First look: Apple's new music products

September 01, 2010 3:25 PM EDT

I've taken my first few faltering moments with three of Apple's new products post-keynote: the iPod touch, iPod nano and Apple TV (I ran out to do this early -- I can only take so much of Coldplay's Chris Martin who closed the event, I'm more of a Tame Impala kind of person). You might also enjoy my look at Apple's new social network, Ping. I'll update this post later on once I've spent time with Apple's other newly-introduced devices. Don't expect too much in-depth detail at this point.

The iPod touch

As you might expect, the Retina Display is great to look at. You have a good-looking, nice to use device for your media, apps, gaming and more.

I've not been able to test new social music network, Ping on this as yet -- that service is only now coming on-stream, but I did get to test one key feature that every iPod touch user is going to be seeing as the biggest plus for their new carrier-free communication device -- FaceTime.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Ask any iPhone 4 user and they'll tell you straight away, FaceTime is easy as anything to use. In my demo, a very nice young Apple demo professional showed me how incredibly simple it is to initiate a FaceTime session -- you just attempt this by reaching out to people in your Address Book.

I spoke with a very pleasant young woman in the US, she showed me a view using the front-facing camera of a beautiful morning outside her window. It really is a pleasant morning in Cupertino. The video was lag-free and crystal clear. As was her melodious voice. This was an extremly successful demonstration of an important feature of the device.

This means that using WiFi and FaceTime, any iPod touch user will now be able to remain in contact with any other user of a FaceTime-capable device. That's great in itself.

I can imagine in future such sessions will also include the capacity to have similar chats with any iChat user, at which point Apple really will have created a network without a network. No call charges required.

Apps work beautifully on the iPod touch -- no surprise, as the device is powered by the A4 processor used in the iPhone. You can expect equally good performance from both products. HD video capture is easy, and audio capture seemed effective at up to ten-feet -- though don't rely on my testing for this, I was lucky to be in a quiet room and I wouldn't choose to rely on the internal iPod touch microphone to record any essential audio when making a movie.

Aesthetically the iPod touch is so slim -- it is just 0.28-inches thin and weighs 3.56 ounce weight. Compare this to the 0.78-inch thickness and 6.5 ounce weight of the black and white screened iPod Classic of 2001. Things really have moved on in the last few years.

iPod nano

No, don't expect this thing to run apps. The implementation for the (should I call them Widgets?) included within the tiny but tempting little gadget is familiar -- it is iOS based, but these devices aren't really running iOS, and there are no plans to introduce apps to these products, at least not around today's announcement. Naturally, the Apple person who showed me the product was reticent to say more.

Dimensions -- this thing is tiny: 1.48 inches (37.5 mm) Width: 1.61 inches (40.9 mm) Depth: 0.35 inch (8.78 mm) [including clip]. Once I'd put my glasses on the screen was clear and eminently readable.

This thing will inevitably spawn a new generation of watch strap cases, as predicted by Seth Weintraub over at 9to5Mac. The radio is lovely - nice, clear reception (at least when accessing a strong FM channel), music playback is good.

The main thing here is the familiarity of the interface. Anyone used to using iOS will find their way around it easily. As will anybody else. The four square presentation of features and the swipe mechanism to move between the widgets is clear and easy to understand.

At back the clip seems robust -- I'd not be worried about my iPod nano falling off while I was working out at the gym.

One more thing: you can't play video on this iPod. The iPod nano has also lost its camera. So no video, no camera. You want those you need to grab yourself an iPod touch. 

Not much more to say, other than the Clock app is also quite delightful.

PS: And given this product's wearability, it would be even better with a cheap Bluetooth radio, I think. (Though why are Bluetooth headphones mostly so embarrassing?)

Apple TV

Very briefly, you'll be impressed by the size and simplicity of this device. Apple's move to pop it inside a charcoal-gray chassis reflects the popularity of black in the new HD TV generation.

On-screen menus are clear and easy to navigate. I do still feel that lack of a Web browser remains an omission -- Jobs' statement that Apple TV users don't want a computer on their TV, but to be entertained rings true, but the Web is increasingly becoming a resource for entertainment.

This image shows how large the new Apple TV is, if compared to a human hand

I can't help but feel that once the $99 device becomes a games console as well as a media consumption device, Apple's "hobby" will become a very, very big business. All it needs is an interface - the current remote doesn't even match the Apple TV in color. Not bad for a stop-gap, though.

Why do I think it will run apps? Because it runs on an A4 processor *Apple confirmed this*, just like the iPhone 4, iPad and iPod touch. Of course it will run apps. All we're waiting on is for Apple to switch the feature on one day. *Apple didn't confirm that, though*.

What's also interesting is that this new version of the product requires a fraction of the power of the previous version -- 95 percent less power in fact. This will make these things much, much cheaper to run. You'll also find an optical audio outlet on the back for use with a serious entertainment system.

Bad news for international users: there's nowhere to download content to, so it is streaming/rental only. And as Apple hasn't negotiated rights for this internationally (as I warned) you get no rentals. You can stream from your computer, though.

I'm returning to this post from time-to-time as I learn more. Pop back for updates.

Images: Mine