Apple updates iPod range, releases iTunes 8

Written by Tim Smalley

September 10, 2008 // 2:14 p.m.

Tags: #apple #classic #firmware #iphone #ipod #itunes #nano #touch

Steve Jobs last night uncovered details on Apple's new iPod lineup for this winter, which includes a completely overhauled iPod nano, an updated iPod touch and an adjustment to the iPod classic line.

Jobs also announced iTunes 8, which was actually probably the most exciting thing in the whole keynote... and there's only so much excitement one can generate from a piece of software like iTunes.

The new nano is thin like the 1G and 2G versions—Jobs claims it's the thinnest iPod ever at 6.2mm—and has a curved aluminium design. It's also lighter than previous generation iPod nanos at just 36 grams and comes with up to 16GB of storage.

The screen is roughly the same size as the 3G nano, but it's been rotated by 90 degrees in order to fit into the nano's form factor. Apple has integrated an accelerometer that enables the device to flip into landscape mode when displaying pictures and video. What's more, Apple has used the accelerometer in another way – shaking the new nano shuffles to the next track. The user interface has changed as well, but it's not an iPhone-esque icon-based interface.

Battery life is projected at 24 hours for music and four hours for video playback after which Jobs pointed out that the iPod nano is the least toxic iPod ever released. It's BFR free, mercury free, PVC free, highly recyclable and also uses arsenic-free glass, said Apple's CEO. He finished with the nano by saying that the 8GB will be priced at $149, while the 16GB will hit $199. In the UK, those prices translate to £109 and £149 respectively.

Apple updates iPod range, releases iTunes 8

Switching focus to the iPod touch 2G, there's very little to say about the new device – it's merely a gentle refresh. The back has been rounded and there's now a built-in speaker and side volume controls, along with Nike+ iPod software bundled on the touch as well. Storage capacities haven't changed, and battery life is said to be 36 hours for music and six for video playback. In terms of pricing, they'll range from £169 ($229) for the 8GB, to £289 ($399) for the 32GB touch and they're available now.

Both the touch and nano include Apple's new Genius playlist creation feature, which automatically makes playlists from songs in your library that go great together with just one click – this is very similar to what Pandora already does in many ways, as it makes a playlist based on the songs in your preferred genres.

The final update to the iPod line was to the classic – it has been streamlined from 80GB and 160GB models to just a 120GB model in the thinner form factor. And that's it – I think it's safe to say that iPods with mechanical drives will not be here for much longer. Price-wise, the classic retails for £179 in the UK and $249 in North America.

Apple updates iPod range, releases iTunes 8

Genius is also one of the new features in iTunes 8 and in this particular case, it will also suggest new music from the iTunes Store based on what you like listening to. Jobs admitted that library information will be sent to Apple for Genius to work, but it will be anonymous.

There's also HD TV downloads—presumably in 720p—now available in the US; they're a dollar more than the standard definition versions at $2.99. There's no sign of when this will come to the UK though. Additionally, iTunes 8 introduces a new viewing mode called the Visual Browsing Interface – this basically lays out the album and video covers, along with podcasts, apps and audiobooks in tiles.

Jobs briefly talked about iPhone firmware 2.1 as well, but the details were very high level – bug fixes, less dropped calls, better battery life and improved sync times. No specifics were mentioned and there was definitely no talk about all of those features missing from the device. You know, like copy and paste, MMS, video recording and so on. It's available on Friday for iPhone and it's already available now if you've got an iPod touch.

And that was about it – on the whole, it felt like the event was light on substance and a little disappointing in many respects. The new nano looks pretty nice I guess, but I think the shake is a bit of a gimmick personally. The touch has been iPhone 3Gified and the 120GB classic was available in the larger form factor some time ago.

What do you think about Apple's announcements? Discuss in the forums.
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