Apple iPod Nano review: iPod Nano falls short in the era of the smartphone
iPod Nano falls short in the era of the smartphone
Editors' note, July 31, 2017: Apple has finally discontinued the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle, the more portable variations of the original Apple iPod. The Nano and Shuffle, like the iPod Classic that was discontinued in 2014, finally succumbed under the weight of their fatal flaw -- a lack of integrated Internet connectivity. For now, Apple still sells 32GB and 128GB editions of the iPod Touch; the previous versions featuring 16GB and 64GB of storage are no longer available.
The iPod Nano review, published in June 2016, follows.
Yes, the iPod Nano still exists. It's one of the last MP3 players standing in Apple's lineup, next to the gym-friendly, small-as-a-button iPod Shuffle and the basically-an-iPhone-with-no-cell-service iPod Touch.
The current seventh-generation Nano was introduced way back in 2012, but still lists for $150 (£129, AU$219). Even with Apple's built-in pricing premium, it feels like it should cost about 40 percent less at this point.
On the surface, there's a lot to like here. The Nano is like a shrunken-down iPhone with 16GB of storage, a touchscreen and a little home button. And while it doesn't have a full app store, it does offer far more than music: you can also listen to podcasts, watch videos and scroll through photos. There's an FM radio and Nike+ fitness tracking too, and the Nano offers Bluetooth support for streaming audio to all of the latest wireless speakers and headphones. (One snag: that radio requires wired headphones, which double as the antenna.) It's battery also averaged well over a day in our CNET Lab battery test. Can you say that about your phone?
Unfortunately, there are three notable problems. Firstly: your smartphone already does all of this stuff; the Nano doesn't bring anything new or exciting to the table, except featherweight portability. Secondly, that 2.5-inch screen is downright microscopic, and it's so pixelated that any tween born with a rose gold iPhone in their hands would scoff at it in disgust.
But the biggest problem with the Nano (and its screenless sibling, the iPhone Shuffle) is that you're still forced to use iTunes on your Mac or PC to get any content onto it. Songs, podcasts, videos, photos -- you'll need to tether the player to your computer and initiate that interminable syncing process. Every. Time.
What's worse is that the Nano isn't compatible with "rented" songs if you're an Apple Music subscriber. You read correctly: in the midst of the streaming music war -- one in which Apple has a big stake -- its standalone music player doesn't let you listen to music for which you're paying $10 a month. (And unlike the more expensive iPod Touch, the Nano isn't compatible with other music services, such as Spotify or Tidal.)
As the iPod has stagnated in the shadow of the iPhone, we've seen fitness trackers and wireless speakers with streaming music features that have shown more innovation. The Samsung Gear Fit 2, meanwhile, doubles as a music player with a 4GB capacity, while the upcoming Pebble Core will allow you to download Spotify playlists for offline listening. If Apple had an interest in really making their music players better -- and at this point, I don't think its does -- adding Wi-Fi to a next-gen Nano and allowing it to sync and download from iCloud would be a big step towards making the product relevant again.
In fact, the previous square version of the Nano wasn't a half-bad wristwatch, back in the day. A more affordable Apple Watch could be a worthy Nano replacement, since that product can already sideload music from an iPhone and work as a wireless audio player.
In the meantime, though, you're better off spending that money somewhere else. For less than the cost of the iPod Shuffle, you can instead buy a comparable SanDisk MP3 player that lets you listen to your music, including purchased iTunes music, and lets you add up to 64GB more of storage via microSD card.