Why the iPod Nano is Not a Game Changer After All

by Brian Blum on January 12, 2010

Video capabilities are a game changer

Not quite a game changer

With the much rumored and insanely anticipated Apple iSlate, due to be announced later this month, being referred to as a potential “game changer,” as momentous as the original iPod and its big cousin the iPhone, I thought I’d take a look back at a post I wrote in September in which I called the new iPod Nano a game changer itself.

At the time, I hadn’t actually gotten my hands on one. That finally happened last week. And I’m sorry to report that my prediction now seems premature.

My enthusiasm for the Nano was that it was the absolute smallest, decent quality video camcorder on the market, and it had a built in iPod to boot (or maybe it’s the other way around). It would be a boon to bloggers and media publishers of all sizes, not to mention consumers shooting silly cat tricks, I wrote.

And indeed, that potential is readily apparent. I have a client that works with communities in far flung places such as India, China and Burma. Why not arm its constituents with Nanos to document lifecycle events and send them back to us to edit and post on YouTube or Facebook.

When I finally tried out the Nano itself – at a rock concert where I needed a clip to accompany an article I was writing – the Nano neatly delivered on its promise: the device is so tiny I was able to keep it stowed safely in my shirt pocket, and it warms up fast so I was ready at the beginning of each song to grab the shots I wanted. The video quality was entirely acceptable; the audio less so.

So what’s the problem? It doesn’t have a camera; it’s just video. That might seem a bit nit picky, but the market today is all about convergence – reducing the number of devices you need to carry. The iPhone does this perfectly: it packs a phone, camera, video recorder, MP3 player and web browser all-in-one shiny black package.

But the iPhone (like most smart phones) is relatively hefty. It doesn’t fit into a pocket, it’s too bulky to wear on an armband while exercising and, frankly, it does more – and costs more – than many people need.

The Nano has the price and form factor I want, but without a camera for stills, if I want to be ready at any time and any place to shoot a photo and a video, I have to carry both my Nano and my digital camera. My cell phone doesn’t take pictures at high enough quality to make it a worthy alternative.

Why didn’t Apple include a camera in the iPod Nano? Probably to prevent cannibalization of sales of its higher end i-products (although the official rumored reason is that they couldn’t get the optics small enough to work). Perhaps the camera will be a part of the package in the future – along with a tiny wireless receiver, now wouldn’t that be cool! – but before then, the business buzz will have already moved on to the iSlate as the next game changer.


In case you were wondering how that video I shot at the rock concert came out, here’s a short clip I took with the iPod Nano. The audio is a bit muffled, but I think that’s more due to where we were sitting (in the front row, where the instrument amps were closer) than the iPod’s functionality.

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