05 September 2008

Apple Let's Rock Event - new iPod Nano, iPod Touch 2G and iTunes 8

Apple Let's Rock event was very anticipated by every Apple fan or gadget lover, because this is the place to announce new products, models and services. And this time it was really worth waiting for: new iPod Nano 4G, redesigned iPod Touch, small update of Classic and a lot of new colors for Shuffle... Firmware update for iPhone along with iPod Touch, which carries number 2.1, and new version of iTunes program - these announcements would be enough for several events! However, they all came together at once, and this is the small roundup of all announcements made at this Apple event.

Pictures of new iPod Nano made a big buzz in the Internet not so long ago, making this announcement the most anticipated. New Nano was certainly worth waiting for. It is now taller than 3G, and the sides are slightly curved. But what is really different is the screen layout - now it is portrait instead of landscape. Built-in accelerometer controls the display and turns image if iPod is turned on side, making the movie playback more comfortable.

Controls are also shifted to match the image on the screen. It supports all iPod Nano 3G games, however, they must be played in landscape mod. New Nano has totally revamped interface, somehow resembling that seen on the iPod Touch. Battery life was increased, and now it is 24 hours for music and 4 hours for video. Even with a hardware upgrade, Nano 4G remained very thin, thinner than any other music player on the market. Prices were announced too - 8 GB will be sold for 149 USD, 16 GB - for 199 USD.

With its new model lineup, Apple introduced a new and interesting feature for all of its music players - Genius mode. This is a feature that will be familiar to all Last.fm users - it can make up smart playlists from songs that go great together. When turned on in the iTunes, it sends information from your music library to Apple, synchronizing with their online database and making a playlist that is made perfectly for your taste. Maybe it won't make the perfect playlist the first time, but it will evolve as more songs are collected in the online database. All new player models have that feature in menu - iPod Nano, Classic and Touch.

Classic upgrade was least interesting than others, because the only change is its capacity - now it is 120 GB. It supports all new features including Genius mode, has improved battery life and that's all. Prices are already available - 120 GB model will be sold for 250 USD. Same for Shuffle - it will have no hardware updates at all, Apple just increased the amount of color options, so you can select from four new colors - vibrant blue, green, pink, and red.

iPhone and iTouch firmware upgrade is almost completely a bug-fix release, which removes existing bugs, enables Genius mode, improves battery life and backup speed. It will be free for all iPhone users, but if you own iTouch you will need 10 dollars to buy this upgrade. iPod Touch also had some small update - WiFi antenna looks much better integrated, internal speakers sound better, and it is even thinner now.

iTunes was also reworked, and new, 8 version of famous music manager brings a lot of new interesting options. First of all, it supports brand new Genius feature, helping to collect data for this service to operate correctly. Another new feature found is new method of browsing your music collection, named Grid view. It can display all your albums in grid and gives you possibility to change the size of grid elements so you can navigate through your collection more comfortably. New Genius sidebar can offer you songs from iTunes Store based on your musical tastes, so you would easily discover new music that you will probably like. Visualizer was also improved, now it is way more beautiful and entertaining.

This year's Apple Let's Rock event was rich for new announcements. New and greatly improved interface of iPod Nano, new Genius function, firmware update for iPhone and iTouch, and a new version of iTunes program - many updates for one event, don't you think? Unfortunately, iPod Classic update was very minor, but does it have the need in major redesign? Don't fix what is already working great, that is the main strategy for Apple at this point. Even if new Nano looks so similar to Microsoft Zune, it is still Apple, and it does have many things Zune hasn't - including huge worldwide fan base. So let's wait for other big announcements from Apple - maybe they will include the clipboard ability in the iPhone at last?

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