The New iPod nano is a Gem. Really

There are people who wear jewelry for the love of gems. There’s the sparkle, the flashes of color, the finely cut faceting and the pleasant feeling of wearing and exhibiting something beautiful. For some, it’s just a fashion statement; for others it’s also a financial statement. Some people like to wear their statements.

6G nano seriesiPod nano 6G lineup

The new iPod nano is like that. Rather than being an inward focused tool, something hidden away until it’s put to use, the nano is an outward sign. You not only wear your music, you wear your technological fashion statement.

Hence the clip on the back.

nano 6G closeup
iPod nano 6G closeup

Don’t read all this as a negative thing. Rather, it’s simply a recognition that Apple understands its customers. It understands how its customers want to be perceived.

For example, one can set the new nano to display a wrist watch-like display when it wakes. Because of the nano’s size and shape, right away, one thinks about a case that’s a wristband so one can have a Dick Tracy watch. If you don’t know who Dick Tracy is, you’ll need to brush up on your uber-geek trivia. And sure enough, the very week the nano ships, several companies come out with wrist straps to hold the nano. Here’s one from Incipio.

Incipio Linq

Incipio Linq with nano

Stuff like this is just too cool and is what makes owning Apple products so much fun to own.

Feature Highlights

The new nano is just the right size to have four icons per page. Like the iPhone, you swipe the screen to move to a new page. It’s a simple device — only a few key functions and only a few virtual buttons to access them.

  • Music
  • Photos
  • FM radio
  • Pedometer
  • Clock
  • Voice memos (with the right earbuds)
  • Support for Nike + iPod Sport Kit

That’s it. No movies, no TV shows, no camera. There’s nothing to distract (and endanger) you for an extended period of time, say, while you’re driving. You make your choices and go back to serving from the deuce court. An occasional glance reveals the name of a favorite song. Clipped to your sleeve, the nano glistens in the sunlight and catches the attention of all around you. And when you touch it to make a change, the mysterious, technological tap amazes those around you. Who else has a wearable gem that talks to them?

nano 6G clock

The Details

On the bottom is the 30-pin connector and headphone jack. On the top is the sleep/wake button and volume buttons. Because the multitouch display does not respond when the nano is asleep, there’s no need for a lock button. And the nano never really turns off; you just put it to sleep.

Control of the nano on the screen is almost all swipping and touching. Because the lists of artists, songs, albums and so on is so small, you can just slide your finger along the A..Z selector and a large first letter is displayed. It’s a beautiful implementation, but hard to photograph. I hunted for a secret key combination that would take screen shots, but no luck.

There is no FM radio antenna. Instead, in another stroke of genius, the earbud or headphone cord doubles as the antenna. (iPhone users should be so lucky.)

Oh, and there’s that clip on the back.

VoiceOver will announce what appears on the screen, and when it’s turned on, the gestures used to control the screen change. A complete description of VoiceOver (and everything else) is found in the complete and colorful 82 page User Guide.

nano 6G VoiceOver


The nano will also record voice memos, but you won’t see that icon on the display unless you attach an earbud/microphone combo like the one that comes with the iPhone.

When listening to the FM radio, you can tag a song. If the radio station supports iTunes Tagging, you can essentially bookmark a song that you heard and liked. The next time you sync to iTunes, you can preview and purchase, if desired, tagged songs.

System Requirements and Documentation

Of course, you’ll need a Mac or PC to sync music and photos. Here are the requirements:

  • A Mac with Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later.
  • A PC with Windows XP SP3 Home or Professional or later. (Vista, Win 7)
  • Display reslution 1024 x 768 or higher
  • iTunes 10.0 or later
  • QuickTime 7.6.2 or later

The PDF manual is superb. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the postage stamp-size brochure that’s packed inside the case is all there is. There’s a lot of power packed in this little music box, and the PDF manual explains it all, including how to use the nano to display photos on your HDTV.

Included in the small, clear plastic shipping box are:

  • iPod nano
  • A “Start Here” manual
  • Product Information
  • Standard earbuds (without microphone)
  • 30-pin to USB connector
  • The obligatory Apple decal

nano 6G TOC

First page of TOC. Manual is 82 pages.

My Testing

My blue nano worked the first time out of the box and has been a joy to use. The multi-touch screen works well because the size of the screen and icons are just big enough for adult fingers.

The screen is detailed, bright and easy to see. The only user detail left unattended to is that this iPod, like the iPod shuffles is very easy to misplace (or run through the laundry if left in a pocket). It doesn’t have a GPS system, but it would be nice if there were some way to “Find my iPod nano” by making it chirp. But, of course, it has no speaker and no Wi-Fi, so that’s not practical.

The FM radio can be set for five signal ranges: The Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Japan. I particularly liked the implementation of favorites. They’re easy to set, review, delete and select.

nano 6G FM Radio

FM Radio in action

There are lots of functions and features for viewing photos, and they’re well documented in the PDF manual. As of this writing, I haven’t explored photos. I doubt many users will spend a lot of time with this, especially if they also have an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad.

And there’s still more. I noted that when connected to my Mac, it appears on the desktop as an external disk by default. I noted that, in iTunes 10, as I checked each playlist to sync, an estimate of the storage required was shown. I don’t recall seeing that before. Not only is there a clock function, but also stopwatch and timer function that can also be used as an a countdown timer/alarm clock.

Just like the iPhone and iPad, you can touch and hold an icon to place all into jiggle mode. Then you can rearrange the icons on the pages by dragging. Touch the Sleep/Wake button to lock in your arrangement.

I bought an 8 GB model. I loaded 801 songs in eight playlists. and that used about 6 GB. I’m very happy with that much portable music, and, because I’m not storing video, I think 8 GB will also suit many users as well.

My only complaint about this iPod is that you can’t operate it, see the displays, etc. when it’s connected to iTunes and charging. So to both charge the battery and operate the nano when writing this review, I had to use a USB charger rather than leave it connected to iTunes. It’s a nit.

nano 6G Overview

Should You Buy One?

The upshot is that there’s really a lot more to this iPod than meets the eye — despite the fact that the camera and video capabilities have been removed. If you already have a 5G nano, you may find it hard to justify adding this one. But if you’re like me and have an older nano that’s a candidate to be a hand-me-down, you will definitely want this 6G nano.

Original iPod

Original iPod — so 20th century

It’s amazing how far we’ve come from the early, clunky iPods with a hard disk and manual controls. This iPad nano is not only a gem, but a full-fledged 21st century, wearable, technological accessory … and necessity.  The 5G nano just didn’t go there, but that’s okay. I suspect Apple will sell a lot of these new nanos because of its phenomenal focus, technical appeal and amazing beauty. We’re talking fashion statement here with music jewelry. I love it.   

Product: iPod Nano 6G

Company: Apple, Inc

List Price: US$149 (8 GB) $179 (16 GB)



Beautifully designed and beautiful to wear. Focus on music and photos. Lots of other nice features, not hard to find, but tucked just slightly out of sight: FM radio, clock, stopwatch, alarm, VoiceOver, pedometer, Nike Sport interface, voice memos.


Very small and easy to misplace.