September 7, 2005
../ Apple Introduces iPod Nano, ROKR Phone and iTunes 5
Apple Computer introduced three new products, a new Flash memory iPod dubbed
the "nano," the long anticipated iPod cell phone made by Motorola and a new version of iTunes, at an invite-only press conference in San Francisco.
Anticipation was high after Apple hyped the contest with their usual over-the-top rhetoric. However,
it wasn't the underwhelming Motorola ROKR iPod phone that captured everyone's attention, it was the nano.
The internet was ripe with reports that Apple was making significant purchases of larger
capacity Flash memory modules, but many assumed they would be used to update the iPod Shuffle line. The new Nano models, in 2GB (500 songs) and 4GB
(1000 songs) incarnations, replace the hard-drive-based iPod mini line with a pencil thin profile and crisp color screens. They cost $199 and $249 respectively
and feature Apple's Click-Wheel navigation system. Weighing in at only 1.5 ounces, Apple has once again hit a home run in the industrial design department.
The nano is a stunner and now comes in an all black model that will appeal to a harder-edged,
male market segment in addition to the omnipresent white. Claimed battery life is 14 hours, but, as always,
your mileage will vary.
The iPod nano in
white and the new black
iPod nano features the same 30-pin dock connector as the iPod and iPod mini, allowing it
to work effortlessly with a wide range of over 1,000 accessories developed for the iPod, including home stereo speakers and iPod car adapters for
an ubiquitous music experience. One of the new exciting accessories set to be available
in six weeks is the Lanyard Headphones. We'd like to think it was inspired by our
review of the iPod Shuffle, but nevertheless it combines a pair of earbud style headphones into the neck lanyard for a fashionable and integrated look. Nice!
The Motorola ROKR iPod cell phone was a miss. The phone just looked like Motorola shoehorned
the iPod operating system into a cheap and unsophisticated looking cell phone. Worse yet, it can
only hold about 100 songs. One the plus side, it connects to a computer running iTunes via USB so that you don't have to download tracks to your phone
via the unreliable cell networks. Cingular is now carrying the phone for $249 with a two-year
contract. Considering the pace of which iPod technology has evolved, a two year commitment
is far too long for a sub par phone and this will turn-off many potential buyers.
Motorola ROKR beer, uh, ah, we mean cell phone
The ROKR's design is also uninspired. Obviously Apple had nothing to do with the design
because the phone looks so 1997. Instead of a sexy and sophisticated piece of gadgetry
that would inspire technolust, and thus sales like the nano, the ROKR looks like a beer can. The new Motorola has a smallish color display that can view
album art and features built-in dual-stereo speakers. Why would anyone want to listen to their music through speakers the size of a pea?
Well, we don't know either...
The ROKR does come with stereo headphones that also serve as a mobile headset with microphone like
we predicted, so at least they got something right. The phone will
garner sales from early-adopters who are looking for a new phone/plan this Fall, but the savvy will wait for the next version and pick up a nano instead.
The "new" iTunes 5
Apple also introduced iTunes 5 during the conference. Except of a minor revision to the
interface, the ability to organize playlists into folders and a more robust search tool, there's not much to tout. The only other feature of note
is Smart Shuffle, which lets the user change the randomness of shuffled songs. Otherwise
this new version should have been called 4.92.
The Future: Even though Cingular will sell quite a few ROKRs, this isn't the iPod phone
that everyone was waiting for...
Apple comes out smelling the best by establishing a direct channel to the cell phone - cutting out the unreliable cell networks and their fees. The real loser
is Motorola. Clearly the RAZR development
team was not involved in the ROKR's design process and this product is, well, embarrassing.
The nano's Flash Memory is the future of the iPod. As soon as larger capacity Flash memory becomes available, Apple will migrate the rest of the iPod line to this
technology thereby eliminating the high failure rate of the mini hard-drives that spawned the original iPod, but have become a customer service nightmare for the firm.
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