Apple iPod nano (sixth generation, late 2010) full review - Page 2

(I use “app” in quotes because although the new iPod nano’s interface looks very much like something you’d find on an iOS device—the Settings icon is even identical to the icon for the iOS Settings app—Apple told Macworld that the nano isn’t actually running iOS, and you can’t install new apps or manage apps from within iTunes. However, as with iOS, you can tap-and-hold on any icon until all the icons start shaking, and then rearrange the nano’s icons so, for example, your four most frequently used functions are on the first screen—one of my favourite features.)

Apple iPod nano

For many tasks, the Multi-Touch display and iOS-like interface are dramatic improvements over the older, Click Wheel-navigated menus. For example, scrolling through a long list of tracks or artists with a few flicks of the finger is as easy on the new nano as it is on an iPhone or iPod touch. You even get the same alphabetic index on the right edge of the screen that lets you quickly jump to, say, tracks starting with the letter R. If track information is too long to fit on the screen, a swipe to the left tells the nano to scroll that information. And during music playback, you can swipe left and right to switch the screen view between playback controls, playback options (repeat, shuffle, scrubbing, and Genius), and lyrics, all of which float over the current track’s album art.

Similarly, some of the features that were present on previous nanos are now much more useful. Perhaps the best example of this is photo viewing: you flip between pictures by simply flicking your finger across the screen, and you double-tap to zoom in and out, just as you would on an iPhone. And tuning the built-in FM radio is much easier than before—you just swipe left or right to move the “dial” in large increments, making smaller gestures to pinpoint a particular station. And setting presets is as simple as tapping the star at the bottom of the screen.

Also improved is scrubbing through a track, which now works just as it does on iOS devices: Drag your finger left or right on the timeline to scrub, and adjust the scrub speed by dragging your finger up or down on the screen. Editing playlists is also dramatically easier, and when rating a track, you just tap the desired rating star, rather than having to “spin” the Click Wheel to highlight the desired rating. (Oddly enough, the rating option is hidden behind a tiny i—info—button, rather than visible on one of a track’s swipe-to-access screens.)

Another standout feature made possible by Multi-Touch is that you can rotate the nano’s entire interface, 90 degrees at a time, by placing two fingers on the screen and twisting clockwise or counter-clockwise. This is a great option that lets you view the nano’s screen “right-side-up” regardless of where the iPod is clipped or how it’s oriented.

Apple iPod nano

Finally, I don’t know if there’s better hardware inside the new nano compared to previous models, or if the new interface is just more efficient—or both—but the 6G nano is as spry as it is tiny. There’s no delay while the iPod “loads” a long lists of tracks, and there are no visual hiccups while scrolling long lists—a 2000-track list glides as smoothly on the iPod nano as it does on an iPhone.

Multi-Touch misses

At 220 pixels per inch (PPI), the new nano’s screen is clear and easy to read—it has a higher pixel density than the screen on any iPod except the latest iPod touch. But the tiny size of that screen means Apple has had to take creative license with the iOS-style interface. For example, whereas most multi-screen iPhone apps feature navigation buttons at the top or bottom of the screen, there’s no room for such niceties on the nano. Instead, you usually switch screens by swiping the screen to the left or right. This is simple enough, but it’s not always clear when the gesture will work. For example, when viewing the Songs list, will swiping to the right take you back up to the home screen? (Answer: yes, but you only know this if you happened to have tried it previously.) Throughout the interface, the fact that there’s rarely a visual indication of when you can or can’t swipe means that you end up swiping to the left and right on every screen to see if anything happens.

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