As everyone knows by now, Apple introduced three completely new iPods along with minor updates for the iPod Shuffle and iPhone:
- iPod pico: Earbud players sold in pairs of Left and Right models, each with 1GB of storage for a total of 16 hours of stereo or 32 hours of mono playback.
- iPod pet: One basic player with a variety of collars and ear-clips so your cats and dogs can share your music. No support yet for horses, ferrets, or animals without pinnae.
- iPod mega: Replaces the iPod HiFi, now includes a 4TB, 8TB, or 16TB disk array. The 16TB model comes with a complete mirror of the iTunes Music Store so purchases are instantly available.
I know, I know. Ten thousand struggling comedians in this country and here I am, giving away this high-quality material. I'm sorry.
Anyway, if you want the real summary, check out the CNET story (here).
Here are the things that struck me as most significant about these announcements.
The iPod shuffle didn't get much of an update. In fact, calling new case colors an "update" is unfair to real updates.
The iPod nano is an unusual shape. There's nothing wrong with it, it just breaks with tradition in this segment. But when Apple does that-- as it did with the shuffle-- it usually creates a new tradition for other companies to imitate.
The iPod classic with a 160GB hard disk in a case just 0.53 inch (13.5 mm) thick is a heck of an accomplishment. The drive in this model is probably Samsung's Spinpoint N2, announced just a couple of weeks ago (press release here). The 160GB model also has a larger battery inside that can play music for up to 40 hours and videos for up to 7 hours. One downside-- the iPod classic can't even be charged from a FireWire connection. The previous fifth-generation iPod would only sync via USB, but at least it accepted FireWire power. Correction, 2007-09-12: I have one of these units now, and it does still charge from FireWire power. Apple's website just doesn't mention this capability.
The iPod touch is a music player, sure, but it also reminds me of the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet-- it's a handheld computer that happens to play music. Or if you prefer, think of it as a new Newton. (Steve Jobs probably does not prefer.) I was surprised by several features. The touch doesn't include Bluetooth support, so WiFi is the only path to the Internet-- I guess if you want to use a cellular data network, you'd better get an iPhone.
Alas, the iPod touch doesn't come in a hard-disk version. And strangely, the software load doesn't include several of the iPhone applications that would probably be used by touch customers-- Mail, Google Maps, Stocks, Maps, and Notes. But it does have the Calendar and Contacts features. Hmm.
One last comment on the touch. I echo the question CNET's Chris Soghoian asked in his blog yesterday: will Apple open the touch to developers? As Soghoian says, the reasons Apple used to explain why the iPhone is a closed system don't apply...
The iPhone announcement-- that the 4GB model has been discontinued and only the 8GB model will be available going forward-- was also a little strange, like there's another shoe yet to drop. Why would Apple sell a 16GB iPod touch but not a 16GB iPhone? The dramatic price cut on the 8GB model was probably inevitable before Christmas, but this seems a little early. At $399, the iPhone is even looking pretty attractive to me, but it's still missing some of the features I need. (See my pre-release post, Why I'm not getting an iPhone next week.)
Anyway, the 160GB iPod classic is definitely my favorite of the set. If the iPod touch was offered with that hard disk I'd get one, but I decided not to wait. Just moments after the Apple Store website came back up this morning, I ordered myself a black classic with my name and email address engraved on the back just in case I lose it. I don't need that much space for my music collection, but now I'll have enough free space to use the iPod as a backup device for my MacBook Pro. This'll come in especially handy once Apple's Time Machine backup program debuts in Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard."
For those of you waiting for the iPod touch to be offered with that 160GB hard disk, be patient. I'm sure that my order has started the timer running on that announcement. It'll probably come out right after my iPod classic arrives.