Taking Back the Market

6G iPod nano: An Apple Marketing Misstep?

Tim Nash - 2010.09.14

"We are very careful about what features we add, because we can't take them away." - Steve Jobs

The new iPod nano offers less than the old one - no camera, no video, no microphone for voice recording, and a smaller screen in a smaller iPod - yet Apple wants to charge the same money ($149 for 8 GB, $179 for 16).

The 6G Nano looks like a larger iPod shuffle with a screen, but it costs $100 more. It looks like so much less iPod than the iPod touch that many may ignore it.

Maybe this easy upsell to the iPod touch is what Apple wants, but there is a large gap between the $229 8 GB Touch and the $49 Shuffle, and large gaps encourage competition.

6G iPod nano a Misstep?

The penalty for this kind of misstep is that iPod sales numbers may take a further hit unless many more people buy the iPod touch, and in times like these, that's a gamble. The iPod nano can still be successful, but Apple needs to remember what last year's iPod models offered and what this year's models have, and then price the Nano so it's attractive, not just a gap filler between the Shuffle and the iPod touch.

"Less is more" can work well in a new range. Apple has shown that time and time again. But the iPod nano is not a new range; it has history. The rules of electronics apply: If it is to stay successful over time, any electronic device needs to get better and cheaper.

This year's iPod shuffle has the same memory, has gone to a design with the best of the controls from the last two years, and is $10 cheaper. This year's iPod touch has a new, much better screen, a faster processor, and two cameras. The entry model costs $30 more, but the 32 GB and 64 GB models still cost $299 and $399. This year's iPod Classic is the same as last year's, but it too has a history of adding more capacity and more functionality for the same money.

This year's iPod nano has gained an iOS-like multitouch interface, but how many people are willing to pay for better controls on an iPod that offers less features? It's an attempt to take the iOS interface to ever cheaper devices, to devices that don't need a large screen, but to succeed, the Nano needs to be seen as value for money and, if possible, enter new markets.

Enter the iWatch

Incipio Linq 6G iPod nano wristbandAn Apple Director will be using the Nano as a wristwatch, according to Steve Jobs, and companies are already offering wrist bands that work with the 6G Nano's clip. The watch app looks great, but the Nano is oversized for anyone without a large wrist, so Apple needs to encourage other ways of wearing it, perhaps as a pendant on a chain or lanyard or as a pocket watch, as well as showing the Nano clipped to this year's fashions.

RockBand 6G iPod nano wristband in useWatches are a strong part of the jewelry market, but customising them has been expensive - until now. If Apple lets you choose a photo background with an app, everyone can customise their Nano watch to their heart's content. The backgrounds could be album covers from your music library, photos from your library, or imports (like iconic buildings or 20 famous paintings from the Louvre or Met). You could change the background every day to suit your mood or have it update every hour, so that at the end of the day, the Mona Lisa tells you it's time to go home.

Adjusting Price Points

6G iPod nano on a wristband from CountryCommThe Nano as the totally customisable music watch will do better at different price points too. A $99 4 GB version without a pedometer and a simple black or white case would fill the large gap between the Shuffle and the other iPods. The $149 Nano should ideally be the 16 GB version and, if that is possible, the 8 GB version could be dropped. Then the more expensive Nano would offer a wide range of colored cases, much more memory, and the pedometer.

This change in pricing would leave a gap between the $149 Nano and the $229 iPod touch. Taking a leaf from the iPhone playbook, it could be filled with a new 8 GB entry level iPod touch based on last year's 3G model, but at $179. This should give plenty of competition to Nintendo, with all the games and apps designed for the iPod touch/iPhone screen, and make for an easy upsell to the much more attractive $229 model.

New Markets for the Nano

Apple has shown that touch is a large part of its future, and the Nano is the kind of device that, if it is stripped down enough and cheap enough, could be the communications module for a whole range of devices. It's small, it's easily programmable, and it could easily fit in appliances. The more touch is everywhere, the faster it will conquer the world. LEM

Some Early 6G iPod nano Watch Bands

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Tim Nash is a Director of WattWenn which has a new approach to scheduling the production of TV and movies to make the most of budgets. The views in this article are his own and are prejudiced from spending more years working for computer companies than he cares to remember.

Tim lives with his wife, her website on the area ariege.com, two daughters, a cat, and a dog in the French Pyrenees. He lapsed for a while after the Apple II, but became a Mac fan when his wife introduced him to the Macintosh IIsi. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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