The Apple grew: A review of the iPod nano 5th Generation

Apple’s own steve Jobs was present at the september 9th apple event – where the company often unvails new products and functionality. It is, quite literarly, Christmas time for Apple fans – since most iPod models get an upgrade every year. Last year, we saw the unvailing of the iPod classic, and the Nano 4th generation which revolutionized both the sighted and disabled markets.

For the sighted market, the apple nano 4th generation brought back the familiar, “chewing gum” shape to the popular iPod family. It also used a fine aluminum casing – something which made your iPod virtually scratch resistant.

For the disabled market, this was the first time the Cupertino-based corporation began working on accessibility, specifically targetting the blind and low vision markets. We saw, for the first time the addition of a feature called “spoken menus” which made your iPod so much friendlier.

A year has gone by since we last saw an apple show. In that year, the company has released the iPhone 3gs – an update which included a feature called voice over, allowing, again, voice accessibility for the blind. (hey, why can’t the iPod support hearing aid compliance too?)
We saw the iPhone rise in popularity in the VI market as a result.

1. The iTouch also got the iPhone 3gs update – meaning that the new iTouch generations have voice over built in. Aside that, the capacity range of the device is now up to 64 GB for $400. Neat, eh?
2. Itunes 9 was released. While most sighted describe iTunes 9 as still having the same unorganized washed up interface, it does function much better with assistive technology than before. (tested with JAWS, Window-eyes, and Zoomtext) The new iTunes will actually read your iPod’s information, such as capacity and free space, when tabbing around the window.
3. The iPod classics are now at the 7th generation.
and 4. The new iPod nano 5th generation was revealed.

While I could focus on voice over in the iTouch (a feature I’m dying to see myself), today I will instead look at this new nano. Again, a year – where are we?

The new iPod nano 5th gen: smoother than ever!

I received my Amazon shipment for the nano today. I figured, it’s my birthday soon, why not buy one – finally becoming 18 and all.

The packaging of the nano has not changed much – besides the iPod being secured by a backing into the packaging, you still get the stick shaped box which is 8 times as thick as the Nano itself.

The iPod itself has a great grip. Not only this, the aluminum casing just got even more polished and smoother – and it does get cold if you leave your iPod out at room temperature for a while, so yes, it is very fine aluminum. In fact, it is probably the same material Apple uses on the Macbook pro series of laptops.

Scrolling through the menu with my sister, I was at first shocked to see no “spoken menus” option in the settings/general menu. So, out of panic, I went and installed iTunes 9.
To my relief, two options are now present in the “other options” group of iTunes:
Enable voiceover,
and enable spoken menus.

No matter hichever option you choose, you will have to download a 20 meg “voiceover toolkit” which is installed on your computer and has apple’s own propriotary voices (featuring over 20 languages). Once that is done, your iPod will be synced with the default, robotic English voice – the one present in the iPhone today. It’s not the worse voice, but not the best either.

Once you have set up spoken menus, you can check a box called “use system default voice”, which will use the sapi5 compatible voice you choose in speech (in windows 2000/xp) or Text to speech (In windows Vista/7).

Spoken menus, however, hasn’t changed. You still have no verbal feedback in the alarms, screen lock, and other extra features – a disappointment in my opinion.

FM Radio: Now in the box!

The new nano is smaller in size, but not smaller in functionality. While the device retains it’s stick shape, it has shrunk a half an inch in width – but we now have an FM radio built in.
The radio itself is very easy to use, and spoken menus does have support for selecting your region and entering into the radio itself. Once you start the radio, you use the scroll wheel to move between frequencies manually. Alternatively, you can hit enter and slide your finger over the wheel to do an automatic tuning.

What’s confusing is the lack of spoken menus support – nothing is announced when you hit enter, so if you have entered the tuning mode, you know not. Once you have found the station, hit enter agian to change your volume, and enter again to return to the frequency-based selecting mode.

The radio also features something called Live pause. The iPod will cache 15 minutes of radio audio, so if you’re busy and want to pause the radio for a few minutes, you can – the iPod will resume where you left the song off. You can also rewind the radio – by simply holding the left wheel down just as you would rewind a song. This is, by far, one of the most comprehensive and useful iPod features.


We have an accelerometer in the nano – which can automatically switch your device into coverflow mode when flipped. Why not put it to more use?
Well, now you can: The new nano features a pedometer which uses this accelerometer to track your steps. You can connect your iPod to your computer and iTunes will even upload stats to the nike website. This is very nice, only if it had spoken menu support, which it doesn’t. If you have it, play the wop-wop sound here.

Builtin speakers!: Tiny, but useful

Yep. We saw it on the ipod Touch last year. Now we are seeing it again. The nano has a built-in speaker now, which is located just on the end of the device. Although it is tiny, the song quality it delivers is not too bad, provided that you not use it to headbang to your favorite rock song. It is a cheap way to listen to your music – instead of having to pass your headphones around into ears which you don’t know when were cleaned. The builtin speaker is very bad sounding on loud tracks – but for an audio book, it’s perfect!
Oh, and by the way, you can’t listen to your radio with the speakers built in. The iPod needs a headphone to use as it’s radio antenna. Sorry…

By the way, the difference between voiceover and spoken menus:

“enable voiceover” will not speak your menus, but instead allows a person to hear the song which is playing. It’s handy for those who can see the screen but are let’s say, driving and don’t want to see what song is playing and it’s title.


This is the perfect iPod model for me. I have always wanted a radio on the iPod – and now we have it! Carrying an iPod radio would of been too bulky for me. But now I have it built-in, and can listen to my favorite rock station while riding the bus. Great work, apple. You’ve become even more… delicious to take another byte out of. And I’m sure many will – the nano’s prices are cheap. Sort of. the 8 GB model is $150 while the 16 GB one is $180. I heard there is a 32 GB one coming on the block, but it’s not on any shopping site yet – so I won’t comment on that.

-Tamas Geczy
September 15, 2009

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