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Apple's Slim Nano Boasts Phat Sound

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 18, 2006 4:00 AM PT

Thin and colorful. Those are the bywords of Apple Computer's latest version of its iPod nano.

Apple's Slim Nano Boasts Phat Sound

The new music player measures 1.6-by-3.5 inches and is just a tad over a quarter-inch thick. I'd be hard-pressed to find a candy bar that small.

While the case for the unit is metal -- it's made of anodized aluminum and comes in five colors -- it's very lightweight, tipping the scales at 1.4 ounces.

Big Sound

There are three models of the new nano -- a 2 gigabyte model in silver ($149); 4 GB models in silver, pink, green and blue ($199); and an 8 GB model in black ($249).

While the device is diminutive, its sound remains large. It delivers excellent audio fidelity through the earbuds included with the unit.

As you might expect for a gadget this size its color display is small. It measures 1.5 inches diagonally. But the screen is bright and quite legible.

Familiar Click Dial

Like its predecessor, navigation on the unit is done through a click dial.

At 12 o'clock is the menu point for backing out of menus.

At 3 and 9 o'clock are points for moving backwards and forwards through the songs library.

At 6 o'clock is the point for playing and pausing songs. It also acts as power-off switch when its held down for a few seconds.

At the center of the wheel is a button for choosing menu items.

To move vertically in a menu or song list, you move your finger vertically across the face of the dial.

To control the volume of the unit, you move your finger horizontally across the dial.

New iTunes Software

A nice addition to this nano is a search function. It allows you to perform a text search for music on the device.

In addition to playing music and photo slide shows, it comes with some useful extras, such as a clock, contact manager, calendar and stopwatch.

Along with the introduction of the new nano, Apple popped the cork on a new version of iTunes. iTunes, which runs on both Macs and PCs, is the software for managing media on an iPod and for connecting to Apple's online iTunes store where music, audio books and movies can be purchased.

Movie Downloads

Movies? Yes, not only did Apple release iTunes 7.0, but it trumpeted a new addition to its online retail repertoire: full length feature films.

The initial batch of movies include more than 75 films from Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, Touchstone Pictures and Miramax films, but Apple hopes to grow its flick biz as rapidly as its TV show lineup.

Movies appear at the iTunes store the same day they're released on DVD. It they're pre-ordered, or purchased during their first week at the site, they're priced at $12.99. After that, they're $14.99. Older movies, though, are selling for $9.99.

A big wrinkle in the fabric here -- at least to my mind -- is movies bought at the iTunes store can only be shown on an iPod or a computer. Spending two hours or so in front of a tiny iPod screen isn't very engaging to me. Ditto for remaining planted in front of laptop display.

Apple plans to remedy that situation in a hurry by releasing early next year a new gadget, code named iTV, that will send iTunes movies directly from a computer to a TV or set-top box.

Rolodex of Album Art

If you've been using the previous version of iTunes, you'll barely notice the changes to the interface in the newest edition.

There's a welcome improvement in the iPod interface. It makes managing an iPod's content easier.

And there's a neat feature called Cover Flow. It lets you flip through the artwork assigned to music in your library, sort of like a virtual Rolodex of album covers.

Taken together, the new nano and the improved iTunes software advance the seamless one-two punch that's taken Apple to the top of the online entertainment content industry and is likely to keep it there for some time to come.

John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at

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