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On Call: Not excited about the Nano

Rumor has it an iPhone Nano is in the works. CNET's cell phone editor thinks that it would be a bad idea.

Why mess with a good thing?
Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

Apple fans were disappointed last month when the annual Macworld Expo failed to produce a new version of the iPhone. Indeed, Apple's last Macworld appearance was a snoozer in many ways. New products of any type were slim and CEO Steve Jobs did not give his usual "one more thing" keynote.

In the weeks leading up to the show, rumors regarding a new iPhone were widespread. Most buzz predicted a cheaper, smaller version of the device--an "iPhone Nano" if you will--while others forecast a 32GB iPhone or a pink model. Though all of these rumored devices failed to materialize, the iPhone Nano gossip is showing no means of dying down. In fact, the most recent dish suggesting that China would get it first.

As is always the case with Apple, the company won't comment on the rumors. You can bet we won't know anything certain until the company is good and ready. Yet, while I think an iPhone Nano is certainly a possibility, I have to admit that I don't understand what the point of such a device would be. Sure, I get that a cheaper version would certainly be attractive in emerging markets. However, I also think making the handset smaller and stripping out features would be a disastrous trade-off. The iPhone is a success because it combines an easy-to-use design with a wide range of innovative features. It's appealing not because it makes calls--and frankly, it doesn't do that all that well--but rather because it's a powerful and easy-to-use mobile computer. So seriously, why would anyone want those compromised?

First off, the iPhone offers the Goldilocks of touch displays. At 3.5 inches, it's neither too big nor too small. I've used plenty of devices with 3.25-inch display or smaller, and I've always found them to be way too cramped for my comfort. Typing on tiny keyboards was frustrating, especially if you have big hands, and I had to do much scrolling to see a full Web page. I'd also be wary incorporating the iPhone's multitouch interface into a smaller display. What good would the pinching motion be if you didn't have enough room to do it properly? And, of course, you'd have to consider video on a smaller display. Even now, I get a little eyestrain if I watch an entire movie on the iPhone so I would not enjoy the opportunity to make my headache worse.

On the features side, I'm hard pressed to think of anything Apple could remove from the iPhone. My main complaint with the iPhone always has been that it doesn't offer enough features (hello, multimedia messaging), so I'd rather it keep everything that it already has. Perhaps the only offering that's anywhere near being dispensable is the GPS functionality. But even its loss would dumb down the handset by quite a few notches. Other bloggers have suggested that the Web browser would go, but that's a ridiculous notion considering the iPhone has the best mobile Web browser on the market. So really, I can't think of a single thing that could go.

My hope is that all these iPhone Nano rumors are nothing but hearsay. Personally, I hope Apple concentrates on improving the device it already has. Multimedia messaging, stereo Bluetooth, a landscape keyboard, cut and paste, an FM radio, and Flash support for the Web browser are just a few features that the iPhone Classic and the iPhone 3G are sorely lacking. Very basic phones offer many of these features, so it's about time the iPhone has them too. And while you're at it, Apple, let's see that 32GB versions as well.

What do you think? Are you hoping for an iPhone Nano?