Apple brings buttons back to Shuffle, revamps Nano

Forgive today's deluge of Apple posts, but the company introduced quite a lot of interesting new products in the span of a couple of hours. I've been refreshing Engadget's live coverage all morning, and new additions to the iPod line immediately caught my eye. In addition to the updated Touch, Apple has also revamped the iPod Nano and Shuffle.

Perhaps the biggest surprise with these new iPods is the return of buttons to the diminutive Shuffle. Apple removed traditional playback controls from last the Shuffle in favor of an in-line headphone remote that offered fewer buttons and relied on Morse-code-like combos to perform even basic functions. This misguided attempt at oversimplification didn't sit well with me and apparently quite a lot of Shuffle users. According to Jobs "people clearly missed the buttons," so Apple brought them back. The new model has a button layout similar to the second-generation Shuffle's, and it's a little bit smaller, too.

Of course, the Shuffle still lacks a screen, making navigating the 2GB of music you can load onto the player somewhat difficult. For those who would rather not rely on VoiceOver dictation, Apple has a new iPod Nano.

Billed as a tiny iPod Touch, the new Nano has a 1.5" multi-touch display with an 240x240 resolution. It's really more of an overgrown Shuffle than a smaller Touch, though. The old Nano's camera is gone, and support for video playback has also been left on the cutting room floor. This crash diet allows the Nano to squeeze into a tiny aluminum casing that's barely larger than the screen and less than 9 mm thick, including the attached clip. Total weight? Just 21 grams.

The new Nano's multi-touch interface looks interesting, and I certainly don't mind the device becoming a smaller and more focused music player. Miniaturization doesn't come cheap, though, with 8GB flavors of the new Nano selling for $149 and 16GB units costing $179. That's actually not a bad deal considering the cost of the Shuffle, which runs $49 but only has 2GB of storage capacity. Both of these new iPods are available in a rainbow of colors and are slated to start shipping next week.

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