Apple Gives iPod Nano Video Eyes, iPod Touch Stays Blind

Apple just announced its refreshed iPod line-up, and among the products came the long-rumored news that the iPod Nano would be getting a built-in video cam...but not the iPod Touch. It's a tad surprising, but still a clever move.

iPod Nano

During the It's Only Rock'n'Roll media event, Phil Schiller revealed the iPod's success stats--and they're staggering: Some 220 million iPods have been sold, making it "one of the most successful products in the history of all products." It's captured a 73.8% market share. Of those 220 million iPods, some 100 million were iPod Nanos, which is probably why Apple chose to strap booster rockets to that particular product and take it roaring off in a new direction (and help turn around a slight iPod sales slip.)

It's a genius piece of thinking--instantly making the iPods more functional, more fun and transforming the pocket digital camcorder market. In fact it'll have a serious impact on casual photography itself--the best camera is the one you have with you when you need to take a photo, as the saying goes...and people do tend to take their iPods everywhere. Assuming the iPod keeps selling in vast numbers, the idea is also terrible news for Cisco, who's newly-acquired Flip and pocket cams had largely sewn up this market.

Check it out:

iPod nanoiPod Nano

Costs you $149 for 8GB of built-in memory and $179 for 16GB, has a 2.2-inch color display, an FM radio and a pedometer, is a fully-functioning MP3 player, coming in a bunch of rainbow colors with all of Apple's sleek design and gizmo cachet.

The camera's a fixed-focus VGA video unit that shoots 640 x 480 H.264 video at 30 frames per second. There're 15 real-time video special effect overlays, and when you sync it up to iTunes you can upload your video to YouTube with a single click. There's a built-in speaker and microphone to complete the camera function

Flip Mino/UltraFlip Mino/Ultra

Costs you $149 for a Mino with 2GB of storage, $149 for an Ultra with 4GB of room. The Mino has a 1.5-inch screen, the Ultra a 2-incher. Both shoot video in fixed-focus, H.264 format at 30 frames a second.

You can, of course, watch video on the devices--including stuff you've downloaded to it. But it doesn't have the slick iTunes supportive ecosystem, there's no radio, headphone socket, MP3 support, pedometer and while simple, the design totally lacks Apple's polish.

Similar comparisons can be drawn with Creative's Vado pocket cam, and RCA's Small Wonder units. Basically Apple's going to steal these guys low-end market right out from under their feet--why would you buy one of these units when you get so much more from Apple's iPod Nano?

Which of course makes us wonder why all those rumors about the iPod Touch were wrong? The Touch just got a storage and processor-power upgrade today, so the hardware's definitely had a refresh. It would seem the perfect candidate for a camera, and the iPhone's just got a sleek 3-megapixel upgrade, so there wouldn't be any issues with product delineation if the Touch just got a 2-megapixel unit. The iPhone firmware supports video recording, and the Touch's interface would even allow for in-device video editing (exactly as on the iPhone). Add in Wi-fi video uploading and a bunch of apps and you'd have a killer camera-equipped iPod that would sweep-up the other end of the pocket camcorder market--HD recording versions like the Mino HD. It would also have placed the iPod touch at a significant advantage over the upcoming Zune HD, which also lacks a cam.

So what happened...were all those leaked iPod Touch cases with slots for a camera just plain wrong? It's a complete mystery. There were suggestions right before the event that some kind of technical hitch had affected the camera-toting iPods...so maybe the Touch was due to get a camera, but late-stage technical problems mean it was cut from the device? Could the decision to skip the technical problems be tied to Steve Job's return to the company's helm? Or are we just plain wrong, and the Touch was never going to get a pair of eyes. However it's all happened, it does seem all very un-Apple.

[Apple]

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2 Comments

  • Kit Eaton

    @Jensen. I think you're right--it's tactically brilliant, and bootstraps a whole new market onto the already successful iPod for seemingly very little extra work by Apple.

  • Jensen_G

    Clearly Apple chose to do this voluntarily. . . any half-baked rumor that they were "forced" to because of manufacturing defects flies in the face of how Apple does business. It's likely that they figured out that a camera is not what draws most people to an iPod Touch. If people want a Touch, they'll get one (or get an iPhone). The camera was not a deal-breaker and if it was, only insofar in that people would choose an iPhone instead.

    What this does is tremendously boost their presence in the low-end market (as the article says), and it might even convince some iPod Touch owners to impulsively buy a Nano (Nano's a hands-down better workout device, and looks better too). Bottom line? More money in Apple's pockets.