This year brought dramatic changes to Apple’s iPod product line, with the most notable being the changes made to the 6th generation iPod nano. There are a host of new features added and some removed. Read on for our take on the 2010 iPod nano.

iPod nano 2010 review

Note: Our apologies for the low volume. We’d recommend turning up the volume during playback.

With the advent of the 6th generation iPod nano, Apple has decided to drop the familiar clickwheel interface, replacing it with a new multi-touch capable touchscreen user interface. While it’s not technically running iOS found on the iPod touch, it looks and feels like iOS. The new iPod nano looks as if the iPod touch and iPod Shuffle had a child. The squarish nano has a clip reminiscent of the Shuffle and a multi-touch display found on the more expensive iPod touch.

iPod nano 6th generation review

Press the sleep/wake button on the top right of the device and you will be greeted with:

  • Playlists: A list of all your iTunes playlists. Swipe down and you can add, edit playlists.
  • Now Playing: Brings up current song being played and playback controls.
  • Artists: Scroll list of artists.
  • Genius Mixes: If enabled in iTunes, you’ll find a list of mixes created for you by iTunes.

Swipe to the right and you’ll find access to:

  • Radio: FM Radio
  • Podcasts: List of subscribed podcasts.
  • Photos: Yes, you can view your photos on this super small display.
  • Settings: An assortment of settings.

The third pane reveals:

  • Songs: Browse list of songs.
  • Albums: Browse list of albums.
  • Genres: Browse list of your music based on genre.
  • Composers: Browse list of your music based on composer.

The fourth and final panes displays:

  • Fitness: A built-in pedometer. Allows you to upload information to Nike, set goals or pair it with a Nike + running shoes.
  • Clock: A great looking clock that has spawned a slew of iPod nano watch bands. Our advice: buy a Timex.

The icons within the four panes can be easily be moved. Press and hold an icon will cause the icons to giggle and you can reposition them to your liking. All of the features generally work like any iPod, with a few exceptions that we’ll touch on.

iPod nano in the gym and on the go

If you owned one of the previous generation iPod nanos, expect a complete departure from everything you know. I found navigating the screens  to be very fast. Gestures are easy to learn, swiping left and right to guide your way through the interface. If you press and hold, the iPod nano will return you to the homescreen. With the screen being so small, sometimes I found myself making an accidental selection while swiping.

6th gen iPod nano vs 5th gen iPod nano

There is no gesture to put to turn on the display when your in playback mode. You have to use the physical sleep/wake button. Located on the top right of the nano, the most natural way of pressing the button is to use two hands. For those of you who use your iPod nano while running or exercising, this is one a few drawbacks when compared with previous generations.

Upon seeing the clip, it reminded me of the shuffle, a great gym companion. I ran with the iPod nano and found myself resorting to old patterns of placing my MP3 player either on the treadmill or my pocket. While it’s super light, it flops around if attached to your shirt sleeve and at $180, I didn’t feel secure knowing that it it would hit the ground hard if it became detached. Typical places that you might clip the player are also areas that will introduce your shiny new iPod nano to sweat.

iPod nano 2010 size

With other music players, I’ve had my device slip out of my pocket when using a weight bench. That’s not an issue with the iPod nano and the clip design. For those of you who use free weights, be careful where you position the nano as I was concerned when moving plates. I’m guessing the display would be no match for 45 lb plate. This was never a concern when using the Shuffle, likely do to it not being a super-expensive product and there is no screen to damage. If you use circuit weights, the clip is great. Clip it to your shorts or shirt and go lift.

The clip and size also opens up the iPod nano to a host of wearable options. A shuffle with a screen, I could see commuters clipping this onto a bag or front pocket. It also opens you up to snatch-and-grab thieves, so be careful out there.

Using multi-touch, the coolest trick is to position your thumb and fore finger on the display and twist to rotate. No doubt about it, these are nice touches and make the device fun. It’s also useful depending on where you are wearing your iPod, you can easily turn the screen and then make your selection.

The most familiar screen is the now playing screen. From here, you can you can pause, fast forward and rewind. Swipe right and it reveals repeat, genius mix, shuffle and audio scrubber. A single tap on the screen gets you back to the album art. Volume adjustments are now made using the two physical buttons on the top left of the device.

iPod nano volume controls

Previous iPod nano players allowed more options from within the playback screen. You could depress the center button and reveal options like Browse Artist, Browse Artist. It also reveals an option to Add to On-The-Go, a great way to make a quick playlist while you guessed it, on the go. It was also easier to increase or decrease volume.

The latest revision takes away On-The-Go, replacing it with an option to create as many playlists as you’d like. A handy option if you stationary, but real difficult if you are on the go. Let’s say you are listening to the new Lady Gaga album and want to tag a song for a future playlist. The workflow involves the following steps:

  1. Tap, swipe back and select Playlists.
  2. Drag down to reveal ‘Add’ and ‘Edit’ buttons
  3. Select either and you are presented with a menu to navigate music. In this case, you’d navigate to Artists > Lady Gaga > Album > Press ‘+’ sign > Done

iPod nano playlists

This is a glass half-full, half-empty situation depending upon your preference. You can edit all playlists and add as many as you’d like, but lose the ease of tagging songs on the go that was present in previous generations.

In our testing, the iPod nano was at roughly 50% battery life after roughly 7 hours of playback. After 16 hours, the battery was less than 10%. Usage was a mix of display on/off. According to Apple, the iPod nano offers up to 24 hours of music playback when fully charged.

Pros

  • Small, fun
  • Great fit and finish. Feels like a high end device.
  • Multi-touch display looks and feels like iOS
  • Ability to edit, add playlists

Cons

  • No video recording
  • No On-The-Go playlist
  • Sleep/Wake button requires two hands
  • No way to browse artist from playback screen
  • Multi-touch makes navigating clumsy. Loss of one hand navigation from previous generation.

Conclusion

The iPod nano is a new class of device, somewhere between a Shuffle and iPod touch. Outside of the price tag, the nano shares very little with previous generations. I’d be ok with shedding features like video recording if the result were a superior portable audio device. The first time you lay hands on the device, it’s hard not to be impressed with the build quality, multi-touch and overall good looks. Once that wears off, you’re left with a capable iPod that will leave you wanting either the previous generation or next. A good first effort, but poor update from the feature-rich 5th generation iPod nano.

Rating: 6/10
Price: 16GB: $179, 8GB: $149