Two New iPods: A Few Tasting Notes

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Tasting notes are what they give you while you’re drinking fancy wines and acting like you can tell them apart. I actually do this quite a bit, because I enjoy it and because I like pretending I’m the fat guy in Sideways.

I’m currently in possession of the two new iPods, the new Nano and the new Touch. Here are a few tasting notes. From one who has tasted them all.

The Nano. My first thought was, it’s the second coming of my beloved Mini! I had (have) a brushed grey aluminum Mini that remains my single most vital repository of music, over and above even my CD collection and the hard drive of my old laptop. (Which just blew a dilithium crystal or something, so it’s sitting there in suspended animation waiting for me to get its hard drive extruded and copied to my new laptop.) I thought Jonathan Ive had abandoned this design motif for good, several generations back, but looky: the new Nano is encased in an oval aluminum sheath, which by some dark art Apple has managed to stain a livid electric blue, like nature is telling me it’s something I shouldn’t eat.

I guess none of us really believed that the squat fat-boy model would last. The new design has the now-standard attention to detail: the glass over the screen is not flat but nicely curved to match the curve of the rest of the casing. Shake-to-shuffle is cute, and I actually use it — it’s surprising how much more alive and present the little Nano feels now that it has an accelerometer in it.

The screen is superbright and superfine, but it’s still a little ridiculous to watch video on something that small. I mean, I would do it. But I wouldn’t want anybody to see me doing it, if you know what I mean.


The Touch. The new Touch — the funnest iPod ever — has the instant effect of making the old Touch look like junk. I never noticed that the screen of the old version is actually raised up from the stainless-steel back piece with an extra layer of what looks like cheap black matte plastic. Wow. The new version cuts out the layer of black plastic, and incorporates a back-piece that is actually fancily recurved, the way the iPhone’s is. My old Touch is dead to me now. Dead.

External volume control, very welcome. No one’s going to say no to that. The new speaker sounds like junk, obviously, but that’s all it’s really supposed to do. (And where is the damn speaker? There’s no grille or anything external. What? Not elegant enough for Ive? Even after talking with an Apple exec I’m still not sure where the sound’s coming out. Through the glass, I guess, and maybe through the audio and data ports.) (And I wonder why they always show the Touch with Beck’s face from Sea Change on it. Maybe because that’s a totally underrated album.) Just one pet peeve: I wish there were a better text editor in this thing. I mean, Notes is fine, but I hate putting my brilliant thoughts in that goofy handwriting font, like I’m writing a letter a home from summer camp. I guess this is why people make Apps.

I’ve been using it as a gaming device, and there’s huge potential there, but it’s not going to kill the DS or anything. I’ve been playing Spore mostly. The display is gorgeous. They’ll never get past the lack of proper gaming hardware — a D-pad and whatnot — but it’ll be pretty interesting to see how far they get.