October 4, 2005 5:57 pm

Latest Apple’s a pippin

It is often said that the story of Apple is one of the triumph of design rather than technology.

That’s as maybe – and the company’s products are undeniably stylish – but equally you need to have really good technology to fit 1,000 songs on to a gadget the size of a business card, notwithstanding problems with its screen.

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And that’s the iPod Nano. “Impossibly small,” according to the marketing campaign accompanying its recent launch. Well, obviously not, but improbably small, certainly.

So tiddly is it, in fact, that Apple should have considered fitting it with one of those whistle alarms so fashionable a few year’s back, because woe betide you if you misplace it. You might never see it again.

Small it might be, but size does not seem to diminish performance. The iconic circular dial is as responsive as on other models and the sound is excellent.

There do not appear to be any power problems. I haven’t timed the battery life with a stop watch but it got me through one day’s commuting – about three hours – and a couple more hours in the office without needing a top-up.

The only flaw in the Nano is the screen. Apple has already admitted that the display is not standing up well to everyday wear and tear.

The great selling point of the Nano is that its ultra-slim form fits perfectly into the pocket of a pair of jeans, but my experience suggests that users might not want to carry it that way. After a couple of days in my Levis, the screen already has a couple of scars.

At the moment it’s not a problem – and certainly hasn’t altered my opinion that the Nano is completely marvellous – but care will be needed to ensure the screen remains readable.

But this does not appear to have any impact on reliability. One reviewer in the US drove over a unit twice in a BMW, and threw it from the moving car. It survived both ordeals and only stopped playing when launched out of a window 50 ft up.

■Apple and iPod users have benefited over the past couple of years from an explosion in accessories.

Logitech has added to an impressive list with its MM50 portable speakers. Slim and lightweight, their stylish white design will appeal to those attracted to the iPod in the first place.

The sound quality is excellent and battery power more than adequate.

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