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One of the gifts I really enjoyed receiving this Christmas was an iPod nano (s aapl). I don’t really need another iPod, and I use my iPhone for most of my music-listening needs, but the new nano’s design is amazing, and it came with a watch band, making it a unique accessory for a devoted Apple fanatic like myself.
Wearing the nano on my wrist, what immediately struck me was how often I wanted to check the device for various things it couldn’t provide. With a few minor feature and hardware adjustments, the nano could be the ideal smartphone-paired watch, and an amazing tool for the connected worker.
The nano comes complete with a countdown timer, but to my dismay, it doesn’t have any kind of built-in speaker, so there’s little way to tell if the timer’s run down, short of just watching the device like a hawk or having it hooked up to headphones. Putting a speaker in the nano (even a very simple, single or tri-tone one) would be a necessary first step toward making it useful as a productivity tool. It could then be used for alarms, timers, and notifications of all kinds.
I doubt Apple is inclined to put a Wi-Fi radio in the iPod nano, but Bluetooth makes sense, since that allows you so many connectivity options for a music-focused device. Bluetooth, as many have already pointed out, would allow the nano to connect with wireless headphones while still residing on your wrist and operating as a watch.
Bluetooth would also open the door to allowing the nano to maintain a persistent connection with your iPhone. This is where the real potential for the device resides from a productivity standpoint. With a Bluetooth connection, suddenly service and iOS app tie-ins become possible.
I don’t want full-fledged iOS on the nano, and I doubt very much Apple would ever be inclined to deliver it. But what I would like is a simple way for notifications received on iOS devices to be pushed out over Bluetooth to the iPod nano, so that if I receive new emails or instant messages, they would come up on my wrist as an audio/visual alert.
Putting notifications on the nano would save time, because I wouldn’t have to pull out the smartphone every single time I received a notification or my phone vibrated. It would also make it much more likely that I’d hear or feel notifications when my iPhone was on vibrate, since it’s not at all guaranteed that I’ll feel the vibration if the device is in a jacket or bag pocket.
An iPhone’s Best Friend
If the iPod nano could work as a Bluetooth speaker with an integrated mic, and could receive calls from the iPhone, it would really add to its value. And even with all the features listed above, the nano still wouldn’t be able to operate as a standalone device even on par with the iPod touch, so there’s no chance that it might cut into sales of either the iPod touch or the iPhone. In fact, if anything, it should help boost those sales, since it’ll be seen as a unique, desirable peripheral not available to owners of Android (s goog) and other competing devices.
In the end, what am I really asking for from Apple? A built-in hardware speaker/mic, and a Bluetooth radio. That’s not going to add up to much in terms of additional cost per device, and Apple could easily offer those additional perks only on higher-end nano models to make sure that higher prices don’t scare off people looking for just a music player.
On the software side, the nano could use a modified, limited version of iOS like Apple recently introduced in the new Apple TV, which would allow the company to gradually release features with every hardware iteration, thus providing upgrade incentives.
Do I expect the nano to become the dream iPhone accessory I describe above anytime soon? Probably not. Would Apple be missing a huge opportunity by ignoring the potential that’s clearly there? Definitely.