One Thing Well

A few thoughts on the still incredible Fifth Generation iPod Nano

In an age where the stand alone MP3 player has all but been replaced by the smart phone, there is still something to be said for the 5th generation iPod Nano.

I received my 5th generation Nano as a birthday present from my wife in 2009, soon after they were first announced by Apple and released to the general public. Mine is a silver, 16 GB model. While sharing a similar form factor with the 4th generation model, the 5th generation Nano had a slightly larger screen, an FM radio, as well as the inclusion of a VGA video camera. It was the last model with the iconic click wheel. The battery life on my Nano has always been terrific, and when compared with all of the smart phones that I have since owned, the Nano's battery seems to last for ages. My little Nano has always been durable, and while I am not keen on Apple's software, man do they make great hardware.

However, the video camera does not really take super great video. The calendar and notes functionality is rudimentary at best and requires constant syncing with iTunes to stay up to date, and while some of the cheesy games that came on it are fun to play for a short time, this is not a gaming device. The Nano's screen is really too small to comfortably watch video on it, and there is really no easy way to cast the video on it to a TV, aside from hooking up proprietary cables. However, the Nano is first and foremost an MP3 player, and it performs that task admirably. The click wheel lets one easily navigate the refreshingly clean and simple interface. I really do love that click wheel in the same way that classic Blackberry aficionados love and appreciate the track pad and physical keyboard on those devices, and I wish that Apple had never abandoned it.

My Nano currently lives in the console of my car, its dock connector semi-permanently attached to the car's iPod/USB connector. I hardly ever remove the Nano from the car, except on the rare occasion that I bring it into the office or when I take it inside to sync it with iTunes in order to add more music. It never ceases to amaze me how well this little Nano survives the extreme changes in temperature that the car's environment naturally inflicts on the Nano's aluminium body, hence the durability claim previously made.

While I am a huge fan of Pandora and Spotify (especially with T-Mobile's unlimited music streaming), I have come to appreciate the Nano's “off-line reliability”. I only keep my favorite music on the iPod, which is why the 16GB storage capacity works fine for me. If it is a song or album that I want to “own”, I will buy it with either XBox Music or Google Play Music, import it into iTunes on my PC, and sync it onto the iPod. Sometimes I still purchase music through iTunes, but often, Google and Microsoft offer cheaper music. Really, it comes down to which service offers the song or album for the best price. If it is something that is just a phase (and I go through a lot of musical phases) I will just be content to stream it. Nevertheless, I have come to appreciate the fact that once the music is on the iPod, it is on there unless I remove it, and it will always be available whether or not I have a signal.

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