New iPods: The unanswered questions

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After we posted our reviews of the new iPod shuffle, iPod nano, and iPod touch, we got questions from readers about things we didn’t specifically cover in those reviews. Here are answers to some of those questions.

iPod touch

Q. Does the iPad Camera Connection Kit work with the iPod touch?

A: It works to this extent: When you attach the USB dongle to the iPad and string the dock connector cable between the iPod touch and iPad, the iPad will see and copy images from the iPod touch. (So, it works the same way as it does with the iPhone 4.) However, you can’t copy images from your camera to the iPod touch via the camera connector.

Q: Does iTunes’ Crossfade feature work on the iPod touch?

A: No. Audio crossfades are supported on the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-generation iPod nanos, but not on the iPod touch.

Q: How does the screen compare to the IPhone 4. It seems to be lacking IPS technology, so the viewing angles are not as good. What about the contrast ratio? When using the iPhone 4 I cannot help but notice how truly black the blacks are displayed. Can you say the same thing about the iPod touch?

A: You’re correct, the off-angle viewing is not as good on the iPod touch. Angle each to around 45 degrees and the iPod touch is more difficult to view. Specifically, if you angle the iPod touch to the left, you see more yellow in the display. Angle to the right and the display is bluer. Angle it down and the display gets a little purple.

Q: Does the iPod touch’s rear-facing camera take High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos?

A: No, HDR is supported only on the iPhone 4.

Q: How does the 4G iPod touch compare with previous generation iPods in terms of audio quality?

A: We’re at the point now where it’s reasonably safe to say “It sounds like an iPod,” which is why you rarely see a review that makes more than a general claim about the audio quality (high-end audiophile publications being the exception). If this iPod (or any iPod, for that matter) sounded markedly different, we would mention it. It doesn’t.

All that said, if you’re an audiophile with great ears and top-end equipment, it always pays to audition your audio gear. Those with “pea under mattress” hearing may detect audio anomalies that those with untrained ears don’t detect. If you routinely listen to iPods with less-than-stellar gear—the included headphones, for example—that gear is the first problem you should solve, not the iPod.

Q: What are the capabilities of the device’s camera for macro photography? How close can you get to objects before the camera loses focus?

A: You can get about three to four inches from your subject before you lose focus. When you move closer the camera doesn’t go wildly out of focus, but images definitely get much softer.

Q: Can you adjust gain on the built-in mic?

A: No—no iPod or iPhone has provided that capability.

iPod nano

Q: How can you first say how much better the nano’s touchscreen is and then turn around say how difficult it is to use? Sounds more gimmicky than functional.

A: The Multi-Touch interface offers dramatic improvements over a Click Wheel for a good number of functions. However, as explained in the review, the benefits of Multi-Touch are limited by the new nano’s tiny screen.

Q: Do the three buttons do anything when you’re not playing music? It seems you should be able to hold the Sleep/Wake button to start VoiceOver and navigate it with the volume buttons as before. Or use the volume buttons in a list view to scroll through the list.

A: Unfortunately, no. The Sleep/Wake button does nothing other than its name implies. The only way to use the VoiceOver features are to enable the full VoiceOver interface—which dramatically alters how you interact with the iPod nano—or to purchase a set of headphones with an inline remote control. (The latter approach lets you hear information about the current track and the iPod’s battery level, as well as switch between playlists using audible prompts.)

Q: Does the 6G Nano have a speaker inside? The previous model lets you to play music without headphones connected. This comes in handy to share your new music discoveries with others.

A: No. Unlike the 5G iPod nano, the new model has no speaker.

iPod shuffle

Q: Do the volume controls on Apple’s or other companies’ three-button headphones work on the new shuffle?

A: We’ve tested a good number of three-button headphones, and while the volume buttons on most of these models do adjust the shuffle’s volume, that’s not the case for every model. We’ve asked Apple for clarification but haven’t heard back yet.

Updated 9/9/10 1PM to correct information about crossfade feature on iPod nano.

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