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A tale of two iPods: Why the Touch has no camera

  • Story Highlights
  • Apple upgraded its iPod Nano with a video camera, not its iPod Touch
  • Nano's video camera is a direct challenge to Flip's tiny, no-zoom camcorder
  • Nano has an FM radio with live pausing, rewinding and ability to tag tracks in iTunes
  • Perhaps Apple is putting the Touch on a two-year update plan like the iPhone
By Charlie Sorrel
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(WIRED) -- Apple's decision to not include a camera in the new iPod Touch is somewhat surprising. After all, there is already a perfect camera for the job, and it sits inside the iPhone.

By not adding a camera to its iPod Touch, Apple may boost sales of its iPod Nano.

By not adding a camera to its iPod Touch, Apple may boost sales of its iPod Nano.

That Apple included a video camera inside the iPod Nano makes this more inexplicable still -- the Apple of today is clearly happy to put cameras into its media players (unlike the first iPhone, whose camera was so poor we thought it was just a petulant capitulation to cellphone norms).

Leaving the camera out is also a clear signal not to upgrade the Touch, as -- apart from a larger 64GB model -- the only hardware change is the juiced-up processor, making the iPod Touch run faster like its older brother the iPhone 3GS.

Perhaps Apple is putting the Touch on a two-year update plan like the iPhone, letting people keep their pocket computers for a little longer than usual.

Had the Touch included a camera, I would be knocking on the store doors right now to buy one, along with 64GB ready to be filled with photos and video.

So the excitement falls to the Nano, which, sports a new shiny coating, a 640 x 480 video camera (no stills) and a larger screen on the outside, and an FM radio on the inside with a Tivo-esque live-pause feature. The radio itself is odd enough, and the first to be included in any iPod. More on that in a moment.

The Nano's video camera was introduced with reference to Flip's own tiny, no-zoom camcorder. There are two Flip camcorders at the 8GB Nano's $150 price: the 2GB Mino and the 4GB Ultra. To get 4GB and 8GB you jump to $200. The 16GB Nano costs $180.

Why would somebody buy a Flip? The easy, one button recording, perhaps (with the Nano, you need to go to a menu item to open the video camera application), but that's it. Take a look at the sample videos at the Apple store and you'll see that the Nano's quality is easily "good enough."

There is another surprise in there, too. The tiny Nano frame has a chip big enough to add real-time effects to video. Gimmicky, but as we guess this is aimed at the teenage market, a nice feature.

The Nano is the fitness iPod, too, and in this guise it makes another piece of hardware obsolete: The shoe-mounted Nike+ dongle. The Nano comes with the Nike+ software, with workout history, power songs and the like, but the accelerometer now works as a pedometer, counting your steps to flab-loss. You can also connect it to a Nike + iPod compatible cardio-machine via the dock connector.

One mystery remains, though. Why would Apple put an FM tuner into an iPod, something it has refused for almost ten years? The answer comes with iTunes-Tagging. In addition to live pausing of the radio stream (and rewinding up to 15 minutes through the buffer) you can tag tracks by hitting the center button.

If a radio station supports it, the song info is saved and later you can see a list in iTunes alongside, you guessed it, the option to buy the song. Of course, the fact that the new Zune HD has an HD radio inside may also have influenced Apple's decision.

So now I'm torn. Do I buy a new Touch to replace my current model which has a loose headphone connection, or should I get the Nano, with its video camera and sport-friendly features?

If Apple had piled the features onto the Touch, the decision would be made, and Apple would have $400 of my money. As it is, I think I'll wait.

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Copyright 2009 Wired.com.

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