Digital Life: iPod therefore I re-shuffle, re-model
Apple finds it hard to express regret -- witness the half-hearted apology for the iPhone's Antenna-gate.
But at least it does admit it was wrong now and then. For a firm with such an apparently unerring eye for good design, the ever-changing iPod line-up is an admission that some of its ideas don't cut the mustard.
Last year's redesign of the iPod Shuffle dispensed with traditional playback controls in favour of a convoluted clicker system on the headphone cable. "But people clearly missed the buttons," Apple boss Steve Jobs confessed when unveiling the new Shuffle at an iPod event earlier this month.
Lo and behold, the new €50 Shuffle looks exactly like the old Shuffle from two years ago. Buttons are back and the design is still cute.
Nonetheless, the neat voiceover system only partly compensates for the lack of a screen and you would get more song storage for your money elsewhere.
The latest revision of the iPod Nano verges on throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Always the bestselling iPod, the Nano has undergone many transformations, last year acquiring an FM radio and a video camera to bolster its impressive capabilities.
For 2010, Apple has shrunk the Nano almost to the Lilliputian size of the Shuffle and given it a touchscreen. Gone is the video camera and video playback, neither of which will be terribly missed. More annoying is the lack of an alarm.
In many senses, the new Nano is what plenty of people have always craved -- something as tiny as Shuffle yet with a screen. But be careful what you wish for. The 1.5-inch screen works like the iPhone -- tap and swipe, etc -- but given so little space to play with, your fingers may find it tough to hit the right button.
It's also gone up €20 in price -- €160 for 8GB and €190 for 16GB.
My money says next year Steve Jobs will hold up his hands and say: "That 2010 Nano was just too small."
Much easier to recommend is the new iPod Touch. It looks much like a slimmer edition of its 2009 counterpart except for the telltale signs of front and back cameras. Inside, though, many components have been updated in an effort to keep it up with the high specs of iPhone 4.
So it gets a better screen, faster processor and, of course, the cameras -- though both are intended for video conferencing using Apple's FaceTime technology rather for taking still pictures.
Except for the slightly awkward placement of the buttons on the body, the new Touch is flawless. A superb music and video player, it also boasts the power of app store. Even the slight price rise on last year is easier to swallow with this quality. It starts at €230 for the 8GB.