actually, it is too small for most people to do anything simultaneously. More importantly, it is capable of only one multi-touch gesture that is to rotate the screen 90 degrees so that the screen could be read in any position. You might wonder why would Apple not use the inbuilt Accelerometer for this purpose and when it could have used pinch to zoom as a feature for multi-touch.  Try taking a clipped Nano along with you and that will force the screen to rotate unnecessarily.

Accessibility:

There are a host of features to make the device useable by the deaf or blind users. Features like the Mono Audio and screen colour flipping White on Black have been brought over from the iPhone. Voice Over helps visually impaired people browse the screen by reading out the names of the artists, albums etc.  However, the un-scalable text and lack of physical track switching would make it a weaker choice when compared to its predecessors.

Apple iPod Nano Sixth Generation Multiple Views

Features:

The sixteen icons that the device can be clubbed into the following categories : music playback, FM radio tuning, voice recording, photo playback, workout tracker and a clock display.  We were mildly surprised with the iPod’s handling of video and image content.

Memory:

The iPod Nano sixth generation is available in 8GB and 16GB. With the former having 7.35GB usable space and the latter have 14.8 GB. This loss is accounted to the space required for the OS and the flash memory. The devices can store 2000-4000 songs of about 3 minutes each and 128kbps. The better the quality and longer the songs, lesser will be the number of songs stored.

iPod Music/Audio:

Ten of the sixteen slots available take you to the playback or other features. Playlists are manual collections and Genius Mixes are iTunes generated collections of tracks. Artists, Songs, Albums, Genres and Composers sort the library according to those headers. Audio books and Podcasts are well, for storing audio books and podcasts. Now playing brings you to the track that’s currently being played. Because of the small screen, playback is slightly different from the earlier versions. When one selects a track, the cover art of the album fills the screen and a tap is necessary for bringing up the details of the artist’s name, album name etc. There’s an “i” button at the bottom of the screen that allows you to rate the track up to five stars and a list of other tracks from the same album. While Apple has tried to make most out of this tiny screen by putting focus on the art, the controls do not feel as convenient as on earlier models because there often arises a need to look down at the screen just to pause or change songs.
Audio books have a list of chapters in place of the album track menu and the genius and shuffle buttons are replaced with a “back 30 seconds” and an option to be read at half, actual or twice the speed. Podcasts too have the same options, the third screen containing data from iTunes explaining what the podcast contains.

Radio Tuning:

Of the plethora of features that were available in the last year’s model, only two survived. One being the integrated Radio FM tuner that Apple incorporated only very recently. In order to tune the radio, the headphones need to be connected. Once you do so, there appears a cropped and no frills version of last year’s screen with big numbers and an ‘i’ button to bring up a menu. When you tap on the station number, a scrollable dial appears that allows you to browse station by station. There’s the extremely handy feature of live pause that allows you to stop and time shift about 15 minutes of a live broadcast.  Mind you, you can’t save songs but in case there’s something you missed on the radio, this feature allows you to skip back and play again.  Selecting the ‘i’ button gives a settings menu that lets you search for stations and a favourites option that allows you to access your bookmarked stations.  The FM tuner was as powerful as it was on the earlier versions. We liked the look of the interface and are one of the few improvements in the new Nano. The iPod touch and iPhone would be nicer if they had this option.

Voice Recording:

The Voice memo application in the sixth generation Nano is a cut down version of the application found in the earlier iPods. The files are recorded as 128kbps AAC files even if using the mic and consume about 1MB per every minute recorded. While the quality of the content depends on the microphone used, the ones in the Apple’s ear phones with the remote and mic do a great job. They are however sold separately on the Apple site.  Selecting the list button allows you to see your prior recordings and add labels accordingly. There is an option to delete tracks if you do not want them to be synchronized to your iTunes. The voice recording is a feature that works pretty well and we have no complaints.

Photo playback:

This feature is designed particularly to improve its appeal amongst people who love sharing images with their friends. The earlier Nano’s initially were not the best devices, but they have improved over time. There are a set of transition effects such as Page Flip, Origami and dissolve during slideshow but otherwise, this Nano’s just as average as its earlier versions. Though there are a higher number of pixels this time, the thumbnails have dropped down to 9 which means you will have to scroll around a lot of photos in an album. The square shape of the display also means that the images are surrounded with big black boxes making them look even smaller. Here, too zoom into the photos tapping does work.  However, we have a serious issue with the device here. When the images on the Nano are played on an external display, the images have such poor quality; we wondered why Apple released this feature when it is so poorly implemented.

Nike iPod Sports Kit:

This is a feature that has been around for years now and the iPod Nano 8GB, 16GB Sixth Generation Player features the same. It is a kit complete with a dock connector dongle and a sensor that can be mounted on a shoe. The application has male and female voices that provide status and motivation during jogs. You can also synchronise data from your workouts to Nikeplus.com using iTunes. There are options such as Basic, Time, Calorie workout options, summary of the performances, distances covered and the ability to remember your sprints. The on screen numbers have been made smaller to accommodate the buttons.  Even the iPod hear rate monitor is provided as well.  The new Pedometer features a screen that counts the number of steps you take on a daily, monthly and annual purpose. Thanks to the smaller text, the pedometer has six digits instead of the earlier four. You can activate the feature while using audio playback and this is indicated by the image of a shoe on the top bar of the screen.

Clock:

If there is a reason they could continue the Nano in its present form, it would the clock feature. Thanks to its size and wear-ability, it is single watch face along with a calendar would make it a perfect watch.  Under the settings, the date and time menu can be accessed to make the display a clock whenever the screen is idle. A left swipe would bring up the home screen and a right swipe would bring up a countdown.  Apple should consider this feature more seriously like introducing newer and hybrid watch faces making it competition to existing brands. Sure, the present size is a bit larger, but Apple’s known to make stuff smaller and we’re hoping they would make good use of this.

No Games:

One of the things we were disappointed with the iPod Nano 6ht generation is the lack of any games. People who are used to playing Klondike, Maze and Vortex will surely miss the feature.  Also you cannot download games for the device thereby rendering it useless when it comes to gaming for leisure.

Syncing with iTunes:

It is as easy to sync the device with iTunes as it was on the earlier models. The iTunes 10 software allows you to drag and drop files under various options such as music, podcasts etc. Transferring rate on this model is much faster. It took about a minute and half to transfer 1GB of files when compared to the 2:07 seconds of the iPod touch and 6 minutes of the iPod Shuffle. These faster speeds make it easier to use than other iPods.

What is missing?

The iPod Nano sixth generation surely lacks a lot of features from the previous generations. There is no cover flow, search and a built in speaker.  It is also not capable of playing video in any form, so there go movies, TV shows or even video parts of podcasts.  Another notable omission is the video camera.  Also missing are alarms, calendars, contacts, notes and world clocks.

Audio quality:

The sound from the headphones is remarkably louder than the fifth generation counterpart with the Nano about 10 percent more powerful.  The new iPod Nano is capable of handling video content. No, do not rush to conclusions, while it cannot play back video, it allows you to listen to the audio part of the video podcasts. These files appear both under the Podcast icons as well as Music videos icon.

Battery Life:

One of the very few things about the device that we liked is its battery life. Inspite of being the smallest Nano ever, its battery life lasted well above Apple’s 24 hour estimate. The device played on for about 35 hours on 50 percent volume lasting out about an hour more than the fifth generation model and two more than the fourth generation one.

What is in the box?

The packaging is similar to the iPod shuffle’s box except slightly larger. There is a full USB to dock connector cable, a standard pair of earphones minus remote and mic, an apple logo sticker, warranty guide and a start up guide. The universal dock adapter’s missing because Apple wanted to cut down on packaging waste.

Warranty:

The Apple iPod Nano sixth generation is covered by a warranty of one year.

Price Tag:

The iPod Nano is priced roughly as much as the fifth generation model without half of its features. It is the price that is the biggest letdown amongst all of it. Had it been priced around the range of iPod shuffle, this product would have got our recommendation.

Verdict:

Most of our users would agree that the new addition the Nano family is hard to be taken seriously as the sixth generation of the Nano brand.  No change in the price tag, omission of too many features  we have got used to, lack of true multi touch make this the first ever  Nano we would not recommend. Had the price been half of what it is, maybe it would have been different.

Do not get us wrong, the Nano is not a bad product. The new form factor and screen are pretty cool. It is definitely much better than the iPod shuffle released in 2009. But its the lack of features and the small interface issues that turned us off. Maybe Apple was looking to make a simple no frills music player that could be a successor to the iPod shuffle.  If that’s the case, then the device delivers. However, it does not live up to the expectations of its Nano tag. It is up to Apple to either shrink it even smaller or make it larger and include better features.  The best option for Apple is to consider a refurbished model of the fifth generation and work on this one as an accessory, you might never know, wristband music players could be the next in thing.

Apple iPod Nano Sixth Generation (8GB & 16GB) - Technical Specification Table

Manufacturer Apple
Model Name iPod Nano sixth generation
Generation Sixth
Dimensions (H x W x D) 37.5 x 40.9 x 8.78 mm
Weight 21.1 grams
Display size 1.54″ diagonal
Display type TFT
Display resolution 240 x 240 pixel resolution at 220 pixels per inch
Capacities available 8GB, 16GB
Holding capacity 8GB: 2000 songs in 128-Kbps AAC format
7000 iPod viewable images
16GB: 4000 songs in 128-Kbps AAC format
14000 iPod viewable images
Storage type USB flash drive
Interactivity Spoken menus allow listeners to hear many of the
names of menus, song titles and artists without
viewing the screen
Legibility of the menus An alternative large font can make menus easier to read
Display adjustments Contrast and backlight settings
Caption feature Yes
Voice Over Kit 29 languages
Audio formats supported AAC, Protected AAC, HE-AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible,
Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV
Audio special feature User-configurable maximum volume limit
Fps rate 30 frames per second
Navigation Touch screen
Mac system requirements Mac computer with USB 2.0 port
Mac OS X v10.5.14 or later
iTunes 10 or later
Windows system requirements PC with USB 2.0 port
Windows Vista or Windows 7
iTunes 10 or later
Headphone jack Standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Battery Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Battery life Music playback time: 33 hours at 50 percent volume
Charge time Fast-charge time: about 1.5 hours
Full-charge time: about 3 hours
Box contents iPod nano
Earphones
USB 2.0 cable
Dock adapter
Quick Start guide
Warranty One year standard warranty for parts and labour