The future is cloud-based. We’re all beginning to rely on streaming music from Internet radio services, and more. We, as consumers, are being shepherded into using cloud-based services and it’s a future built on mobile data, smartphones and a constantly on-the-go lifestyle. Who has time to meticulously file, name and assemble a music collection anymore? Why bother, when you can just fire up your favorite station on Pandora? The old method is, in truth, slowly being killed off. The iPod as we know it will someday disappear.

 What is the What

The iPod nano, now in its seventh generation, has seen more evolutions than any gadget in recent memory. For the most part, Apple has favored the tall, slender look, but there have been some deviations along the way; almost experiments to see how receptive consumers would be to a unfamiliar design. First it was tall and skinny, and then short and fat, and back to tall and skinny. Then Apple introduced a small square design, and now it’s back to tall and skinny again.

 Who Might Buy It

People who like to exercise. People with medium-sized music collections. People who want a barebones MP3 player. Smartphones are delicate, especially around weights and concrete and other outdoor elements. Let an iPod nano take all the risk, and not your precious smartphone.

 What’s Good

It looks and feels pretty fantastic. At just 5.4 mm thick, you can slip it in your shirt pocket and almost forget it’s there. The build quality stays close to the rest of Apple’s product lineup by adhering to an aluminum unibody design. This time, though, Apple offers the device in a variety of colors, exactly like the company’s new iPod touches. It’s fun to just hold between two fingers because it’s so thin and light. And its lightness — and overall design, really — make exercising with it easy.  That’s exactly why Nike+ is there by default.

There’s also a 2.5-inch touchscreen that’s just as responsive as any other Apple gear out there, and it’s just big enough where pressing onscreen buttons isn’t a chore. Swiping through screens is a cinch, and navigating Apple’s “nano OS” — basically a stripped down representation of iOS — is simple. Any other iPod you’ve used before is made better by the touchscreen and familiar software.

For being so small, battery life was decent and lasted close to Apple’s advertised 30 hours when strictly listening to music. I’ve read reports of others getting much less (and reports hitting Apple estimates) so it sounds like experiences will differ from user to user. That’s a bummer.

Crucially, Bluetooth is included which basically every car and accessory supports nowadays. You can use it in the car — you probably use your smartphone anyway — or at home with a Jambox or similar product. Again, you probably use your smartphone with accessories as well, but the option is there, which is certainly nice. Additionally, the inclusion of Bluetooth means you can use the nano to connect to a Nike+ sensor, which is something avid exercisers will likely use.

 

For being so small, battery life was decent and lasted close to Apple’s advertised 30 hours when strictly listening to music.

 What’s Bad

 The whole file organization and syncing thing. Nobody has time for that. If your music library is well organized and not too big, then it’s not such a big deal… especially if you’re moving most of it to the cloud. However, it’s obvious people still want to locally store their music and access their libraries without an Internet connection. That’s fine and good, and you can do that if you want. In fact, the iPod nano does that very well. But that model for consuming music is archaic and time consuming. I prefer not having to deal with this method, but some people will disagree.

While you can view videos and look at photos, the screen is far too small for either to be an enjoyable experience. I don’t even like watching videos on my smartphone, which has a much bigger screen. This is an MP3 player, after all, with a few supplemental features that a handful of users will take advantage of. Still, it would have felt a bit silly if Apple didn’t include the ability to view and organize either media, so I’m not dinging it for adding bonus features.

 

 Does it Belong in the Herd?

If you’re the type of user who still enjoys the experience of an MP3 player, then yes. Absolutely. Apple is still the best manufacturer of portable music players, there’s no question about that. The design is sleek, thin, light and it’s simple enough to use if you can get over using iTunes to sync and managing hundreds or thousands of files. At $150, it might make a nice stocking stuffer for an exercise junkie or maybe for a unique type of person who doesn’t own a smartphone, such as my grandparents.

As far as dedicated music players go, Apple’s latest iPod nano is great. But how many people actually use a dedicated music player anymore, especially those of us who own a smartphone? There are certainly people out there who want one, but in the age of mobile data and streaming and popular services like Spotify, you’re probably better served spending that $150 elsewhere.