Apple’s new flash-based iPod nano may appear to be just a scaled-down version of it’s hard-drive equipped siblings, but look closely and you’ll find a few significant changes that have nothing to do with what kind of storage scheme it employs. These changes not only help make the nano smaller and cooler than any display-bearing iPod we’ve seen before, they also create a challenge for third-party accessory vendors who sell iPod add-ons.
The most notable change, as far as developers are concerned, is the lack of a remote control port—the little slot next to the headphone jack on full-sized iPods and the now-discontinued iPod mini. Currently, it’s the main impediment preventing developers from flooding the market with new nano nicknacks. But consumers should rest assured that despite the dearth of nano-specific products currently on the market, there should be plenty available in time for Christmas.
Although lots of existing accessories, particularly those that use the dock or headphone jack, will work with the nano, that isn’t the case for everything. Many current accessories —particularly FM transmitters, remotes, and voice recorders—rely on the 9-pin remote control port.
Its absence, along with the new bottom-side headphone jack configuration, means that users should expect lots of brand new, ground-up products from third-party developers in the coming months. Although none of the developers Playlist spoke with would reveal specific release dates for upcoming products, all offered assurances that your beloved FM transmitters, cases, car adapters, and other assorted gee-gaws are already in development and are well on the way.
“We’re working on a slew of products,” Belkin’s iPod accessory manager Ron Decamp tells Playlist , noting that the company has many more products that it expects to ship by the holidays. The company states it already has several products in development that should go into production within a few weeks.
“We fully expect to have a full line of products out there by November or December,” says Decamp.
Likewise, Griffin Technology’s Jason Litchford tells Playlist it too will offer lots of accessories by the holidays.
“Naturally we’re looking at revamping our whole product line to make it nano-compatible,” says Litchford. “We expect to have some stuff out by the end of the year.”
John Lin, CEO of TEN Technology, makers of popular iPod remote controls, also expects that his company will have a few shipping nano-specific products by year’s end, with several more on the way by the second quarter of next year.
“We had already been planning [a remote] that would work in the dock so that it would work with all the dock connector-equipped iPods, including the nano. So some of our current products already do work, like the FlexDock and the NaviPlay,” Lin tells Playlist . “But we are rolling out some new products,” he says, citing an RF remote that connects via the dock, and a nano-sized case.
“Another product that we’re doing is a glove box dock for the iPod, so we’re tooling up a new adapter for that for the nano as well,” says Lin. “That’s something we’ll see before Christmas.”
Similarly, although some of Griffin’s products—such as the iFM and iTrip —rely on the remote control port. Litchford notes that the company is in the process of rolling out nano versions that will work with the dock connector instead.
“The iFM will definitely be out going into the 30-pin bottom connector,” says Litchford. “And then we’re jamming full time on our iTrip.”
Likewise, although its existing Tunecast II FM transmitters are already nano-compatible since they use the headphone jack rather than the remote port, Belkin is developing nano-specific solutions as well.
“We’re working on an FM transmitter bottom-out solution,” notes Decamp.
The big question, though, is not if products are coming out, but when. Not only do developers have to release products that work with the nano, they also must (if they’re smart) make those products complementary to the nano’s small, sleek form factor.
“It’s almost like Apple working on Intel chips,” notes Litchford. “We always have a skunk works making things work on the bottom [dock connection]. That’s not a problem. It’s just the time-to-market on the redesign.”
Mathew Honan is a San Francisco-based writer and photographer. His work has also appeared in Macworld, Wired, Time, and Salon.
For more on the iPod, please visit the iPod Product Guide.