Late last week, Apple unveiled its latest update to its wildly popular iPod line, with new models of the iPod Shuffle, Nano and Touch versions. The iPod “Classic”, based around the same kind of form factor that the original iPod had nine years ago, didn’t get a refresh, but it didn’t get removed from the product lineup either. That’s probably just a matter of time, though — and it’s been a long time since Apple particularly seemed to care about the Classic.
Then again, it’s debatable that Apple’s not that interested in the low-end iPod market either. Sure, they’d still like your cash, that being the basis of any successful business, and there’s still a market for entry level players. But whether the new iPods are particularly worth chasing up, especially if you’re upgrading from an existing iPod is an interesting question. Let’s look at the iPod lines as they now stand.
I’ve never quite seen the point of the iPod Shuffle. Yes, I do understand that it plays music and works with iTunes. It’s just that, iPod branding aside, it’s never done much that other flash based players without screens didn’t do much cheaper. The new Shuffle returns buttons to the face of the player, but that’s something that Apple only got rid of with the revision before the last one!
Then there’s the Nano. The new screens look kind of cute, i’ll grant you, but this is a real tradeoff of functionality. In return for the new looks-like-an-iPhone style screen display, Apple’s ripped out the camera and the ability to play back video on the Nano completely. It’s just a music player, starting at $199, which isn’t that much cheaper than the entry level Touch.
The Touch, I will admit, has had a very nice looking makeover, grabbing the screen that makes the iPhone 4 look so good along with simple cameras on both sides, giving it access to Apple’s FaceTime video calling capability and HD video recording at 720P. It’s a nice bit of kit, but it’s not Apple’s entry level any more. It’s also rather carefully priced against the iPhone 4, which it shares a lot of functionality with.
It seems pretty clear to me that the Touch is the market that Apple wants to shift consumers towards. There’s more money to be made for Apple that way, as it gets a fixed percentage of the App sales for everything that goes onto an iPod Touch, whereas it only gets a percentage of the music sales on an iPod Shuffle or Nano if you buy your music through iTunes. Rip your own CDs — a perfectly legal activity in Australia — and Apple gets nothing.
What do you think? Are the new models enough to get you to upgrade, or will that wait until your existing player dies?