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The iPhone 4S actually does have some killer new features. The 2011 iPod refresh, on the other hand, is just that -- a refresh. But sometimes good enough is plenty good enough. Though the newest iPods lack any whiz-bang new features, they’re still the best music players out there. You could buy a no-name MP3 player, or a Zune (oh right, not anymore!) -- but why would you?
This year, the fourth-gen iPod touch gets an external makeover. It’s now available in white, as well as black. Beyond that, it’s the same iPod touch you’ve come to know and love -- although the price of the 8GB model has dropped to $199. The 960x640 Retina Display is there, along with 720p back and VGA front cameras, and Wi-Fi & Bluetooth built in. Apps, games, and all the other iOS goodness is there, and you can take advantage of awesome new iOS 5 features such as iMessage, and iCloud features such as document and music syncing, Photo Stream, and more.
But if all you really need is an inexpensive music player, the refreshed iPod nano offers some new features, along with a smaller price tag to boot. 8GB models are down $20 to $129, and the 16GB version sells for $149, compared to $179 last year. Unlike the touch, the outward appearance of the new nano is the same. What has changed is the software inside. Version 1.2 ditches the four-up icon display for a simpler one-at-a-time view (but you can go back to the old style if you like). Flick between icons to activate different functions, and the display shows the edges of surrounding “apps” to help your navigation. But remember, iOS this is not. You can rearrange the icons, or hide functions you don’t use, but the nano doesn’t use apps from the iTunes Store.
Fans of iPod nano wristwatches will find much to love. There are now 18 clock face options, including a few that are matched to the color of your nano. In a nod to the most likely customers for the nano, Nike+ functionality is now built- in, without the need for a dongle or shoe sensor.
The bottom line. If you need an iPod, these refreshed models are good buys. But the best news is that owners of previous models can gain all the new functionality with a software update-- so everyone wins! Thanks, Apple.
Price: $199, 8GB; $299, 32GB; $399, 64GB
Requirements: Mac OS 10.5.8 or later, iTunes 10.5 or later
Pros: Now available in white. iOS 5 and iCloud baked-in. Lower- priced 8GB model.
Cons: Camera is lower-quality than the iPhone’s camera. No bundled headset/remote, just standard Apple earbuds.
Price: $129, 8GB; $149, 16GB
Requirements: Mac OS 10.5.8 or later, iTunes 10 or later, USB 2.0 port
Pros: Updated software. Includes Nike+ features, without a dongle.
Cons: No bundled headset/remote, just standard Apple earbuds.