Apple Announces New iPod Nano and iTunes 8

Tuesdays are typically the day the Apple reserves to make big announcements, and today was such a day for Apple. Steve Jobs took to the stage Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco to announce a number of new iPod-related products and new iTunes features. Apple billed the press event as "Let's Rock." Here's what's new:

  • iTunes will start offering some TV shows in HD format for $2.99 (SD shows stay at $1.99).
  • NBC is coming back to iTunes. Which means shows such as The Office, 30 Rock, and Battlestar Galactica will be available for download from iTunes once again. And they will be available in HD.
  • iTunes 8 was also just officially announced. It adds a new feature called "Genius," which automatically generates playlists based on songs in your library that "go together." Your iTunes Library data is automatically and anonymously uploaded to the iTunes "cloud," where it helps feed the Genius recommendation engine. As Genius collects more information it "gets smarter" over time. Genius will generate a playlist with just a single click, with results "tailored to your tastes and library." Genius will work with music, movies, and TV shows. iTunes 8 is available now for download from Apple's site.
  • The iPod classic will only be available in the thin version now (there will be no more thick version). It will only be available in a 120GB version and sell for $249.

  • The "thinnest iPod" to date was also announced today: the new iPod Nano. It is tall, thin, and comes in a curved (oval) aluminum design with a curved glass display. It will be available in nine different colors, which Apple refers to as "nano-chromatic." It uses a new UI that takes advantage of a built-in accelerometer (the same one that is in the iPod touch and the iPhone). You can view album art via Cover Flow, photos, movies, and TV shows in widescreen format by turning the Nano sideways. Also, pushing and holding the center button invokes Genius. Shaking the Nano will shuffle to another song. The 8GB versions will sell for $199 and should be in stock in a few days. The 16GB versions will cost $199 and should be available by this coming weekend. Apple claims the new Nano should support 24 hours of battery life for music and 4 hours for video. The new Nano is also more environmentally friendly: Apple claims that it uses arsenic-free glass, it is BFR-free, Mercury free, PVC-free, and is "highly recyclable."

  • Apple also unveiled a number of new iPod accessories, such as a new set of $29 headphones that include controls for pause/play, volume, next/previous track, and a microphone for voice recording. Also, Apple will be selling a new set of $79 in-ear headphones that include two drivers (woofer and tweeter) and will ship with three earbuds.
  • A new iPod touch was also unveiled today. It uses the same multi-touch display as the current iPod touch, but it comes in a thinner, contoured, stainless steel design. The new iPod touch adds a number of new features, such as a built-in speaker, a physical volume control on the side of the player, and integrated Nike+ functionality (you will still need a pair of Nike+ shoes to utilize this feature). The UI has been tweaked to include, among other things, support for Genius. Apple claims battery life has improved as well, with 36 hours of audio or 6 hours of video. The new iPod touch is available now. The 8GB version sells for $229, the 16GB version costs $299, and the 32GB version is $399.
  • Last on the docket was the announcement that a 2.1 firmware update will be available for the iPhone as of this Friday as a free upgrade to iPhone users. Apple promises that the new firmware will fix lots of bugs, will drop fewer calls, will improve battery life, will not crash with Apps, and will perform quicker backups.