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Computerized Investing > November 12, 2011

iPod nano—6th Generation; Version 1.2 Software

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

The iPod has revolutionized the way people experience media and has firmly entrenched Apple as the world’s leading technology company. With over 320 million sold, the iPod is the world’s most popular music player. The iPod family is made up of multiple offerings—the shuffle, the nano and the touch. In late 2010, Apple completely revamped its mid-range nano. Many viewed the new nano as a step backward, since features such as gaming, camera, video capture and playback, and the built-in speaker and microphone were dropped. In October, Apple released several enhancements to the nano software—now version 1.2—and lowered its price, making it more attractive to those looking for an unobtrusive music player.

Out of the Box

Your new nano comes with Apple earphones, a dock connector to USB cable and a Quick Start guide. The nano comes in two models—8G and 16G. The nano’s case is made out of polished anodized aluminum and comes in seven colors.

The nano has been referred to as an iPod shuffle with a screen, measuring 1.5 by 1.6 by 0.3 inches (height x width x depth) and weighing 0.7 ounces. If you are someone, like myself, who is prone to misplacing things, the nano’s small size can be a little worrisome. Luckily, there is a built-in clip on the back that allows you to fasten it to your shirt, coat or bag. However, the first thing I did was go out and buy a case to a) protect the nano and its screen from my clumsiness and b) add some mass to make the nano easier to locate (harder to lose).

The nano has a 1.54-inch diagonal touch-screen display with 240 by 240p resolution.

On the top panel of the nano are the volume and power buttons, while on the bottom panel you will find the 30-pin connector for USB syncing and charging and the headphone jack. Unlike the iPod touch, the nano has no physical track or play/pause buttons. To activate these functionalities, you have to use the touch screen or upgrade your headphones to ones with a built-in remote.

While the fifth-generation nano had a built-in microphone, this feature is missing from the sixth-generation nano. The sixth-generation nano does allow you to record voice memos, but you would need to buy headphones with a built-in mic.

If you don’t already have Apple iTunes, you will need to download and install it in order to set up your nano. iTunes is available for free from the Apple website. With iTunes you can select music, audiobooks and podcasts to add to your nano.

Home Screens

One of the biggest changes with the new nano is the redesigned user interface. Whereas the old interface was similar to that of the iPod touch, with small icons arranged two by two and spread across multiple screens, the new interface gives users a horizontally scrolling set of icons viewed one at a time (you can opt to use the old format by changing the settings). To navigate between icons you swipe your finger right or left. You can rearrange the order of the icons and disable or enable them depending on your needs or preferences.


With the nano’s MultiTouch Display, you tap the Music icon to browse by song titles, albums, artists, playlists, genres or composers. You can also customize the nano’s Home screens to organize your music as you wish. With the Now Playing icon you can pause, advance or rewind tracks.

The sound quality is quite good, provided you upgrade the headphones. Personally, I have never liked the standard headphones that come with all Apple products. I find the sound quality to be substandard and the headphones to be extremely uncomfortable to wear for any length of time. Luckily, there are a number of reasonably priced, high-quality headphones available that also offer a built-in Apple-compatible remote and mic. I strongly urge you to make an investment in a pair of these, no matter what iPod you purchase.

If you give the nano a shake while it is playing music, it will shuffle your playlist and randomly play songs.


The original sixth-generation nano supported the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, which was an add-on combination of a shoe-mounted sensor and a dock connector–based wireless receiver that allowed you to keep track of your workouts. Version 1.2 of the nano software has a built-in accelerometer that provides real-time feedback without the need for the shoe sensor or the additional receiver. The nano can track your distance, pace, time and the number of steps you have taken. You can then upload the data to the Nike + website to track your results over time. Also, you can connect the nano to Nike + iPod–compatible cardio machines to keep track of each workout.

Watch Faces

The clock application that originally came with the sixth-generation nano only had two clock faces from which to choose. With version 1.2 of the nano software, there are 16 new clock faces. Apple’s Disney and Muppet licenses allow the company to offer clock faces featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Kermit the Frog and Animal. If your tastes are a little more adult-like, there are also digital, analog and hybrid digital-analog faces. Given the nano’s form factor, a number of watch band accessories are now available that allow you to wear it as a wristwatch.

When you are within the clock application, swiping right or left brings up stopwatch and timer features.

FM Radio

One attractive feature of the iPod nano is its built-in FM radio; it is the only Apple iPod model to offer this feature.

I really like the Local Stations option. Tap it and the nano will automatically scan the airwaves and list all of the local stations. This is an especially helpful function if you are in a new location and you don’t know the local radio stations.

Another unique feature available with the nano’s radio is the 15-minute rewind. You can pause a song or radio program and continue where you left off. Furthermore, you can rewind by as much as 15 minutes or fast-forward to catch up with the live broadcast.

You have the option of saving an unlimited number of favorite stations.


Apple rates the built-in lithium-ion battery as having 24 hours of continuous playback.


If I had been a user of the fifth-generation iPod nano, I probably would have been somewhat disappointed with the sixth-generation model, given how many functionalities Apple took away. Having never used the features that the sixth-generation nano doesn’t have, I don’t miss them. For the last few years I have been listening to my iPod touch while at the gym. However, I never really liked the bulk of the touch, especially having it strapped to my arm while working out. With the nano I have a small form-factor music player with amazing storage capacity. Furthermore, it has on-board fitness tracking capabilities and FM radio; all this starting at $129 for the 8G model. If you are looking for video playback or gaming capabilities, you would want a larger screen anyway. Thus, in the end, I think the iPod nano is a perfect choice for those looking for music, radio and fitness capabilities in an extremely small and economical package.


  • Fitness+ application tracks walking and running workouts
  • Extremely small form factor
  • FM radio with 15-minute rewind


  • Sub-standard headphones provided
  • May be too small for some, especially for those with large hands

iPod nano—6th Generation; Version 1.2 Software

$129 (8G) or $149 (16G) (currently $129 for 8G from or $149 for 16G)


Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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