Five things about the new iPod nano

Here are five things I’ve noticed about the new iPod nano I picked up yesterday (I bought the new 8 gigabyte nano, available only in black), which I have not seen anyone else write about yet:

  • The packaging is not just smaller, it’s hard, clear plastic instead of cardboard. It’s a really clever design that holds the nano suspended in the front of the box. There’s a small label on the back of the bracket that holds the nano tightly, which illustrates how to flex the bracket to release the nano. Very clever design…but it took me a few tugs and pulls and a bit of frustration, before I turned the piece over, and saw the illustration.

  • The new nano looks and feels substantially smaller than the old nano, until you line them up right next to each other. The new nano is a teensy bit thinner, but virtually identical in the other two dimensions. The size difference is mostly optical illusion caused by the new rounded edges.

  • Speaking of rounded edges, the new nano comes with a new dock connector fit bracket. The new nano fits into the nano bracket of my Logitech mm50 portable speakers, but my old nano will not fit into the new Apple bracket. It’s a bit too thick, and doesn’t have the rounded edges. I suspect that the new nano will work with most products which fit the old nano form factor, but the reverse will be hit and miss. Products that support a perfect fit for the new nano will not work with the old one.

  • The new nano requires iTunes 7 to sync with a computer. Normally I like to wait a week or two before trying new versions of iTunes, but in this case, I had to install it. (Working wonderfully so far, knock wood.) A very nice set of improvements, including a few things of use to audiobook aficionados like me; more on those in another post.

  • The center select button, the “dot” in the middle of the click wheel, is very slightly concave (the button on the old nano is perfectly flat). It seems like such a tiny difference, and I’m sure by measurements it’s a small fraction of a millimeter, but it’s both quite visible as a real-world gradient, and a really wonderful tactile difference. You instantly know when your thumb is on or touching the button. Just another one of those aesthetic touches that only Apple seems to think of and consider worthwhile. They seem small, but they add up.

All in all, I think the new 8 gig nano is a terrific refinement to a device which I already thought was nearly perfect. And now that it’s sync’ed up with my audiobooks, I am looking forward to road testing it later today during my commute.