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Behind The Development Of The iPod nano 502

Posted by Zonk
from the teeny-tiny-product dept.
bonch writes "A Time Magazine article on the behind-the-scenes development of the iPod nano reveals that development work began just nine months ago, when the iPod mini was still a top-seller. Every internal component was redesigned and packed into every millimeter of the space inside. Famed Apple designer Jonathan Ives spent months on the tiniest of details, like the laser-etching of the logo and the roughness of the clickwheel compared to the smoothness of the rest of the exterior. 'I know you're not going to consciously find these details particularly appealing," says Ives, 'but I think it's the fact that we've worried about all of them that makes the product so precious.'"
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Behind The Development Of The iPod nano

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  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @05:57PM (#13551961) Homepage Journal
    for less than $30 you can buy a 256MB flash card, MP3 player, FM radio, and voice recorder.

    That's about the same size.

    So, my question is, why bother? I'd much rather have something that gives me extra features and plugs into my laptop and work PC or Mac and lets me transfer files and do all that, and runs off of rechargeable AA batteries.

    But that's just me.

    Now, if someone wanted to do a case mod of the iPod nano and get it to run Linux or BSD, now we're talking!
  • Apple's Hallmark (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:06PM (#13552054) Homepage Journal
    Attention to detail has been Apple's hallmark on hardware for quite some time now. Anyone who owns a Powerbook, for example will have noticed the ports on the right hand side are arranged in size order, and there are USB ports on both sides. They're just little touches, but they mean a lot in everyday usage. Apple brought the iPod to the mp3 player market, and its design & interface have managed to win out over technically superior players time and time again. The nano is neccessary for Apple to stay one step ahead on having this cool factor that other vendors strive for.
  • by Wizard Drongo (712526) <wizard_drongoNO@SPAMyahoo.co.uk> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:08PM (#13552072)
    Yep. You are paying extra 'cause it's white and it's an iPod. And also for that genuine "new apple smell". Them mind-bending chemicals they stuff in there to make your purchase seem totally justified and explainable don't come cheap :) That said, it doesn't play windows media audio files. So it's doing a damned fine thing by trying to get people NOT to use that shitty format. It's also the only player on the market that legally allows you to play files from the worlds most popular online music store. It also has one of the best audio-quality ratings of any handheld device (beating even some large hi-fi's). It's also not made by creative, who despite making the worlds best soundcards make the worlds worst quality players. But yeah, who needs extreme over-engineered precision quality audio-heaven. After all, these are people that will accept and PAY good money to rent 128k WMA files. They deserve shit.
  • Steve Jobs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by coop0030 (263345) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:12PM (#13552116) Homepage
    we don't have a 5%-operating-system-market-share glass ceiling," Jobs says. "And look at what's happened. That same innovation, that same engineering, that same talent applied where we don't run up against the fact that Microsoft got this monopoly, and boom! We have 75% market share."


    This makes you wonder what the world would be like if Microsoft played fairly.

    I think it might be for the better, but Apple seems to have a little bit of a monopolistic practice in their sleeves also (not letting any other mp3 devices play with iTunes, and iPods only working on iTunes).
  • by pilgrim23 (716938) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:13PM (#13552136)
    I am not a super fan of the iPod and yes it is now an old thing;
        MY iPod is a Gen 1 I swapped some parts for and put a new battery in. I am not one to buy the latest gee whiz when it comes out...but...have you actually HELD this thing? I went to a local Apple franchiser and picked one up. Not look at, not see commercial, not read review...picked one up. That is all it took. I want one.
  • by mr i want to go home (610257) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:16PM (#13552158)
    Look. For a group of people who spend a load of time with problems cause by our hardware (like carpal tunnel syndrome) you (we) aren't very perceptive about the causes of these problems (ok this sounds a bit flame-ish, so I'll tone it down now...sorry)

    The puck mouse was designed to address a real issue/problem. With a normal mouse, you need to rest your wrist on the table, and then to move the mouse, you have to move your whole wrist sideways/forwards/round in circles...you get the picture. It's slow, cumbersome, and causes all sorts of prolonged use problems.

    Now enter the puck mouse. You still rest your wrist on the table, but you can move the whole mouse with ONLY your fingers! Very fast, light, easy, and sensible.

    Now, I'm not going to deny it sucks the first time to use a puck mouse. In fact I'm one of the people who threw them away when they started coming with the Macs for the labs at university. But one week I was forced to use one - and guess what, your body starts to remember/know which way around the mouse is after about...ohhh...an hour of use.

    When you think about it, this is no where near the learning curve of a Dvorak keyboard, which is everyone's darling at the moment. So - enough of the lame puck mouse bashing. Go get one on ebay for like 10c. Your wrist will love you, and you too will have the chance to marvel at possible the most underrated and misunderstood computer inventions of the past decade.

    Ok - off my chest now...peace :)

  • by dancpsu (822623) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:20PM (#13552190) Journal
    iMac mini server system media edition. Something with a built-in wireless AP, broadband connector, and separate dumb wireless set-top box to make your HDTV a terminal with wireless keyboard and mouse. Also include software to access the mini-server anywhere in the house, and as many laptops as necessary and there you go. The fully media-encompassed house.

    Or better yet, iBook mini's that are ultra-thin, flash-storage only laptops designed to work primarily with a server, or host computer like the iMac mini.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:23PM (#13552215) Homepage
    This isn't unabashed bullshit, it's a comparison to the crap you might drag around in your pocket.

    I'm good with the "weight=8 quarters" (approx. 1 3/5 oz), but the "thick as a pencil" thing is kinda half-assed. Since it's effectively round, you don't really feel a pencil's thickness, but rather its diameter. "Pencil-thick" gets the measurement across, but doesn't really give one a feel for it. Not like the cornerstone of comparative measurement, the Pack of Cigarettes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:27PM (#13552249)
    After being an iPod user for several years, I took everything that the iPod offered for granted. After purchasing something different (iAudio U2 1GB) for my exercizing needs, the drawbacks became clear.. let me list what I found so far.

    Accessories. This is a key point for me. iPods, being the most popular MP3 device, has a TON of addons, accessories, and etc for it. It gives you a ton of options later on, should you decide to add something. Meanwhile, I STILL haven't been able to find a damn belt clip for the iAudio U2. You know, something to hold it on my waist. Yes, it's that bad if it's not an iPod.

    User Interface. Most people take it for granted, but UI of iPods are superior to anything I've used. It's simple, clear, and easy to use, which by far appeals to the mass than something complicated. My iAudio U2 isn't that bad, but I miss my iPod interface. Easy and simple, with no complicated controls. I looked through my friend's iRiver 799 manual the other day, and it was horrible. You had to memorize combos to access certain features. Ugh. And the clickwheel is a godsend. Simple things like a joystick on the iAudio U2 doesn't compare at all.

    iTunes. Very important. With this, you can easily buy songs off the music store and sync them to your iPod. And sync is amazing. Plug in your iPod, let it automatically sync, and you're good to go. My iAudio U2 requires you to drag and drop. That's pretty easy too, but I like the iTunes method better. And don't forget other iTunes features, such as Podcasts.

    Form factor. Face it. People do care about how a device looks and feels. It doesn't matter if a device has all the features in the world, if it's ugly as sin and big as a brick. Things such as a voice recorder and line in port are useless and only make the device bigger and bulkier. How many people would actually make use of those features? I haven't used it once on my iAudio. Granted, I like the FM radio, but that depends on people's taste. I'm not complaining about the size of the iAudio U2, but iPods are generally smaller than anything else on the market today (And do look better).

    Well, that's all I can think of by now. But if you think that people are buying iPods because of the brand name, you're dead wrong.

    (Oh yeah, the Nano comes in black too)
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:30PM (#13552266) Homepage Journal
    Music worth listening to?

    Funny that. I bought a car stereo about 4 years ago which specifically could play MP3 CDs, but also had satellite radio. I've heard so much music on the various channels I've developed a broader taste and acquired a greater affinity for swing, in particular Louis Jordan, whom I'd never heard before in my life (quite a job it seems missing so large a catalog, too.)

    Oddly, in those 4 years I've yet to burn an MP3 CD. When I'm out and about, driving, I've got more than an iPod offers. Maybe the iPod phone will offer something akin to satellite broadcast.

  • exactly and... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:35PM (#13552304)
    ... it also gets the market who wants a flash-based player so it doesn't skip when running: the nano is my first ipod and I basically ordered it 5 minutes after reading the 'how can we destroy it' article here on /.

    I do plan to eventually get a 60gig one at some point, but right now the nano just hits the sweet spot for me in terms of durability, price, size and capacity.
  • by mildness (579534) <[moc.hpmab] [ta] [llib]> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:43PM (#13552361) Homepage
    This iPod is as susceptible to scratches as any of the previous plastic faced iPods. No news here. However, unlike the previous iPods I've bought, the nano does not come with a protective case, nor is one available aftermarket. Four weeks for availability is everyone's best guess.

    Not wanting to have a horribily disfigured iPod in four weeks I returned mine today.

    Cheers yo,

    Billy

  • by mrklin (608689) <ken@lin.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:43PM (#13552368)
    First, it was the the submitter who used the word "completely redesigned" not Ive, Job, or lazy journalist as you claimed.

    Second, even if the words "completely redesigned" was used, with a newer CPU, new PMU, HD replaced by solid-state RAM, new LCD, new casing, new click wheel and new software features, - I would say that statement is not far from the mark!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:47PM (#13552396)
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm an ergonomics scientist and appreciated the puck mouse for the very reasons you cite. The extra width offered by the circular design is very good for the hand. Were a traditionally-shaped mouse this wide at the point of finger contact, however, the mouse would be too large to use with the wrist anchored to the table (an ergonomics must). In short, the "puck" design achieved long-term health goals that almost no other mouse has duplicated.

    I should confess that I don't continue to use this mouse (both because I wanted more functionality and because I also occasionally had trouble orienting it successfully without looking at it). But to criticize it (as many do) as poor design is to not understand design.
  • the click wheel (Score:2, Interesting)

    by adrianmonk (890071) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:50PM (#13552428)

    OK, this is going to be a bit of a rant. The basic problem is, I don't get why people love the click wheel. Yeah, it looks cool and minimalist, but people are always raving about the iPod's user interface, and the click wheel just doesn't seem to be all that good in that department.

    Let me explain. I own an iPod Mini, and I like it. It looks cool, the battery life is quite good, and overall the user interface is well-designed. But, I primarily use this thing while I'm on the go (surprise). As such, I am usually doing something else while listening to music -- something that requires 95% of my attention. Namely, driving. I love that the iPod lets me have a bunch of songs in the car; previously I was keeping 10 or 15 CDs in the glove box, and I was always too lazy to change them out, so I wound up listening to the same music over and over and over.

    Enter the iPod. Now everything is great. I got a $5 cable from Radio Shack and wired the thing into my car stereo's aux input. I keep the thing in a pocket that's very convenient to reach even while I'm driving; in fact, I barely have to move my hand.

    So what's the problem? The problem is that the click wheel has no tactile feedback at all. It's just a big round thing, and pressing on it in different places does different things, but there is no way for your finger to tell where one place ends and the other begins. Would you want a keyboard that is perfectly flat and smooth across the top so that your fingers can't tell where one key stops and another starts? That's what the click wheel is like.

    The reason this bugs me is that 99.9% of the time, I put the thing on shuffle, and I often want to skip a particular song when it comes up (if I'm not in the mood for it). So I reach for the iPod and press the track skip button, or at least I try. Because this requires me to push the right quarter of the wheel, I often get it wrong and punch the play/pause button or the menu button instead. Pushing play/pause results in silence. This is particularly irritating because many of the songs on the iPod start with a fade-in or a quiet part, and it's hard when I'm in the car and there's ambient noise to tell if the iPod has stopped playing because I've hit the wrong button or if the song is just quiet. So I pretty much have to grab the iPod and pull it up into my field of view or wait 30 seconds. Or crank up the volume nearly all the way to hear the difference and hope I don't damage my hearing. (Well, my car stereo isn't that powerful, but you get the idea.)

    So, overall, I think the iPod does have a fairly good user interface, but I'd really much rather have the wheel and the buttons separate. The click wheel as it is makes the thing unnecessarily hard to use, and the only payoff you get in return is the "gee whiz" factor.

  • by guardiangod (880192) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:53PM (#13552459)
    my bet is that Apple didn't run their prototypes over with cars. Or did they??

    They probably did [arstechnica.com].

  • Re:Interesting quote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @06:55PM (#13552470) Homepage Journal
    No facts? How about history? What, do you think Apple would have graciously agreed to open up their hardware if they'd had a full-blown monopoly when they haven't done it even in the face of competition? Do you think they would have granted us wonderfully low prices when, again, they haven't already? Apple freakin' SUED when others dared to create a GUI interface in the 80s! I think the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that Apple would have somehow become a nicer company with a Monopoly instead of steadily more arrogant.

    The Truth is, Apple could not have become a Monopoly, because Apple more-or-less created Microsoft. Microsoft won because they embraced open hardware, which was exactly why Apple lost. So it's not really realistic to ask "what if" when the scenerio was pretty impossible anyway. If Microsoft hadn't won, someone else would have, and Apple would be in the same position they are now.

  • Re:the click wheel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zobeid (314469) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @07:02PM (#13552543)
    Just in case anybody forgot about them, my clunky first-generation iPod (still with its original battery, BTW) has the scroll wheel that physically turns and the buttons that physically move and click when pressed. And yeah, I like the controls just fine. I never saw a reason for all the hype about touch-sensitive controls. Maybe if I owned one, I would get it?

    On the other hand. . . When you look at the size of the "nano" and how the components were squeezed in there, it looks pretty doubtful whether mechanical controls could have been miniaturized enough to work in it.
  • Re:Too expensive? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by glucoseboy (686200) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @07:13PM (#13552638)
    The 4GB nano is the same price as the 4GB mini when it was launced. What's the issue here? The market proved that the price was fine and people bought it in droves. The nano will sell very well. I'm going to get one just as soon as I get my ipod battery credit ;-)
  • Re:Interesting quote (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @07:29PM (#13552767)
    I really don't think this is a "Microsoft or Apple" scenario. Microsoft, from the begining, was a software company. They popularized the idea of selling "licences" for software. Apple began as a hardware company. And they both wish to stay that way. Apple tried Mac clones and didn't like it.
  • by morcheeba (260908) * on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:18PM (#13553132) Journal
    That article mentions the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey [underview.com]... good comparison. If you scaled it, it's pretty close:

    nano dimensions: 3.5 x 1.6 x 0.27
    monolith ratio: 9 x 4 x 1
    scaled 0.4x: 3.6 x 1.6 x 0.4

    So, it's a slightly (3%) taller and 2/3rds the thickness of a monolith.
  • Re:Nine months ago? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toddestan (632714) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @08:49PM (#13553308)
    The Nano has its advantages and disadvantages. The Mini offered more storage at a cheaper price than the Nano, and I consider the Mini with its aluminum shell to be much better constructed than the Nano with the softer plastic scratches really easily. Probably the main issue though is that Apple saw 4 different lines of iPods to be too many.
  • by spoco2 (322835) on Tuesday September 13, 2005 @09:26PM (#13553491)
    You really never have held a managerial position, or considered this at all.

    Just because this is superior is no reason to replace a hugely successful product. Most, heck pretty much all, companies would say "Sure, go ahead, WORK on the next gen one, and we'll look to think about releasing it when the current hot model starts to loose some sales fizz".

    Most companies would never do this. Why would you? Why would you invest all the money to tool up and build these things on mass while you've got a product you spent heaps of money on out there recouping its development costs and reaping a tidy profit? Why would you? You wait until you can see you can make more money with the new product.

    Now... this is where Apple is being different... they are looking at the iPod Nano and thinking "You know what, this is going to be even bigger than the iPod and the Mini, probably combined. It's just too sweet a thing to wait on... let's go for it, let's release it now"

    I'm no Mac fanboy by any stretch, don't own any Apple hardware at all, but I can see this as a pretty bold move... and one that will pay handsomly.

    Bring out this before the competition has really had a chance to combat the mini... that's pretty darn smart.
  • Re:Interesting quote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mblase (200735) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @12:38PM (#13558819)
    Most of Apple's components are exactly the same as PCs, except sell for more.

    Respectfully disagree. I've got Macs that I've owned for five, ten years, maybe longer, and they work as well as they ever have. In contrast, it's pretty well-known that when you buy a $300-400 Windows-compatible PC from eMachines or Compaq, you're getting the cheapest possible components with the shortest possible warranty and the highest likelyhood of manufacturing defects.

    When you buy a cheap PC, you often get a cheap PC. When you buy a Mac, you're paying for quality control and professional design. (Yeah, in fact, it does cost more to shape a piece of plastic differently if you're the only one doing it and you had to research the best possible way to shape it.)

    As long as money exists, there are people who will prefer a cheaper computer to a more expensive one, even if it's less effective. This is why the iPod has "only" 75% marketshare instead of 95%, and why Apple computers could never have gotten the 90%+ marketshare Windows enjoys today.

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