iPod nano 7th Generation £139.99
25th Oct 2012 | 10:27
Reinvented for 2012, and now with videos... again
Apple seems to completely reinvent its small, slim-line iPod nano with each iteration, and 2012 has been no exception.
The 2010 model, for example, (there were no new iPods in 2011) was square and had a clip, so you could wear it like an iPod shuffle. This latest 2012 version, launching alongside the iPod touch 5th Generation, has a completely different design again; it loses the clip and returns to your pocket.
This time around it looks more like a minaturised iPod touch, complete with a little Home button and multi-touch display.
This release also sees the return of video playback, a feature removed, and greatly missed from the last nano, but it hasn't regained its ability to shoot video, which the 2009 model was notable for.
The iPod nano now comes in nine different colours – white, grey, black, green, blue, purple, pink, yellow and Product Red.
It's got Apple's new Lightning connector, which replaces the rather large 30-pin Dock connector and as well as a Lightning to USB cable you also get Apple's new improved EarPods earphones in the box.
The new iPod nano runs apps, but it doesn't run a full-fat version of iOS, so you've only got a few basic Apple apps to play with – there's no App Store, and no iTunes Store either. So, what you're looking at here is Music, Videos, Fitness, Podcasts, Photos, Radio, Clock and Voice Memos. We'll go over them all in detail here, and see how they performed in our tests, so read on to find out more.
As a device the nano is much more dependent on connecting to iTunes than the iPod touch since there's no way to download or buy content on the device itself – everything must be downloaded through iTunes on your computer, then copied across.
There's also no Wi-Fi connection, so streaming music isn't a possibility either. The only wireless capability is Bluetooth, which is a new addition in this year's model and adds an extra string to the nano's bow.
Like its bigger brother, the iPod touch, it's only the back of the iPod nano that has the colour on, with the front face bezel always being white in all cases.
The screen itself has a 2.5-inch diagonal, with a resolution of 240x432 pixels. At just 233 pixels per inch it's not a Retina display, but the colours look quite vibrant.
It's capable of playing back movies you've brought or rented on the iTunes Store, but watching an entire HD movie on a tiny 2.5-inch screen is hardly ideal, but its perfectly acceptable for watching short video podcasts on.
The multi-touch screen works really well. As you'd expect from Apple, the nano feels responsive and the control method is completely intuitive. The home screen can fit six app icons on it at a time, in two columns of three.
The icons are perfectly round, complete with the usual Apple shadows and sheen. You swipe the screen from right to left to move on to the next page of icons, just as you would in iOS. But unlike iOS devices there's no lock screen, so as soon as you hit the Home or Sleep/Wake buttons you're into the action.
Let's start with the Music app. If you're already familiar with iTunes and the concept of playlists then there will be no surprises for you here. It's very similar to the iPod touch app.
You can browse by Song, Artist or Album and it has the Genius Mixes feature, which creates playlists for you based on songs which go together. You get to see album artwork, but it all feels fairly flat as there's no Cover Flow view available.
The Videos app is even more basic – just containing a list of all the videos you've transferred to the device. The Podcasts and Photos app work in just the same way as well, requiring iTunes on your computer to dictate their content.
The Fitness app takes advantage of the iPad nano's built-in pedometer to track your steps, or distance run, telling you how many calories you're burning during a workout. It's really for runners. Your trainers voice (male of female can be selected) tells you what's happening as you run; double tap on the sleep-wake button and you get a spoken progress report telling you how far you've run and how long you've been running for.
It's intelligent too, so if you stop moving it will pause your workout for you then start it off again once you're running again. You can also set up a PowerSong, so that once your workout is running you can give yourself a quick boost by one simple tap.
The iPod nano is compatible with the Nike+ system, so you can track your runs over time by logging in with the website.
In our tests the iPod nano accurately logged all our runs, and its step counter seems also very accurate.
If you're a fitness fanatic then having all this built-into a lightweight music player gives you reason enough to buy an iPod nano on its own.
The FM Radio app uses the earphone lead as an antenna. The skeuomorphic design features a tuning band that you can move left or right to find stations. While the app will automatically find your local stations it can't display their names, which is a bit disappointing, especially when something as simple as a car radio can do this.
The ability to find non-local stations is also limited – there's no auto-tune feature for anything beyond local radio. On the plus side, the FM Radio app does have live pause, and you can rewind live radio, too. Reception isn't brilliant though, and to avoid crackles and get the best signal we had to make sure the iPod was stationed far away from us with the earphone cable extended as far as it would go, which was a bit of a hassle.
Next, there's Voice Memos. There's no external microphone on the iPod touch, so this app requires the earphones to be plugged in to work – if you unplug them the app simply disappears from the screen. This means its usefulness is limited - you can't put your iPod nano on a table to record an interview or conversation, for instance.
The final app we'll look at is the Clock. The shape and design of last year's iPod nano gave people the opportunity to wear it as a watch, thanks to some 3rd party developers who created watchstraps that the nano fitted into. It worked really well, as the clock face fills the whole screen, but the iPod nano watch concept never really took off – the main problem being that to save battery the display on a nano always turns off if its not being used.
So, you always had to tap the 'watch' to wake it before you could tell the time, which defeated the purpose of wearing it on your wrist.
The new iPod nano, without a clip, puts the concept of the nano watch firmly on the backseat, as there's no way to wear this on your wrist. As a clock app it does pretty much everything you'd want – there's a choice of six clock faces, a timer and stopwatch built in.
In the box with the iPod nano 2012 you'll find Apple's new EarPods – these new earphones are much more comfortable than the old Apple earphones and sound much better, too. They sit slightly inside your ear without going all the way in, funnelling the sound to where it needs to go. They feature in-line controls too, so you've got everything you need at your fingertips.
With a dwindling market share that gets smaller each year, the future doesn't seem bright for the iPod range anymore. Most people already have a smartphone of some description, and the need for a dedicated music playing app just isn't there.
There's still a use for a lightweight media player like the nano though – and that's exercise. An iPhone is a bit cumbersome to strap to your body while running and at the bottom end of the market the iPod shuffle can't control what you're listening to as well, because it doesn't have a screen, and it doesn't have the fitness features built-in.
The new iPod nano feels more like a refinement on an already great idea, rather than something radically new. We'd have liked to have seen more apps on the device, but we appreciate that without an Internet connection what the iPod nano could do with more apps would be limited. It would have been nice for Apple to have included some games though, especially since they did this on the nano once before. The new colours give it a nice bit of personality, and it's a great size for carrying around, since it weighs virtually nothing.
The iPod nano is a convenient size and shape. The multi-touch display performs well and video playback is a welcome addition. The most functional app is the Fitness app, but the most effort has been put into the Music app, which is the one you'll use the most. The Apple EarPods are a good upgrade from the previous Apple earphones, and the new Home button is natural for anybody who has used an iPhone or iPod touch before.
We thought the Radio app was a bit weak – reception wasn't great and something needs to be done to make stations easier to discover. As mentioned, the new Lightning connector means your old accessories no longer fit. We'd have liked the ability to shoot pictures and video, but we don't see that as a deal-breaker on a device this small.
An improvement on last year's iPod nano, mainly thanks to the inclusion of video playback. We found the general design and shape more pleasing too, and we can live without the clip that the last generation had – the nano is so lightweight that slipping it into a pocket while exercising is easy.
Of course, if you haven't got a free pocket in your exercise hear you may have to invest in a case that attaches it to your body in some way.
Bluetooth for wireless audio is a good addition, and provides the first opportunity to engage in some wire-free exercise for the first time, when used with Bluetooth earphones. The nano is really the perfect device for fitness fanatics.
Runners will love the Fitness app, and we really like the way everything you need for your workout is included. While the iPod touch's place in Apple's line-up has suddenly been thrown into doubt by the iPad mini, the iPod nano at the £129 price point has carved out a nice little niche for itself, and we can see this one running and running.