6th Generation Apple iPod nano Review

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The Good

  • Smaller, lighter enclosure
  • Pedometer/fitness tracking app

The Bad

  • Touchscreen is a usability nightmare
  • Slightly too heavy to clip to sleeve
  • Video camera and playback removed

The Price
8GB – US$149
16GB — $179

The 6th Generation iPod nano was discontinued in Oct. 2012. The 7th Generation iPod nano is still being sold. Check out our positive review here. 

The tiny size and weight of the 6th generation iPod nano are impressive improvements.

In almost every other way, though, the 6th generation nano is a step back.

Exercisers will probably want to stay away entirely due to its poor usability. I strongly recommend that typical users considering buying the new nano spend some time with it in a store to see if they can work with its quirks.

Just a Screen

Steve Jobs introduced the 6th generation nano as an attempt to shrink the nano while retaining a useful screen size. Apple’s certainly shrunk the device—it’s closer to the size of the iPod Shuffle than to the size of its predecessors—but usability is a real concern.

This version of the nano weighs in at just 0.74 ounces and is only 1.48 inches wide. As a result, it’s ultra-portable and doesn’t add any noticeable weight for the average user.

Apple touted its small size and large clip on the back as removing the need for a case and making the nano perfect for attaching to clothes. This may be true for some users, but for exercisers, it’s not.

Despite its small size and weight, the 6th generation nano is a little too big and a little too heavy to be clipped to most parts of a shirt when exercising. It bounces around too much to be comfortable when clipped to a sleeve or the bottom of a shirt. When clipped around the neck of a shirt it’s acceptable.

This poses a particular problem when trying to control the nano. Unlike previous models that used a physical click wheel, this model relies on a touchscreen with multitouch support for control. That means that to change songs, switch from listening to music to a podcast, or tune the built-in FM radio, you need to look at the nano’s screen.

Being forced to look at the screen may be OK when using the nano in day-to-day life. For exercisers, it’s a major, and unnecessary, distraction. This interface is simply not as effective or usable as the clickwheel offered by previous models.

Missing Features on the 6th Gen. iPod nano

In addition to removing the clickwheel, the 6th generation nano also removes the video features available as part of the nano line since the 3rd generation model.

The new nano lacks the ability to play video, which probably makes sense, given that it sports just a 1.54-inch screen. It's also missing the video camera that the 5th generation nano offered. Neither of these features were likely major attractions of the nano, but it’s odd to see seemingly useful features removed.

Like previous models, this version of the nano can be controlled via an inline remote control on headphone cords.

Apple offers a headphone with remote on the iPhone or as a separate purchase. Given that the headphone/remote combination removes the need to look at the screen to control the nano, Apple ought to include these headphones with the nano.

The Bottom Line

The 6th generation iPod nano is an odd beast. It’s smaller and lighter—things that are usually benefits—but achieving those features requires making the device harder to use.

In this way, it recalls the 3rd-generation iPod Shuffle, which removed buttons from the face of the device and forced users to control it via a remote on the headphones. We should applaud Apple’s attempts to innovate in the iPod’s user interface, but—like the 3rd gen.

Shuffle—this is a failed interface change.

Take a hard look at the 6th generation iPod nano before you buy it—and consider buying another model.

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