New iPod nano is No WristwatchMy mother used to tell me that phrase so many parents and teachers tell kids growing up: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Well, frankly, I get the freedom here at LockerGnome to voice my opinion about something I don’t like once in a while. This time, my rage is centered on the new iPod nano.

Before I get into why I’m disappointed at this change, I’ll preface this by stating that I’m not complaining that a product isn’t what I had hoped for. Well, not entirely. I’m sad to see that one of the strongest competitors pushing for innovation in the area of smart, wrist-worn computers has backed out of the genre. Apple has inspired a number of manufacturers to develop their own wrist-capable devices in recent years, and seeing Apple back out of it is like seeing Microsoft pull out of the gaming market. It may not have been Apple’s core focus, but its presence there helped improve a genre of devices.

I understand that Apple has been struggling with exactly how the iPod nano fits into the iPod family. It’s been shrunk, stretched, and riddled with features that come and go faster than most people buy shoes. Frankly, I’m getting a little upset about it.

The one thing I liked about the iPhone is that you can count on it to maintain the same basic form factor for a while. I praised Apple when it decided to move away from the stubby iPod nano in favor of one with an integrated camera. The nano became a halfway decent pocketable photo camera, albeit with slightly less quality than a standard point-and-shoot.

Then, Apple decided things needed to change again. I get it; the iPod just wasn’t selling as a combination camera and video device. The iPhone and iPod touch are just too good at doing that already. Why would anyone above the age of 12 really need something like that?

That’s when Apple struck absolute gold. It decided to create a nano that integrated the touch screen that users are falling in love with in a form factor that fits perfectly on a user’s wrist. I finally had that wristwatch I’ve always wanted. Not only did it work well as a timepiece, but it held enough music and audiobooks to get me through the day — and it counted my steps. This was, to me, the perfect iPod nano.

Further updates took place that added more watch faces. Apple appeared to be truly embracing the nano as it was being used by the general public.

Then, earlier this week, Apple changed its mind yet again. Video is back on the iPod nano — and with it the stretched form factor I had hoped was dead and gone for good. Why, Apple, why?

I was hoping that the iPod nano would have gained a microphone for that voice memo app, Bluetooth, and maybe even remote capabilities so you could see caller ID while on your run without digging through your pocket. I would have even settled for a nerdy calculator feature.

Sadly, only Bluetooth found its way to the device. The video playback is great, but I can’t wear it as a wristwatch.

I feel as though this latest design decision was a step back. Apple identified and recognized the accessories that enabled people to use these devices like wristwatches. Were sales really so bad that Apple felt it needed to revert back to hiding the device in user’s pockets?

What I Like About the New iPod nano

Despite taking away the primary feature I appreciated most about the device, Apple did deliver a few notable improvements I’m actually quite appreciative of.

The addition of Bluetooth technology frees many users without auxiliary inputs from wearing headphones while driving. On the streets of Austin, I’m constantly dodging bad drivers who invariably have something plugged into their ears, and something like this could help. I also like this feature because it means wireless headphones can finally be worn with the iPod. It’s a welcome improvement.

Another side-effect from the addition of Bluetooth is the ability to connect heart rate monitors to the iPod wirelessly. This is a great tool for folks who want to monitor their heart rate on the same device they’re using to count steps. This makes the nano a value to fitness nuts, though I’m still not entirely sure how accurate step counts are from your pocket. I want to see a clip built-in for waistbands.

I’ll hold reservation for the new EarPods until I hear them, but they do appear to be an improvement over the white earbuds that seem to leap out of your ears at the first opportunity.

For now, I don’t see myself picking up the new iPod nano. Despite some notable improvements that will undoubtedly appeal to a larger group of users, I’m sticking with the one I can carry with me on my wrist during workouts. It has plenty to love about it, even without Bluetooth.

Photo: Apple