Super thin and light
Keeps valuable features from previous generation, like radio and Nike+
No more watch features
EarPods don't include inline remote/mic
The 6th generation iPod nano was a jarring change from its predecessor. Not only did the shape of the nano change dramatically, but a number of features that many people had come to love, from video playback and recording to built-in speakers to its clickwheel, were removed. The 6th nano was innovative--it was tiny, sported a touchscreen, and could double as a watch--but its changes were not well loved. With the 7th generation model, Apple has introduced major changes once again. But this time, the change is much more welcome.
A Familiar Shape, Smaller Size
One of the many major changes introduced with the 6th generation nano was that the nano changed from a tall, thin device to a square, about the size of a book of matches. With the 7th generation model, the nano is back to being a rectangular, tall and thin device. In this way, it's reminiscent of a smaller, sleeker 5th generation nano. However, the 7th generation nano is smaller and thinner than the 5th generation model; It's also lighter.
The 7th generation nano is 3 inches tall, 1.56 inches wide, and a willowy 0.21 inches thick (the thinness is achieved, in part, thanks to the new Lightning dock connector), compared to the 5th generation's 3.6 x 1.5 x 0.24 inches. The 7th gen. tilts the scales at 1.1 ounces, while the 5th gen. model weighed 1.28 ounces.
Thanks to its new shape and weight, the 7th nano feels great in the hand--light, easy to hold, very portable. The 6th gen. nano was impressively mobile (it was so small and light that it had a clip used to secure it to clothing), but the 7th generation is no slouch. It easily slips into a pocket and you forget that it's there.
Going Home, for the First Time
Another major hardware change is theinclusion of a home button. This button, familiar to iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad users, performs the same basic function on the nano as on those devices: click it to return to the main screen. This simple path to the home screen is a major improvement over the 6th generation model, which forced the user to swipe across the touchscreen-- sometimes as many as four or five times for a basic change. While the 7th gen. nano still supports swiping to change screens, the home button makes this infinitely more user friendly.
While the nano's new home button works the same way as on its iOS cousins for returning to the home screen, it doesn't have those devices' other features. For instance, double or triple clicking this home button doesn't do anything at the home screen (though it does trigger some features within apps), nor does the home button help you take screenshots or call up music-control features while the nano's screen is off. Perhaps these features will be added with future software updates, but even if they aren't, the addition of the home button is a major user experience improvement.
Features, New and Old
Though the exterior of the 7th generation nano may substantially different from the 6th gen., the funcionality of the new nano is fairly similar to the last version--with a few key changes.
As with the last model, the 7th nano runs what appears to be a version of the iOS. While it's not as full-featured as the one used on the iPhone, for instance, the nano treats its main features like apps. From music to photos to settings, to access the nano's features, you tap on app icons on the homescreen (like on the traditional iOS, the arrangement of these apps can be changed, though unlike it, they cannot be deleted. There are no third-party apps for the nano).
The apps available on the 7th nano, which were also on the 6th, are Music, Nike+ for tracking exercise, Photos, Podcasts, Radio, Clock and Settings. There is, however, a major app available on the 7th that the 6th didn't have: Videos. The 7th generation nano can play movies and TV shows downloaded from the iTunes Store and acquired from other sources (the removal of video playback was one of major complains about the 6th gen. model). While the new nano only offers a 2.5-inch screen, watching video on it is surprisingly appealing. Video is clear, not too cramped, and the nano's light weight makes holding it for extended viewing comfortable.
A Watch No More
The one major change to the 7th nano that some people may find vexing is that it can no longer be used as a watch. When used with a band accessory, the 6th gen. model became mildly famous for its second use as a wristwatch. While the Clock app works the same way on both models, the larger size of the 7th gen. would make it impractical for mounting on your wrist. So, if you like your watch to also be a music player, you'll need to stick with the 6th generation model.
The Bottom Line
The 6th generation iPod nano was a misstep. Though there were some things to like about it, and Apple's attempt to continue to innovate was laudable, customers largely disliked the changes. The 7th generation restores the nano to its rightful place as the top traditional iPod in Apple's line up, and the runner-up to the iPod touch in the line overall. With its sleek size and light weight, its powerful features and the return of the ability to play videos, the 7th generation nano is an excellent portable media player at a great price.