Of all the things that Apple announced last week the one I can’t get out of my head is the iPod nano. It is by far the least consequential of all the products updated. iPod sales are falling off quickly as more people carry phones that can play music. The iPod classic and iPod shuffle haven’t been changed in years and it seems like the iPod touch only gets updated to keep it in line with the iPhone. And yet, as John Gruber and Om Malik pointed out on last week’s The Talk Show, the nano shared the stage with Apple’s most consequential product, the iPhone.
But is it really inconsequential? Or is Apple giving us a hint of the future?
First, let me lay out the current situation when it comes to Apple’s new devices and pricing. The iPhone 5 ranges in price from $449 to $649 without a contract (after November 8). The iPod touch is either $299 or $399 and the iPod nano is $149. Let’s line that up:
- iPhone 5 with 64GB: $649
- iPhone 5 with 32GB: $549
- iPhone 5 with 16GB: $449
- iPod touch with 64GB: $399
- iPod touch with 32GB: $299
- iPod nano: $149
No price overlap, a perfect pricing umbrella.
But these products aren’t connected, you say? The iPhone 5 does a lot more than the iPod touch which does a lot more than the iPod nano. But is that really true, in particular between the iPod touch and iPhone? Once upon a time these were very different devices. The iPod screen stunk, the camera was mediocre, the processor was slow. Now? The iPod touch, especially to the average consumer, is basically the same as an iPhone from a hardware perspective. So what’s the difference? The only difference is that the iPod touch is wifi only and the iPhone has a cellular chip. Over wifi the iPod touch can make phone calls (Skype and FaceTime), send messages, whatever. In other words, Apple could easily reconfigure this part of the product line to look a lot like the iPad, dropping the iPod touch name altogether:
- iPhone 5 with wifi & LTE, 64GB: $649
- iPhone 5 with wifi & LTE, 32GB: $549
- iPhone 5 with wifi & LTE, 16GB: $449
- iPhone 5 with wifi only, 64GB: $399
- iPhone 5 with wifi only, 32GB: $299
What about the nano? It doesn’t even run iOS. But look at the thing:
If you didn’t know it didn’t run iOS, you’d have no idea. Apple went out of their way to change the iPod nano, a device whose sales are most likely falling off, to look an awful lot like an iPhone or iPod touch even though it isn’t. It is even multi-touch capable. Could the next generation run iOS, handle entry via voice, and offer cellular calling?
Apple today uses various generations of iPhones to cover a wide umbrella of price points. I am speculating that Apple, in the future, could use three different devices to do the same thing they do today. At the high-end, a pro 4″ screened device, at the mid-tier a classic 3.5″ screened device, and at the low end a nano 2.5″ screened device. Instead of each device coming with a cellular chip, 3G/LTE would be optional just like on the iPad. The iPod line goes away and Apple ends up with an iPhone pro, iPhone classic and iPhone nano filling in the product line.
- iPhone pro (64GB): $649
- iPhone pro (32GB): $549
- iPhone pro (16GB): $449
- iPhone classic (64GB): $399
- iPhone classic (32GB): $299
- iPhone nano: $149
I like straight lines and simplistic presentation, just like Apple. The current line-up is confusing at best and it seems to me that the differences between iPhone, iPod touch and iPod nano are quietly blurring. A future where cellular technology is optional — just like the iPad — seems like a safe bet. If this happens, I’d expect it two years from now.