New iPod models add, subtract features

By Jonathan Higdon

CUPERTINO, Calif. (UTC/The Loop) — Mobile media giant Apple, Inc. updated its popular line of iPod media players, refreshing its iPod touch, iPod nano and iPod shuffle models.

iPod updates have become an annual September event for the Cupertino, Calif. company, and are usually coupled with updates to the iTunes media jukebox software and other media-related peripherals. Wednesday’s event was no exception, as Apple also introduced the second-generation Apple TV, iTunes 10, and a new social music sharing service called Ping. It was the new additions to the iPod touch, however, that received the most attention after the event.

View the all-new iPod models here:

Also check out the new iTunes 10 with Ping, and the new Apple TV.

A representative from Chattanooga-area Apple reseller MacAuthority said she expected the new iPod line to arrive “within about a week or so” and that the devices had already started shipping from Apple. She also said that the demand for the new devices has already been “pretty high.” Anxious iPod enthusiasts can expect to see the new models in-store soon, but early adopters have had the option to purchase them directly from Apple’s online store for the last week.

Apple added the new FaceTime video calling technology to its fourth-generation iPod touch devices. The feature eliminates the need for a two-year contract with AT&T or even an iPhone, for that matter, to place video calls with other fourth-generation iPod touch and iPhone users. In addition to the necessary front-facing camera used for video calls, the new iPod touch includes a rear-facing camera capable of recording high-definition video. All of these new features run on Apple’s A4 processor, which, according to Apple, “provides iPod touch users with exceptional processor and graphics performance along with long battery life.”

The update to the iPod nano was the most dramatic revelation at the event. The device’s form factor was completely changed and was repurposed primarily as a music player, completely eliminating the video playback capabilities of the previous three models. The new iPod nano did gain a Multi-Touch interface and a “wearable” clip like the one utilized by the second-generation iPod shuffle in 2006. Apple may be putting itself in a position to shift the way it markets the iPod nano, with Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs offering the possibility of wearing the device in creative ways—for instance, as a wristwatch.

The all-new iPod nano line from Apple.

The fourth-generation iPod shuffle builds on the success of the previous iterations of the device, but takes a step backward to appease critics of the third-generation model. The new iPod shuffle adds buttons to the previous “buttonless” device, putting its square size somewhere between the second-generation model, introduced in 2006, and the third-generation model that was introduced last September. The buttonless controls are still featured in the new iPod shuffle, but physical buttons were added again for consumers who found last year’s design too confusing.

Apple entered the social media market by establishing Ping, billed as “a social network for music.” Designed to allow users to discover music from their friends and favorite artists, the service is free to anyone 13 years and older—the age requirement for obtaining the necessary iTunes Store account. Ping generates a feed of friends’ activity based on music purchases in the iTunes Store, reviewed music, and “liked” music. The service is only available for iTunes Store music purchases, however, and no plans have been announced to extend the social network to other iTunes Store products like iPhone apps, movies, or television shows.

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