The iPod family gets a facelift

Since its unveiling back in Oct. 2001, the iPod has become a phenomenon. To date, Apple has successfully marketed five generations of the iPod. Those hip, rhythmically astute, otherwise featureless figures from the commercials have not yet ceased their dance mania. And with the advent of colorful, second generation Nanos and Shuffles, it is apparent that Apple founder Steve Jobs has no intention of resting on his laurels just yet.

The iPod

Apple has decidedly axed the 60 GB iPod and replaced it with an 80 GB model. It has a 60 percent brighter display and is 30 percent thinner than the 4th generation, but don’t let the size fool you: this one holds up to 20,000 songs. Luckily, a new search feature has been added to the music submenu. No more scrolling for hours upon end. Or, try 25,000 photos. And with its capacity of 100 hours of video, you can download whole movies from the iTunes store and watch them in the very palm of your hand. The battery life grew to 20 hours of music play, and 6 _ for videos. For those of us that can’t fathom 20,000 songs, Apple has reserved the 30 GB (7,500 songs).

The Shuffle

According to Steve Jobs, the new Shuffle (available in October) is claimed to be the smallest MP3 player in the world. Less than half the size of the original Shuffle, it is even more durable (anodized aluminum reminiscent of the iPod Mini), and wearable, sporting a built-in clip. It is now 1 GB, and capable of gapless audio playback. The only shortcoming of this little engine that could is its lack of an integrated USB interface. Unlike the first generation, you have to use the new bundled USB dock. Just make sure you don’t lose it in the wash.

The Nike+iPod Sport Kit and the Nano

Just a few months ago, Apple and Nike teamed up for the release of the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. Only the running enthusiasts will really consider the investment, but the fusion is ingenious. The Sport Kit includes a tiny adapter for the Nano and a small medallion-like pedometer for the running shoes. With these devices the Nano records stats such as distance traveled, pace, calories burned, and time elapsed. (This will come in handy when all the treadmills are taken at the Fitness Center.) An optional voice prompt will inform you of mileage and time. If in need of further motivation, simply activate the PowerSong feature. It’s like an MP3 player, pedometer, and personal trainer all in one.

All gadgetry aside, the new Nanos received a makeover this fall. It is as if the Nano and its predecessor the Mini produced a hybrid: the new Nano is even sleeker, more durable boasting anodized aluminum, has a longer battery life of 24 hours and a 40 percent brighter display, and comes in five colors. Like the larger iPod, it is also capable of gapless playback. An 8 GB model was added to the lineup, capable of 2,000 songs and 25,000 photos.

There are, however, certain drawbacks. The color selection varies depending on capacity. The 2 GB is inflexibly silver; the 4 GB in silver, pink, green, or blue; the 8 GB in black. And despite the advantageous aesthetic improvements, Apple has been rather lax on competing with other MP3 players, which are capable of recording and feature FM radios. You can, of course, buy accessories for that.