Smaller, lighter enclosure
Pedometer/fitness tracking app
Touchscreen is a usability nightmare
Slightly too heavy to clip to sleeve
Video camera and playback removed
8GB – US$149
16Gb - $179
The tiny size and weight of the 6th generation iPod nano are impressive improvements. In almost every other way, though, the 6th generation nano is a step back.
Exercisers will probably want to stay away entirely due to its poor usability.
For average users, if you’re considering buying the new nano, I strongly recommend spending some time with it in a store to see if you can work with its quirks.
Just a Screen
When it was introduced, Steve Jobs presented the 6th generation nano as an attempt to shrink the nano while retaining a useful screen size. Apple’s certainly shrunk it – it’s closer to the size of the iPod Shuffle than to its predecessors – but usability is a real concern.
This version of the nano weighs in at just 0.74 ounces and is only 1.48 inches wide. As a result, it’s ultra-portable and doesn’t add any noticeable weight to the average user.
Apple touted its small size and large clip on the back as removing the need for a case and making the nano perfect for clipping to clothes. This may be true for some users, but for exercisers it’s not the case.
Despite its small size and weight, the 6th generation nano is a little too big and a little too heavy to be clipped to most parts of a shirt when exercising. It simply bounces around too much to be comfortable when clipped to a sleeve or, in some uses, to the bottom of a shirt, though when clipped around the neck of a shirt, it’s acceptable.
This poses a particular problem: how to control the nano. Unlike previous models, which used a physical clickwheel, this model relies on a touchscreen with multitouch support for control. This means that to change songs, move from music to podcast, or tune the included FM radio, you need to look at the nano’s screen.
Being forced to look at the screen may be ok when using the nano in day-to-day life, but for exercisers it’s a major, and unnecessary, distraction.
This interface is simply not as effective or usable as the clickwheel that previous models offered.
In addition to removing the clickwheel, the 6th generation nano also removes the video features that have been available on the nano since the 3rd generation model.
The new nano lacks both the ability to play video (which probably makes sense, given that the new model sports just a 1.54-inch screen) as well as the video camera that the 5th generation nano offered.
While neither of these features were likely major attractions of the nano, it’s odd to see more features removed from the new model.
Like previous models, this version of the nano can be controlled via a remote control integrated on headphone cords. Apple offers a headphone with remote on the iPhone or as a separate purchase. Given that the headphone/remote combination removes the need to look at the screen to control the nano, Apple ought to include those headphones with the nano.
The Bottom Line
The 6th generation iPod nano is an odd beast. It’s smaller and lighter – usually benefits – but to get there, it removes useful features and makes the device harder to use.
In this way, it calls to mind the 3rd-generation iPod Shuffle, which removed buttons from the face of the device and forced users to control it via a remote on the headphones. We should applaud Apple’s attempts to innovate in the iPod’s user interface, but this is another failed interface change.
Take a hard look at the 6th generation iPod nano before you buy it – and consider buying another model.