It was an unusual event by Apple standards, beginning with a joke about Steve Jobs’ untimely demise as reported by the Associated Press, and then failing to end with Jobs’ trademark "One more thing". Despite this, there are certainly things to look forward to this year from the kings of all portable media.
Here’s the rundown:
- New iTunes 8: featuring loads more movies, music and TV shows. In addition to a slew of HD content, some of which isn’t even available from broadcasters, the new software boasts a brand new feature called the "Genius Sidebar". The Genius lets you build custom playlists based on the music in your library by suggesting songs that match your tastes. This is similar to a new feature Sony just announced for their upcoming Walkman devices. However iTunes takes this a step further by allowing users to optionally share their library with the iTunes store, giving Genius the ability to make playlist recommendations based on what every other user is listening to. It’s not an original idea – Pandora, LastFM and indeed Microsoft’s Zune software have all been doing this for a while, but iTunes certainly gives the feature mass-adoption potential, not to mention lots of revenue for Apple. Genius also works for TV and movies too.
- iPod Nano, 4th generation: This is the thinnest iPod to date, and sports a sexy curved aluminum body and a curved glass screen, which now occupies a vertical orientation on the front of the case. It comes in 8GB, 16GB for $149 ($169 CDN) and $199 ($219 CDN) respectively and is available in
79 different "nanochromatic" colours. Perhaps most importantly, Apple has borrowed the accelerometer from the iPod Touch and iPhone and added it to the Nano. Which means the vertical screen automatically switches orientation when the device is flipped on its side. They’ve also incorporated the Genius software, allowing for some much more powerful on-the-fly playlist creation. Apple is also touting the Nano’s environmental track-record, claiming it’s the most enviro-friendly iPod to-date. I’m all for that, but they’re still packaging these things in thick plastic clamshells which last I checked, are not recyclable in most municipalities. Lastly, and perhaps in an effort to capitalize on that accelerometer, you can shake the iPod to shuffle to the next song. Neat idea, but again, not particularly original – SanDisk’s Sansa Shaker came out with this feature last year.
- iPod Touch: This time around, the Touch gets a built-in speaker for casual listening, a volume rocker switch on the side, thinner, curved stainless-steel case, enhanced UI, built-in Genius software and access to the App Store. Oh, it also has the Nike+ receiver built-n which is great for those who want to go jogging with an iPod Touch strapped to their arm, but for the life of me I can’t understand why they didn’t build this into the Nano instead, or at least as well. Surely the smaller of the two iPods is the one preferred by most joggers? Maybe I’m crazy. New Touches come in 3 models: 8GB, $229 ($259 CDN), 16GB for $299 ($329 CDN), and a 32GB for $399 ($429 CDN).
- iPod Touch Games: Apple has formally thrown its hat into the ring with likes of Sony and Nintendo, by declaring that the iPod Touch is "the best portable device for playing games". They backed this up by demonstrating games like Spore, Need for Speed and Real Soccer 2009, the last of which utilizes a semi-transparent D-pad overlayed on the screen. These games will be available from the App Store later this year.
- iPhone Software Version 2.1: Not much to talk about here, as Apple fixes some bugs, improves call quality and call drops and enhances battery life.