Apple Announces New iPod Nano, Cheaper Shuffles

Today Apple quietly released a new iPod Nano and lowered the prices of its iPod Shuffles. The only evidence that this has occurred, aside from the approriate changes in the Apple Store website, was a press release buried in their site. I suppose this wasn’t big enough news to get to the front page of Apple.com like the MacBook Pro and iPod Video did.

Anyway, the news isn’t very earth shattering. The new iPod Nano will be offered immediately (you can purchase it on the Apple Store online right now). It has one gigabyte (1GB) of space, so it can hold 240 songs according to Apple’s estimates based on 4-minute songs encoded at 128-bitrate in AAC. Other than that, it is exactly like its two predecessors with larger storage capacities. That is, it includes the photo viewing features, the color screen, the ultra-thin design and the iPod interface everyone is now becoming accustomed to. This new 1GB version also comes in both white and black. It is retailing at $149, opening a whole new market… a budget entry into the middle ground between the no-screen Shuffle and superfluously featureful iPod Video.

As I mentioned above, Apple also added another small note to their press release. The two iPod Shuffles, the 512MB version and 1GB version, have both been reduced in price by $30. The previous $99 512MB version is now $69, while the 1GB that was previously $129 is now $99. It is obvious why Apple did this… having only $20 between the 1GB Nano and the 1GB Shuffle (with no color screen and no photo functionality [exactly how would you have photo functions without a screen?]) would simply not work.

I think this move from Apple is rather interesting. The fact that they are lowering the price of their Shuffles and adding a lower-priced but still feature-filled Nano to the market means they are trying to get a new audience. There are plenty of people who simply can’t (or won’t) buy a $249 gadget that “just” plays music and can hold a couple hundred family photos. This new 1GB model will appeal mostly, in my opinion, to a younger (teenager) audience who doesn’t have a music fixation but would still like to have some tunes in their pocket. Furthermore, the now-cheaper Shuffles are not much more than a video game and are now not even seen as a major purchase. $99 was a little steep for 512MB of music storage, but that $30 drop makes all the difference.

Proving that the $30 does indeed make a difference, I went ahead and purchased an iPod Shuffle 512MB. I have a 30GB iPod Video that is great for watching a movie on a plane ride or on my home TV, and also great for listening to music. However, I have yet to purchase a protective case for it, so I fear scratching the screen. After all, just putting it in your pocket can scratch the screen pretty badly. Anyway, I simply don’t feel comfortable lugging around a $299 device with me all over the place. Not to mention, the fact that the device uses a hard drive means that dropping it while playing music could ruin the entire thing, so it definitely isn’t an option while running around. So, I got myself a Shuffle. It has out-of-the-box support for automatically randomly downloading 120 songs (that is the maximum for the 512MB model) from my iTunes library onto the device. So I can literally plug it into my computer and two minutes later walk out the door and have 120 songs from my library ready to listen to. You can also configure which playlists it pulls from. I have a Favorites playlist that only has 100 songs in it, so I can make it pull that entire one and 20 other random songs. This way, I can take it anywhere and not have to worry about it breaking or being stolen.

I’ve never actually listened to or used an iPod Shuffle, so I will write about how I like it. I’ve read nothing but great reviews for it, so I am expecting the best. The only complaint anyone can find is that it doesn’t have a screen. If I only have 120 songs anyway, why would I need a screen? Especially if I’m going to pull from my Favorites playlist, I won’t even need to skip that many songs. The whole idea is I just want to have my top songs in my pocket wherever I go, and not have to worry about anything.