Mac Musings

The 2010 iPod Value Equation

Daniel Knight - 2010.09.01 (updated) -

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Apple introduced updated iPods today, leaving the Classic alone while overhauling the iPod nano, going back to buttons on the iPod shuffle, and making the iPod touch more like an iPhone than ever before.

The Multitouch Nano

6th generation iPod nanoThe most radical redesign is the nearly square (1.48" tall and 1.61" wide) iPod nano, which completely dispenses with the iPod wheel in favor of a touchscreen interface. The touchscreen itself is square with 240 x 240 pixels, and the only buttons are sleep/wake and volume up/down. The iPod dock connector remains on the bottom, and for the first time ever, we have a built-in clip.

6G iPod nanoAvailable in 8 GB and 16 GB capacities, the new nano retains the FM radio introduced with the previous version but completely dispenses with the built-in camera. If you want a tiny iPod that can shoot video, you'll want to pick up the 2009 model while supplies last.

The 6G iPod nano is available in silver, black, blue, green, orange, and pink, along with a Product(Red) version that's exclusive to Apple. The 8 GB nano retails for $149, and the 16 GB model for $179 - just $30 more.

Shuffling Backwards

5G iPod shuffleEverything old is new again for the iPod shuffle, which abandons the no-button design of the past two generations in favor of the traditional iPod control wheel. This also means that the Shuffle will work with any off-the-shelf headphones or earbuds - no more need for a special set of earbuds or a special adapter so you can use everyday headphones.

The 5G iPod shuffle comes in just one capacity, 2 GB, but in your choice of five colors: silver, blue, green, orange, and pink. Suggested retail is $49.

4th generation iPod touch Touch Me

As was widely expected, the iPod touch has become the second device to support Apple's FaceTime technology, video chat technology introduced with the iPhone 4 in June. In fact, feature for feature, the iPod touch seems to nearly match the iPhone except for the lack of mobile phone and 3G capabilities. You can even shoot and edit 720p video.

4G iPod touchUnlike the iPhone 4, the 4G iPod touch doesn't have a glass back. Instead, it's the same metal used in previous models, which means that it can be engraved - just like all current iPods.

The 2010 iPod touch has the same 1 GHz G4 processor, the same Retina Display, and the same front-facing cameras (update: the rear-facing camera is 0.7 megapixels, far less than the 5 MP on the iPhone 4, which means the new iPod touch is good enough for HD video, and low resolution photos - 960 x 720 - that should produce a decent quality 4" x 6" print) as the iPhone 4. Suggested retail prices are $229 with 8 GB, $299 with 32 GB, and $399 with 64 GB.

UPDATE: Now that iFixit has had a chance to dissect the 4G iPod touch, we've learned that it has half as much system memory (256 MB vs. 512 MB) as the iPhone 4. What this means is that some memory intensive tasks may take a bit longer and having a lot of apps open may make it a bit more sluggish. We don't expect this to be an issue for more users most of the time.

Where the iPod nano went in a new direction and the Shuffle looked to the past, the iPod touch builds on strength and should easily be the best selling version ever.

The Value Equation

Because the iPod nano is a whole new design, choosing between it and last year's model will be more about the feature set you want than price. If you want a built-in video camera or if you want to watch videos on the built-in display, choose the 2009 model. If those aren't important to you and you want something small, light, and clippable, go for the 2010 edition.

Likewise, the 2010 iPod shuffle brings back the ability to just plug in a pair of headphones or earbuds, which should make it a slam dunk choice for most buyers. I suspect the 2009 models will languish on the shelves, especially with the $49 price tag on the 2010 one.

With the new features and computing power, the 2010 iPod touch offers incredible value. For those of us who would love an iPhone 4 but are locked into a mobile contract, it's one way to have most of the iPhone 4 experience without a two-year service contract.

If you're not interested in FaceTime, shooting and editing video, or the beautiful Retina Display, the less powerful 2009 iPod touch can save you some money. Apple currently has refurbished inventory: the 2G model available with 8 GB is going for $149, the 32 GB 3G for $229, and the 64 GB 3G for $319. That saves you $80, $70, and $80 respectively when compared to retail prices for the new models.

Good values? Definitely, but they're going to be a hard sell against the 4G iPod touch. Look for Apple to adjust refurb prices downward in coming weeks.

We'll also see clearance prices from, B&H, MacMall, PC Connection, and a host of others in coming days, so we'll update our deal trackers for the new iPod models on Friday.

As for me, the 4G iPod touch is going on the top of my Christmas list.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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