Apple's new iPod touch, nano and classic: Hands firmly on

Apple's new iPods -- the touch, the classic and the nano -- have been announced. We were at the launch to get you every one of the details, plus a whole heap of photos

We told you the Earth would stop turning, and it did. Apple, after the typical rumour-grooming hysteria that precedes every one of its press conferences, announced three head-explodingly exciting new iPod products. Two of them are updates to previous iPods, and there's a simple change of colours for the iPod shuffle. But one was outstanding in its revolutionary freshness, and we're going to look at that first. Its name? The iPod touch.

The iPod touch is exactly what the world has been demanding -- it's a true video iPod. Moreover, it's a phoneless iPhone, although as we'll see, more iPhone features than you might first expect made the cut.

The iPod touch comes in 8GB and 16GB versions. It has a massive, high-resolution, 89mm (3.5-inch) touch-sensitive screen. Apple has included the multi-touch aspects of the iPhone's iPod, as well as the Safari Web browser, Cover Flow album navigation, built-in Wi-Fi (b/g varieties) and the accelerometer technology that allows the iPod to detect whether it's being held in landscape or portrait mode.

At just 8mm thick, the new iPod is the slimmest iPod ever created -- it's not even a third of an inch in depth. This sounds amazing, and when we got our hands on a model, it seemed even more amazing still. It's a beautiful device to hold; every seductive charm the iPhone has, the iPod touch has too.

Okay, so you've admitted to yourself that you're ready to part ways with your money (and we don't blame you), but how much are you going to part with? Well, the 8GB version will cost £199, while the 16GB version costs £269.

Now, about that Wi-Fi. The Zune tried to do it, and did it badly. The iPod touch on the other hand, doesn't. You can now browse, preview and purchase music over Wi-Fi from the iTunes Store. Yup, if it's on iTunes, it's on your touch. When you next dock your iPod, the purchased tracks are added to the library on your PC and synced as normal. Brilliant! This feature has also been added to the iPhone. YouTube is even supported over Wi-Fi. All those videos of cats talking and fat kids lip-syncing are now at your fingertips.

This stunning new iPod really needs to be touched, squeezed, caressed, fondled and -- what the hell -- taken to bed, when it's released towards the end of September. It's available to pre-order now from Apple's site.

But that's not all Apple announced. The traditional video iPod has been completely overhauled, and it's not even called a video iPod anymore...

Update: Full reviews of the Apple iPod nano (3rd gen, video), Apple iPod classic and Apple iPod touch and a video of the iPod touch, nano and classic from the launch are now live on the site.

The iPod classic. 80GB and a massive 160GB capacity, priced at £159 and £229 respectively. These refreshed video iPods now come finished in an attractive all-metal finish like the second-gen nanos, meaning they're probably less prone to scuffs and scratches too.

Apple has refreshed the menu and interfaces entirely. In addition to being able to browse albums with full-screen Cover Flow, album art floats on the right half of the screen as you navigate the standard list-format menus. The look and feel of this refreshing interface is seamless and impressive to say the least. No MP3 player has ever looked this good or functioned this well.

Battery life has improved significantly since the last edition of the iPod. The 80GB classic will play music for 30 hours while video will keep pumping for 5. In the 160GB model these numbers get more interesting: 40 hours and 7 hours for audio and video, respectively. This narrows the gap between competing manufacturers, such as Cowon and Sony, whose players are known for their impressive battery performance.

The iPod classic is available "immediately" -- the Apple site says they're ready to ship in three days. Before you rush out to buy one though, wait until you see what Apple has done to the world's most popular MP3 player, the nano...

The iPod nano now has the same resolution screen as the existing video iPod! That's slightly misleading; it's smaller, but has the same number of pixels, so the screen itself is 51mm (2 inches) wide, meaning it's even sharper than the old 64mm video iPod. Its 320x240-pixel resolution will help you enjoy all the videos -- yes, videos -- that it now supports. Who'da thunk it? Well, we've played with it and seen it in action and it's stunning -- video is super smooth and ridiculously crisp.

Like the touch and the classic, the new nano sports a Cover Flow browsing interface, the same floating album art navigation we mentioned the classic has, and now supports games. Electronic Arts has knocked up a lovely Sudoku game that comes preinstalled, but many more are available to buy on the iTunes Store.

So, specs. The nano comes in 4GB and 8GB capacities, costing £99 and £129 respectively. Curiously, the 4GB version comes only in silver (apparently the new white), whereas the 8GB model comes in black, blue, green and (product) red. Battery life for audio clocks in at 24 hours, video for 5. Not bad at all when you consider its minuscule 6.5mm depth.

Sadly there was no mention of a European iPhone launch date. But the iPhone wasn't without its stage time. Included with the new version of iTunes, version 7.4, is a ringtone creation feature. The feature allows iPhone users to create 30-second ringtones from songs bought from the iTunes Store. About 500,000 of the 6 million songs on iTunes are signed up to be 'ringtonable', but more will follow. It costs 99 cents (that's 79p in Apple-conversion) to make a ringtone and various options and professional touches will be at your disposal to create a great custom ringtone. But yes, you're paying twice to make music you already own into a ringtone.

The iPhone's 4GB version is also being dropped. Oh well.

Another curious anouncement concerns Apple's new partnership with Starbucks. When in range of a Starbucks Wi-Fi hotspot, a new button pops up on the iPod touch and on the iPhone allowing users to browse the iTunes Store, check out the songs playing in that Starbucks and buy the songs if they like them. The idea is that the service will be used as a "music discovery system". Joined on the Apple conference stage was Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, who said that this was an exciting venture, and commented that discovering new music via radio was now "really hard". Fair dos.

The Starbucks service is only in the US for now, and will take until 2009 to become ubiquitous across the States. Do we in Britain care? This reporter thinks not.

So, all in all it was an evening of excitement, tantalising products and Apple fanboys approaching europhoria. But we do have a few negative comments to make.

Firstly, why not give the iPod touch a 160GB hard disk? Surely a player as capable as the touch would benefit from more space for video? We guess that product size and cost were primary reasons for not building this sort of iPod. Apple claims that user satisfaction with the iPhone is higher than for any other Apple product in history. With this in mind, we can maybe understand Apple's reasoning behind avoiding any significant changes to such a well-received device.

Secondly, where are The Beatles on iTunes, dammit? We thought that was a dead cert.

You can expect our reviews of each new Apple product as soon, if not sooner, as physically possible. Until then, carry on browsing our tasty iPod shots and get those wallets out -- it's upgrade time.

The new nano's attractive new colours are as stunning as its high-resolution screen.

Its Cover Flow feature is also probably the most intuitive navigation system any MP3 player has ever had.

As beautiful as it is, the iPod touch's huge touch-sensitive screen picks up fingerprints like there's no tomorrow.

Every one of the new models features a standard iPod dock connector, meaning all your existing podcessories will work just fine.

The traditional metal enclosure on the iPod classic means you'll be able to engrave your own own message, as normal -- this is a free service when you order a new model from Apple's Web store. -Nate Lanxon

 

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