This week, Apple introduced new versions of its popular iPod music player that give more capacity for the dollar, better battery life, and a better scroll wheel.
The result is the fourth-generation iPod. Changes in this version arent as radical as with the iPod mini introduced last year, but they look like nice enhancements that should make iPod fans happy. This version adopts the best feature of the mini—its thin profile and the excellent scroll wheel.
The new models include a 20GB version for $299 and a 40GB for $399. Pricing has definitely improved—the 20GB version will replace a 15GB model that was offered at the same price. Apples Web site is taking orders for these now, and Apple stores are expected to get the players later this week.
From a hardware perspective, the most obvious change is a clickable wheel like that on the iPod mini. This gives more feedback than the wheel used on older iPods, so many people find it easier to use. In addition, the new unit is about 1 mm thinner than previous iPods.
Apple says these units will deliver up to 12 hours of playback on a charge compared with the 8 of the earlier generation. Apple product manager Christi Wilkerson says the difference is mostly due to software modifications that enable lower power consumption. You can quick-charge the unit to 80 percent of total capacity in about 2 hours. A full charge takes about 4.
Other changes include some new playlist options, which incorporate an addition to the main menu called Shuffle Songs that randomly selects songs from your library. (You can still shuffle songs from a playlist, of course.) Another new feature lets you save your "on-the-go" playlists, which will sync with iTunes. Theres even an option that lets you adjust the speed of audio books, now.
The unit includes USB 2.0 and FireWire (IEEE 1394) connections for both charging and syncing—a big benefit for Windows users. Connectors remain the same as those of previous versions. Youll also find the current version of Apples iTunes software, which in recent months has added support for the Apple lossless compression codec. In a break from the past, though, neither unit includes a remote for the earphones. The 40GB version comes with a dock; the 20GB does not.
Unlike some competing players, this one does not have an FM tuner or broadcaster, nor can it record audio. Instead, Apple points to the large number of third-party iPod options. The updated units use the same connectors, so all of those options should work.
Over the next few days, well be testing our new iPod. Check back for more. In the meantime, check out our slideshow for more details.