Friday, November 19, 2010

iPod nano review -- as a watch

iPod nano watchbands -- they're everywhere! Seriously, ever since Steve Jobs said that an unnamed Apple board member jokingly planned to wear the new nano as a watch, we've seen all shapes and sizes of wristbands designed to put the diminutive media player on your wrist, ranging from the super-basic to the super-silly to the super-amazing. But hold up -- yes, we thought the new nano was a great little media player when we first reviewed it, but why hasn't anyone talked about what it's like to wear one as your watch? Is replacing your current timepiece with the nano's 1.5-inch 240 x 240 multitouch displayactually a good idea? We took the nerd-bullet for you and wore one for a week to find out -- read on!

First things first: you've got to get the nano on a band. That's actually pretty easy -- not only are there a million accessory manufacturers out there willing to sell you a nano-specific band, you can also clip it onto pretty much any bigger watchband you can find. Just make sure you can tighten things down so the nano doesn't slide around -- the white band we used didn't have any adjustments so the nano felt a bit precarious. We didn't have any problems, though -- the nano's clip is definitely strong enough to survive normal use. Of course, it's a bit huge -- we tend to favor large watches, so we didn't think it was a problem, but if you have dainty wrists it might look a little silly.

Next, head into Settings / Date & Time and turn on "Time On Wake," which pops open the clockface when you hit the wake button instead of dropping you right into the homescreen. Without this setting flipped on, you're just a dork with an iPod on your wrist. You also get a choice between white and black clock face backgrounds, and... that's about it. Turns out you're going to be a dork with an iPod on your wrist no matter what, because displaying the time when the wake switch is pressed is pretty much the only watch-type function you're going to find here beyond the stopwatch and timer. And here's the biggest problem: you can't just glance at your wrist and check the time! The screen is completely dark when it's asleep, so you have to reach over and hit the wake button with your other hand to see the time, and worst of all, hitting the wake button doesn't light the screen up instantly -- there's a significant and noticeable delay of over half a second before the clock is displayed. We'd love to see something like theNokia N8's AMOLED screen tech that dimly self-illuminates with zero power draw to display a clock while asleep used here -- it feels like a perfect solution.

Of course, you can always plug in headphones and listen to music, but it turns out having a wire connecting your head to your wrist isn't as ideal as you might imagine. Not only do you have to make sure your headphone cord is long enough for your height to avoid yanking the buds right out of your ears, but you also have to be ever-vigilant that you're not tangling things with every move of your hands. Besides, if you're the type of person who's wearing an iPod nano as a watch, well, we're going to go out on a limb and say you have a smartphone, and that's almost certainly a better music playback experience than the nano.