Apple's new line of iPods might be the best ever, if only because last year's models were plagued with technical problems and miscalculations.
Looking back at Apple's press event this week, it seemed like each new iPod was intended, at least in part, to right the wrongs of 2009. Let's take a closer look:
When introducing the fourth-generation iPod Shuffle, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said people like last year's addition of Voiceover, a feature that dictates playlists and song information, but they "clearly missed the buttons" of the second-generation Shuffle. By moving buttons onto the earbuds, Apple prevented people from using their own sets without pricey adapters. It didn't help when some of Apple's own earbuds malfunctioned, forcing a replacement program. Jobs said the new Shuffle combines "the best of both worlds," which is a nice way of saying Apple messed up with the button-free model.
As Jobs recounted the iPod Nano's history, he only talked about how new generations got aluminum cases and bigger screens. He avoided mentioning the third-generation Nano's addition of video playback, or the fifth-generation's video camera. That's probably because the new Nano has neither. I don't see this as a problem; it's more of a response to the iPod Touch's increasing popularity. Selling the iPod Nano as a Flip video camera competitor wasn't working, and that angle no longer makes sense now that the iPod Touch has cameras. By shrinking the new iPod Nano and removing video, Apple is trying to find a place where the device isn't overshadowed by its big brother.
A teardown of the 2009 iPod Touch revealed an empty slot for a camera, suggesting that the device was at some point supposed to take pictures and video. Jobs said the camera was absent because Apple wanted to keep prices low, but rumours suggested that a technical defect forced Apple to pull the cameras earlier in the year. Whatever the case, Apple isn't so concerned about price anymore - at £189, the 8 GB version is more expensive than last year's model - and now the iPod Touch has front- and rear-facing cameras.
Bonus Non-iPod Device: Apple TV
It's not an iPod, but Apple TV has been an afterthought for Apple since its launch in 2007. Jobs said the product isn't a hit, even though the people who own Apple TVs love them. Now, the strategy for Apple TV revolves around affordability. The device is now £99 instead of £223, without the big hard drive of the previous generation, with an emphasis on renting $4.99 first-run HD movies and 99-cent Fox and ABC TV shows, in the US at least. If Apple was going to take part in a new battle for the living room, it had to reboot Apple TV.