Touch Screen Nanos on the Way?

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on August 05, 2008

My colleague Olga Kharif quite succinctly walks you through in this blog all the reasons why its unlikely Apple in the next month or so won’t release a stripped-down version of the iPhone.

But I would not be surprised to see a new touch-screen iPod nano hitting store shelves in time for the holidays. There’s been a lot of criticism of the “little fatty” form factor of the current generation, but what if that same shape was made a little larger, with a full touch interface?

Out in the wild the other day in San Francisco, I saw a guy whip out and change his music on a black touch-screen device that looked suspiciously like an iPhone, only smaller. Apple often has key employees test new devices for bugs before rolling them out, so it’s not out of the question.

Of course, one glimpse does not a product make. But others are suggesting it’s not just my imagination working overtime. Analyst Charles Wolf at Needham says this: “The fall line-up of iPods should change in a dramatic fashion” to reflect design changes that came with the iPhone. And one of Apple’s business partners tells colleague Peter Burrows that an iPhone-shaped iPod nano is on its way.

Why would you need a touch-screen nano? In addition to simply being cool, Apple might make available some of its AppStore applications to other devices beyond the iPhone and larger-screen iPod Touch. The company also could be prepping that long-rumored subscription service. Or it could be announcing the next step in its plans to boost the use of video on Apple devices.

Beyond that, it could just make for good financial sense. The current nano sells for $149 or $199, depending on memory configuration. Double the base memory on new versions, add bigger screen and touch interface, and Jobs & crew could up the price slightly, boosting margins.

The company also has the competition to think about. Sure, no one has come close to Apple in digital music (despite lots of money being thrown at the problem), but Research in Motion hopes to give Apple a run with its upcoming Thunder touch-screen phone and email device. Rumor has it, the device will be unveiled in early October and will include over-the-air Rhapsody music service, a big and beautiful screen and external storage. Exclusive at first to Verizon Wireless, the dual EV-DO/HSPA-network device could be a hit with business people and “pro-sumers” looking to carry just one device around for work and play.

We’ll know soon enough. Apple likely will schedule another “very special event” for sometime in September. And RIM’s gotta take the wraps of its long-awaited device at some point, right?

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Reader Comments

Bjergi

August 6, 2008 05:25 AM

I agree with this theory. The click wheel is showing its age on the current gen ipods, so a further move to entirely multi-touch iPods make sense. But, I highly doubt that apple will raise the price of the Nano if they can at all avoid it, so I'm thinking they will keep the 4-8 gig memory in the nanos, and reserve the storage boost for the touch, a device which needs to stay an individual in the current mixed up state of the ipod. I also see another re-badging around the corner, with the touch dropping its suffix, to remain identifyable as the best of the mix.

So yeah, Basically, I reckon the nano is going to take the same shape as the touch and iphone, while staying small and slim, however, i doubt it will boast features such as wi-fi or any magical new goodies the touch has in store come september.

PleaseDontSpamMe

August 6, 2008 05:44 AM

I think you're absolutely right on the touch-screen iPod Nano. The current Nano does not live up to Apple standards. The click wheel is hard to use because it's too small. The screen is too small. And let's face it, it's just plain ugly. A touch-screen would solve all of these problems. I disagree with you on the price though. I think Apple will keep the price at current Nano prices. In the last earnings conference call, Apple said margins were going to shrink.

liamaa

August 6, 2008 10:01 AM

Double the base memory on new versions, add bigger screen and touch interface, and Jobs & crew could up the price slightly, boosting margins.

um, isn't that called the ipod touch?

Denny Wilson

August 6, 2008 01:37 PM

This is an interesting article, I was reading a similar perspective on another blog.

Jonathan Fingas

August 6, 2008 04:57 PM

Actually, odds are that device "on the street" was probably a Samsung YP-P2, not a new iPod. It has a smaller touchscreen (about 3 inches versus 3.5) and is fairly widely available in the US.

A touchscreen iPod nano may come eventually, but I'm not even expecting something like it until 2009. I'll be glad to be proven wrong.

enzos

August 6, 2008 10:38 PM

@PDSM.. On the contrary, the current Phat Nano is one good looking device and works extremely well at what it's designed for (I'm listening to some Ed Keuper on it while I write). But I'm thinking how neat it would be if it had a touch-screen occupying the whole face. Cover Flow would then be a useful browsing option, text and videos would easily read/viewed (even by over 40's such as myself).

Jeff McNabb

August 7, 2008 02:44 AM

I think one place in which the iPod Touch fails (not counting everyone calling it the iTouch, which must be a vibrator on some red light site SOMEWHERE) is that it is too skimp on dedicated "hard keys". I know that the Steve supposedly hates buttons but I'm not in the least convinced that Joe Consumer feels the same way. Even hardcore apple folks that have bought both iphones on launch day will still gripe sometimes about the difficulty in texting on that touch screen. And Steve calls it their best iPod yet? At the minimum I have to pull the phone out of my pocket, out of it's protector case, unlock it, double press home key or select ipod app and then precision press the next track key. Moving further down the playlist requires more steps. I have both a MacCase laptop case for my iBook and a backpack that have dedicated iPod pockets (or holsters) in them. They have click wheel's keys printed on the outside and even with it in the sleeve pocket, if I'm listening to say Bob Dylan's 3CD box "Dylan" set, and I start off listening to track two, and after that I decide I want to listen to track thirty nine, I can (again, with it still in the sleeve) I can spin my finger a few times around and I find that I'm around track 35 or 40 and can find that song in about 4 seconds by clicking back or forth. That's the experience on my 5.5G iPod (Video). I can agree that the click wheel feels dated because for those of us that have followed the Pods since the original FireWire brick, the 4G green screened 20gig pod feels quite aged, but on the other hand, I think it was far enough ahead of it's time that it is still innovative. It's fast, intuitive, clean, accurate, and minimalistic. I also agree that the Nano Video wheel is too small. The Touch is a very attractive device it's form feels far above it's function factor. I still say the click wheel kills the Touch when it comes to playing music. I don't like having to do all that unlocking and looking at the screen to just skip a track. Doesn't it make shuffle sort of useless if you're walking briskly?
I have a 2G Shuffle and a 30gig Video iPod and I still use them a lot. All I'm saying is that I enjoy only having to carry one device with me, but the current touch screen controls just don't cut it for a truly simple and enjoyable music experience.
Any feedback?

Lee

August 7, 2008 12:00 PM

I bought an iPod touch recently.

It's the best engineered and designed product I've ever owned. Lots of fun, works well, and full of capability.

Puts other products I've owned like this to shame.

I can listen to music, play games,
burn entertaining or educational DVD's to it using "Handbrake".

And while the App store is just getting going, I like it and the prices are good.

A new playform is born and it's very portable.

Jeff McNabb

August 10, 2008 05:16 PM

I think one place in which the iPod Touch fails (not counting everyone calling it the iTouch, which must be a vibrator on some red light site SOMEWHERE) is that it is too skimp on dedicated "hard keys". I know that the Steve supposedly hates buttons but I'm not in the least convinced that Joe Consumer feels the same way. Even hardcore apple folks that have bought both iphones on launch day will still gripe sometimes about the difficulty in texting on that touch screen.
And Steve calls it their best iPod yet? At the minimum I have to pull the phone out of my pocket, out of it's protector case, unlock it, double press home key or select ipod app and then precision press the next track key. Moving further down the playlist requires more steps. I have both a MacCase laptop case for my iBook and a backpack that have dedicated iPod pockets (or holsters) in them. They have click wheel keys printed on the outside and even with it in the sleeve pocket.
If I'm listening to say Bob Dylan's 3CD box "Dylan" set, and I start off listening to track two, and after that I decide I want to listen to track thirty nine, I can (again, with it still in the sleeve), I can spin my finger a few times around and I find that I'm around track 35 or 40 and can find that song in about 4 seconds by clicking back or forth. That's the experience on my 5.5G iPod (Video).
I can agree that the click wheel feels dated because for those of us that have followed the Pods since the original FireWire brick, the 4G green screened 20gig pod feels quite aged, but on the other hand, I think it was far enough ahead of it's time that it is still innovative. It's fast, intuitive, clean, accurate, and minimalistic. I also agree that the Nano Video wheel is too small.
The Touch is a very attractive device. However, it's form feels far above it's function factor. I still say the click wheel kills the Touch when it comes to playing music. I don't like having to do all that unlocking and looking at the screen to just skip a track. Doesn't it make shuffle sort of useless if you're in a hurry?
I have a 2G Shuffle and a 30gig Video iPod and I still use them a lot. All I'm saying is that I enjoy only having to carry one device with me, but the current touch screen controls just don't cut it for a truly simple and enjoyable music experience.
Any feedback?

joe

August 22, 2008 02:00 AM

i so saw the same guy in san fran

Brittany C

August 22, 2008 03:44 AM

Mr. McNabb, this is the first time I've ever been able to say this: I completely agree with you! Every single point you made, I agree.

Scott L

August 23, 2008 02:51 AM

I too would like a nano touch, I find the current touch too large and I've grown fond of the 3g nano. (I too initially disliked it at launch but the video is handy, if small)

The nano touch, rotated sideways would be a great compromise, place a few small buttons on the side of the unit (like the iphone 3g) so you can pause at least, without pulling it out of the pocket and then colour me impressed.

We'll see - fingers crossed.

Cannon

March 1, 2009 05:04 PM

that would be hella cooler than any otha of aples stuff

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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