Thoughts on Apple’s iPod Event

September 1st, 2010

Big event today—Apple announced a completely new iPod nano and iPod Shuffle, iPod touch received a large update, iTunes was bumped to version 10, and AppleTV received a big update.

That’s a lot of stuff. The first interesting thing is 230,000 new iOS devices are activated each day. That’s clearly in response to Google’s announcement that there are 160,000 Android devices activated per day (which Jobs said they suspect include device updates, not just new devices). In any case, that’s an incredible number—every day, more than 200,000 iOS devices are activated. That’s a huge market; there are now over 120 million iOS devices.


The Shuffle’s update is interesting primarily because it is a return to the prior version’s design. The last version relied on the headphone remote to control music. People didn’t like this, as it’s a clumsy way to control all of your music), so Apple recognized people didn’t like it and went back to what they do like: the simple Apple remote-like controls of the older generations. This is a good example of Apple’s willingness to respond to what their customers are telling them and build what they want. It shows that one of the usual criticisms of Apple—that they don’t listen to their customers—is completely and utterly false. They’re willing to recognize when they made an error and correct it. As a result, the new iPod Shuffle is much better than the last one.

The iPod nano received a radical update: it is now just a 1.54 inch touchscreen with a clip on the back, like the Shuffle. The OS resembles iOS.

Maybe I’m wrong, and I just need to use one, but it looks ridiculous. Small square objects are awkward to hold, but that’s exactly what the iPod nano is. I don’t see how it could be comfortable to hold. That would be fine if it was clipped to your shirt at all times and you never have to hold it, but there’s no other way to change what you’re listening to (save moving a song forward or backward) than to hold it and scroll through your music. And that presents another problem: because the screen is so small, 240×240 pixels, it can only show 3-4 artists at a time in list view. There’s going to be a lot of flicking involved to get to the artist you want, all while holding this thing in a weird, contorted way.

Perhaps it would be fine if it had voice control built in, but it doesn’t. Until that happens, this seems like a step down from the last version of the iPod nano just so we can get a smaller device. I don’t think that’s worth the tradeoff.

The iPod touch, on the other hand, received a fantastic update. It’s running the same A4 processor and screen as the iPhone, has an HD video camera on the back, and a front-facing camera for FaceTime. There isn’t a device out there like it.

iOS Updates

Two things: iOS 4.1 coming next week and iOS 4.2 coming in November.

The big update in iOS 4.1 is iPhones now take HDR photos. I can’t wait for that. Photos that would have looked blown out now look quite good. It also builds in support for AirPlay, a feature that will allow you to stream audio or video from your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to your AppleTV (more on that in a second).

The 4.2 update is about the iPad—it will finally unify the iPad and iPhone’s OS. iPad will get the 4.0 features it’s been missing, which will be a godsend. I am incredibly dependent on Mail’s unified inbox. The most exciting part here, though, is the iPad is getting wireless printing. You’ll be able to print to any wireless printer connected to your network (presumably via Bonjour). This shows just how serious Apple is about making the iPad into a desktop replacement.


Apple did indeed announce a new AppleTV, and overall, it looks like a great device. It’s small, has 99¢ TV show rentals and $4.99 movie rentals, has Netflix integrated in, and costs $99. Unfortunately, while it apparently does run iOS, it doesn’t have applications. Joshua Topolsky, though, seems to think they are coming.

As-is, the AppleTV is a good device. It gives you access to a good TV show and movie library through iTunes (which will hopefully grow) and to a great back catalog of movies and TV shows on Netflix. That’s pretty good for $99, but it could be so much more. With applications, we could have Comedy Central’s shows, MLB baseball games, Hulu, games, and whatever else people come up with. Right now, it’s a decent competitor to other similar streaming boxes. With applications, it would redefine the segment.

I really want to have a reason to buy an AppleTV, and it’s close right now, but I am going to stick with my Mac mini running Boxee. The interface isn’t nearly as good (although I abhor the top of AppleTV’s homescreen—that white-gray gradient is hideous), but it gives me access to Netflix, Comedy Central and Hulu all in one place.