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Apparently, the nano got tired of being called “fat.”
The new iPod nano may be Apple’s worst-kept secret in recent history. Weeks before the official launch, rumors were flying around the Internet and were soon accompanied by pictures of the forthcoming fourth-generation nano. Even without the element of surprise, the new nano managed to wow us with new tricks to go with its svelte shape.
The most noticeable difference between the third-gen “fat” nano and its newest iteration is a return to the more vertical designs of the first two nanos. The nano now measures 1.5 by 3.6 inches and weighs in at 1.3 ounces. It sports the same 2-inch 320x240 pixel screen as the previous incarnation, but Apple has flipped the display on its side. The new portrait orientation offers a better navigation experience. Onscreen menus can now display 10 items at a time, in addition to a larger font option. And videos can be viewed in widescreen mode. Apple has also—finally!—included an option for voiced menus on the nano, a handy feature for anyone who is visually impaired—or those who want to navigate their iPod’s menus without having to look at the screen.
And then there’s the case. The nano now comes in nine vibrant shades, and all are available in both 8GB and 16GB capacities. Eschewing the older rectangular forms, the new nano is tapered at the sides, resembling an airplane wing in profile. Matching the rest of the case, the new screen features rounded glass, which in our tests seemed to suffer slightly more from glare than other iPods, but overall the screen was bright and easy to read under a variety of lighting.
Inside the aluminum case, the nano has been upgraded as well. There’s an accelerometer, allowing the device to detect its orientation. When playing music, turning the nano on its side activates Cover Flow, which allows you to scroll through albums with the clickwheel. Video gets played back in landscape mode as well, and the display rotates in either direction to accommodate righties and lefties easily. The nano also recognizes when you plug in a headset with a mic—a Voice Memos command pops up on the main menu that allows you to record audio notes, complete with chapter markers. Unfortunately, the nano didn’t recognize every headset we tested with it, including the V-Moda Vibe Duo, which was developed for use with the iPhone but is supposed to work fine with any iPod.
The accelerometer inside the nano also comes into play with the new Shake to Shuffle feature. Once it’s activated in settings, giving the nano a hard shake shuffles to a new song. Thankfully, dancing with your nano à la the iconic Apple ads doesn’t activate this feature. The nano also puts the accelerometer to good use in the included Maze game, although the limitations of such a small screen become apparent quickly.
A slimmed-down version of iTunes 8’s new Genius feature is also available on the nano. While a song is playing, a few clicks of the center button summons the Genius, which will create a playlist of similar songs, based on the aggregate data from iTunes. It’s kind of like Pandora for your iPod. You won’t hear anything from outside your current collection, of course, but it’s a great way to rediscover forgotten songs, and Genius delivered remarkably coherent playlists in our tests. If the new nano has a killer app, Genius is it.New features make the fourth-gen nano compelling for the few who don’t already own an iPod or anyone whose iPod is getting a little long in the tooth. The slim design catches the eye, but its new features are what really sing