Yesterday Apple launched three new iPods and a new version of iTunes. It also offered us a sneak peak at a product temporarily code-named iTV, which streams iTunes content wirelessly to your TV.
The first product to be unveiled was a new iPod (pictured top left) that doesn't look different from the old one, but has some new features on the inside. You can still get a 30GB version, but instead of a 60GB version there's now an 80GB one available. The screen is 60 per cent brighter on both devices, and the battery life has been increased to 14 hours of music playback and 3.5 hours of video playback on the 30GB model, and 20 hours of music playback and 6.5 hours of video playback on the 80GB model.
The search function has had a revamp too, and now features an alphabetical input system that lets you search albums, artists and tracks by typing in their name using a virtual keypad on the screen. You will also see the letter of the section you're in as you scroll through your music list quickly -- for example, when you whizz through the Barry Manilow, Barry White, Bob Dylan section the letter 'B' will appear on the screen, making it easier to figure out where you are in the list.
There are also new games specifically designed to work with your video iPod, including Tetris and Vortex, that you can purchase from iTunes for £3.99. Gapless playback lets you listen to tracks that are meant to be played together without an annoying pause between them. The 30GB version costs £189, while the 80GB version will set you back £259. They are both available to buy now via Apple's online store.
Next up was the new iPod nano (pictured top middle). The new nano does look different from its predecessor but has a lot in common with the iPod Mini. The casing is made from the same anodised aluminium and features curved edges like the Mini. Also like the Mini it also comes in a variety of colours, however this device is a lot smaller than the Mini, and an unnoticeable 0.4mm thinner than the nano.
Another new feature is the 24-hour battery life, 10 hours more than its predecessor. It, too, features gapless playback and will work with the Nike + iPod Sport Kit. We didn't get a chance to check whether it's more scratch resistant than the last nano, but if it's anything like the iPod Mini, we expect it to be pretty durable. It's available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions, costing £99, £129 and £169 respectively. Again, they're all available to buy now via Apple's online store.
Third in the iPod range was the new iPod shuffle (pictured top right), which is a lot smaller than the old one. In fact, according to Steve Jobs, this is the smallest MP3 player in the world, measuring 41mm by 27mm by 10mm, and we're inclined to believe him. It has a 1GB capacity, a 12-hour battery life and comes with a built-in clip so you can attach it to your belt, t-shirt or even your ear if you want to. It costs £55 and is available for pre-orders, with shipping expected to begin in October.
Of course these new devices wouldn't be complete without some new software and Apple also announced iTunes 7. This new version of iTunes features an easier-to-use library section that lets you organise your podcasts, videos and music in their own sections. There's also a new tabbed system for checking what's on your iPod without needing to scour individual files. The tabs are divided into music, podcasts, videos, etc, giving you faster and more organised access to your iPod's data. iTunes 7 will also let you download games on to your iPod and update your iPod's software quickly and easily.
Some new views have been integrated into the software so you can access and see you media in different ways. There's an album view that lets you scroll down all your albums, and a new feature called 'cover flow'. This lets you flick through your albums as if you were doing so in real life with a CD collection, by viewing the covers of each album. Apple also announced that if you have an iTunes account, you will automatically get album art for any tracks that don't have it.
Another addition to the iTunes feature set is a Movie download section (currently only available in the US), which lets you purchase and download films from Disney, Touchstone, Miramax and Pixar. The video resolution is 640x480 pixels, which isn't as good as DVD, but you won't notice it if you watch it on an iPod. Movies could well be available to download from iTunes in the UK next year, but we'll have to wait for confirmation of this.
One of the more welcome new features on iTunes is the ability to transfer iTunes-bought music from one computer to another using your iPod, as long as both computers are authorised to the same iTunes account. iTunes 7 is free to download now from the Apple Web site.
We thought that was the end of the presentation, but Steve Jobs had a surprise up his sleeve -- 'iTV'. No, Apple hasn't bought UK's Independent Television -- iTV is an internal code name and Apple says it will not be the final product name. Whatever it ends up being called, iTV is a small box that lets you stream all the content from your iTunes account on your computer via Wi-Fi directly on to your TV. It can output both analogue and digital signals over component video and HDMI respectively, and has a separate digital audio output. This means you can get all the movies, TV shows and music off your computer and on to your TV. It's expected to launch next year.
Expect full reviews of all the new iPods soon. -AL
Update: Full reviews of the second-generation iPod nano, 80GB iPod video and second-generation iPod Shuffle are now live in our Reviews channel.