New iPod nano: simply awesome or just too much?

Technology Review

| Managing Editor
Courtesy of Apple

Courtesy of Apple

Holy mother of God.

By that, I mean to say that the new iPod Nano is a ridiculous piece of equipment. It has the following: a brand new video camera function, with pretty good resolution for something that you can lose in your own pocket; 8 or 16 GBs of memory; an external speaker; a microphone for voice memo recording; a brand-new radio function with live pause, such that you can put the radio on hold for a few minutes and come back right where you left off; a bigger screen than the old one; a freaking pedometer; and like 30 languages in which it can operate, including both brands of Portuguese.

I alternate between being totally excited about the amount of high-quality technology you can fit on this little tiny thing and thinking anyone for whom it is worthwhile to buy one of these things should be shot.

That’s a little drastic, I know, but it seems to me that the idea of progress has gotten a little out of hand. It’s the way the world works: iPod Nano sells big; more research goes into it; it becomes exponentially cooler as new editions come out. You keep the name and the concept, but you keep making it new so people will buy the next generation. I understand.

What I’m a little concerned with, though, is the underlying values of the whole exchange. What do you really get, in life, out of a really sweet gadget like this? A more attractive way, it seems to me, to ignore the rest of the world. Then again, I was kind of against using simple old iPods when those came out.

This anti-universe tendency informs my opinion about the coolest new feature of the new Nano: the radio. Why? First of all, because it revives an authentic organ of music dissemination. The reception is good enough that it gets KWUR from the third floor of the DUC. It gets KDHX from there if you keep it close to your body. The radio function effects a kind of healthy regression, allowing an old technology to become relevant again. Radio (good radio) is almost the logical extreme of iPod’s shuffle: ultimate eclecticism with some voices mixed in for an even broader experience. And second, the live pause feature revises the radio format to make it even better. Everybody wins. And the iPod-radio listener gains a perhaps slightly external experience in a world full of internal ones.

As far as functionality, it’s Apple. You know it’s going to be super-intuitive, and it’s going to work really well for a while, and it’s going to break eventually, but you’ll be in the market for a new one by then anyway.

In sum, it’s an insanely good product, and if you listen to music on headphones a lot and think you’re interested in experimenting with video or starting to listen to the radio or figuring how far you walk every day, you should buy it, hands down, no questions asked.

The only question you need to ask yourself, then—and this is the gist of the review—is whether life with 1.28 ounces of metal that’s cooler than you is a life you want to lead.

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