New, thinner iPods launch alongside iTunes 8

At Apple’s "Let’s Rock" event in San Francisco earlier today, a still-emaciated Steve Jobs unveiled a batch of refreshed iPods along with a matching iTunes release. The most exciting part might well be the iPod nano, which—just like Jobs—has gotten surprisingly thin: the fourth-generation device is now about the width and height of the tall, second-gen nano, but with a thinner, more oval profile and a much larger screen. In fact, it pretty much looks like a sleeker version of Microsoft’s flash-based Zunes.

The fourth-gen iPod nano differentiates itself from its pudgy predecessor with more than just good looks, too. Apple has outfitted the latest player with an accelerometer, which lets users do cool things like shake the player to shuffle songs or turn it sideways to activate the iPhone-like "cover flow" display. The small profile hasn’t seriously impeded battery life, either, since that still stands at 24 hours for music but four hours instead of five for video. You can already purchase the 16GB fourth-gen iPod nano for $199 and its 8GB little brother for $149. As a side note, those are pretty much the same price tags Microsoft is slapping on its third-gen Zunes.

Jobs also introduced a new iPod touch, which has almost the same design as its forebear but with a thinner profile (there’s definitely a trend here), side volume controls, and a built-in speaker. Perhaps more importantly, the new iPod touch has built-in App Store access, and Apple seems to be really emphasizing its gaming capabilities. The second-gen touch starts at $229 for the 8GB version, and you can get 16GB and 32GB players for $299 and $399, respectively.

On the iPod classic front, Apple has introduced a "one-size-fits-all" 120GB device at $249, but that one has the same design as the previous model. As for iTunes 8, the big feature in the new software (as well as the new iPods) is Genius: a system that gathers anonymous data about users’ musical tastes and uses it to find songs that "go great together." Last, but not least, Apple has taken the opportunity to release new firmware for the iPhone. The 2.1 firmware reportedly fixes bugs, improves battery life, and speeds up backups.

Head to Engadget for detailed coverage of the launch event, complete with photos.

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