Apple's re-launch of the iPod range is becoming an annual event. For fans of everything Apple this means that the portable music devices that we all thought were the last word are now so last year – which no doubt accounts for Apple's successful trading results in recent years!
For those who like to trade up their iPod each year along with their mobile phone, this is what's new for 2010:
New iPod shuffle – looks similar to the old design, now with the familiar big clickable control pad on the front. It may not have a screen, but click on the VoiceOver button and it speaks the playlist name, track name or artist. Very cool and a bargain at £39. If you're a jogger or a gym regular, you need one of these even if you have bigger iPods too – you've less to lose or drop in a puddle, and they weigh virtually nothing.
New iPod nano – only half the size and weight of the previous model, this one now looks like a shuffle (it even has a clip on the back) but with a 1.5 inch multi-touch screen covering virtually the whole of the front. Sadly, the innovative video camera didn't make it into the shrunk-down design so last year's nano will remain popular with users who want more than a music player. Which is probably Apple's plan – a lot of nano fans will probably want to own both!
New iPod touch – a real disappointment for those – like me – who bought a touch earlier this year. The new model really is now everything you need in a mobile device that isn't a phone, and all the core features have been improved. The camera that went missing from the Nano reappears in the new touch, except there's two of them, one of which is front-facing, so you can use it to make video calls via a Wi-Fi connection and the new FaceTime application. The other camera and built-in microphone allow you to record HD quality videos. The new 960x640 Retina display looks absolutely gorgeous, even better than the old screen which was pretty impressive itself. Using Apple's new A4 processor, same as the iPad and iPhone 4, gives improved battery life and speed, which along with the built-in three-axis gyroscope (no, I don't know what it is either, but it means you can control games by moving and tilting the device!) should attract more gamers to this device. Of more use to business users is the fact that the touch will run all iPhone apps that don't require GPS (or a telephone, of course!). At £189 - £329 it's not a cheap toy by any means, but it's probably the best portable Wi-Fi Web browsing device of its type, and for that alone it could be justified as an “essential” business tool for accountants on the move.
1 September also saw the launch of the all-new Apple TV device, a £99 box that will stream HD movies, YouTube videos, music and photos via Wi-Fi to your TV set and home cinema system. This is the device you need to make sense of that surround sound home cinema system you were looking at, because now you can play your iTunes music library over that system via the TV connection. Kiss goodbye to the standalone hi-fi system! Apple obviously hope to earn revenue from online video rentals via this device, but even without that it could be a handy link to make your home entertainment system talk to your computer.