Apple Press Briefing: New iPods and iTunes 8
In the middle of September, Tony Li, Apple's product marketing director, Asia-Pacific demonstrated the latest version of iTunes and the new iPods in Bangkok.
He began with a run down of company statistics, including iPods sold and tunes downloaded from the online store (160,000,000), then examined iTunes, now version 8, focussing on the Genius playlist feature, plus the new grid view and the updated visualiser, which he demonstrated using a Thongchai McIntyre song.
The Genius playlist feature needs an account to be created with the iTunes store: information from a user's music library is used, with other users' data, by Apple's algorithm to create suggestions. Tony was at pains to point out that personal data is not used, trying to allay some privacy fears.
The iPods have all been updated to a degree, although with the iPod shuffle, this is limited to some colour changes. The shuffle has no screen and Apple wants this to be, "The DJ in your pocket" as once loaded onto the device, we never know what tune is coming next. There are two models available here: 1GB (240 songs) and 2GB (500 songs) for 2,290 baht and 3,190 baht respectively.
Tony then looked at the fourth generation iPod nano, which is Apple's most popular iPod. The squat shape of the previous version has gone and it is now closer to the profile of the earlier nano: long and thin. It has had a total redesign, however, internally and externally. While there is a return to the rectangular shape, the body cross section is a slim oval, which fits neatly into the hand. The 2" screen is now in a portrait format, but using the same accelerometers as in iPhones, the image will rotate to give a widescreen view for viewing movies. When a tune is playing, the album cover changes to Apple's scrolling Cover View, enabling a user to flick through the collection.
The menu system has been updated and now includes the Genius facility which works once activated on iTunes and when the iPod has been synchronised. All iPods can now display Thai text. The split screen of before has been changed with menus at the top and related images to the bottom of the screen. Included in the software is a voice recording feature.
What Tony did not bring out was a new feature (off by default), similar to one in OS X Universal Preferences to assist those with seeing difficulties: menus are read out by a voice. The default voice is English, but third party developers may come up with other langauges.
Battery life has again been improved and now lasts for 24 hours when playing music (4 hours for video). In addition to the two games on the previous nano, Maze, a game which uses the accelerometer is also now installed.
The nano comes in a wider range of colours that Apple calls, "nano-chromatic" although the red one (Product Red) is only available via online purchasing. The nano is available in two sizes here: 8GB (2,000 songs) and 16GB (4,000 songs) at 6,290 and 8,290 baht. There is a 4GB version in some markets. There are no plans as yet for this to be sold in Thailand.
There are three versions of the iPod on sale here: 8GB (8,890 baht), 16GB (11,490 baht) and 32GB (15,290 baht). These prices are lower than for the earlier touch.
Tony mentioned several accessories available for iPods. He told us about two new sets of headphones which will be available in October. A basic set with ear buds and controls with a microphone and a set with "woofer and tweeter" plus the controls and the microphone. These are priced at 1,498 and 2,900 baht.
I have compared the prices in the US with the prices for Thailand. When import duties and VAT (7%) are factored in, the difference is fairly small. I look forward to having a longer look at these new models: perhaps in a week or so.
For a fuller report, see also the Bangkok Diary page on the press briefing.
See also, my look at iTunes 8.
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