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Fresh Apples

Apple gives the iPod range a makeover and an intriguing possibility emerges.

At the outset, let me say that I am one of the few reviewers who will actually miss the third-generation iPod Shuffle. Replacing the earpieces on the product, though, was expensive and necessary as the controls were in the earpiece and could get damaged by excessive perspiration.

So presumably to get out of a sticky situation, Apple changed the form-factor. That is not saying the new iPod Shuffle is bad. As far as small, screenless digital music players go, it is still the best. The form-factor is not quite like the second generation, instead it is more square, and it also incorporates the "voice-over" feature from the last Shuffle. Much like the last Shuffle, the voice-over is good for comedy value when trying to read Indian track names and artists, but very useful on English tracks. And while the 2GB player is not cheap, as you can buy products from other brands for a lot less, it is the best.

While the Shuffle regains physical keys, the new iPod Nano loses them. It also loses its scrollwheel, slim shape, camera, microphone and video-playback ability. What it gains is a multi-touch screen with 240x240 pixel resolution. While the touch screen is a nice addition, the scrollwheel is sorely missed.

The new Nano is only a 'bit' bigger than the Shuffle in terms of physical size; albeit with four times the storage capacity (2,000 songs) and three times the price. Now, does this signify a 'size' gap in Apple's iPod line-up? And will they launch a new iPod to take advantage of the gap? The camera and microphone on the previous generation Nano were an interesting feature, so could an iPod Touch Mini come about sometime soon?

Lastly, there is the new fourth-generation iPod Touch. Here, unlike the previous two iPods, there is no palpable change in the physical dimensions. There are some changes, such as a forward-facing camera, for Apple's Facetime video-calling service over a wireless Internet connection. And then, there is the super-high resolution 'Retina' display, which looks absolutely brilliant. The iPod Touch continues to be the best digital music player in the market. It is also still a horribly expensive piece of hardware.

iPod Shuffle
4th-generation 2GB

+ve: The return of physical keys, voice-over ability remains

-ve: Voice-over on Indian songs, small storage

Price: Rs 3,200

iPod Nano
6th-generation 8GB/16GB

+ve: Multi-touch screen, smaller dimension

-ve: Loss of scrollwheel, video-playback camera and microphone

Price: Rs 10,700 (8GB) Rs 12,700 (16GB)

iPod Touch
4th-generation 16GB/32GB/64GB

+ve: Forward-facing camera for Videocalls, Retina Display, Apple A4 processor

-ve: Expensive

Price: Rs 15,400 (16GB) Rs 19,900 (32GB) Rs 25,900 (64GB)
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