Apple releases new iPod

Apple – iPod

The details leaked out over the weekend, mainly thanks to a Newsweek cover story, but today is the official launch of the newest iPod from Apple:

It’s available in 20 GB and 40 GB versions. Both versions are 1mm thinner than their predecessors (although the 40GB version is still thicker than the 20 GB version). The biggest change is the adoption of the “click-wheel”, a la the iPod Mini, which replaces the touch-sensitive buttons and wheel of the 3G iPod. Battery life is supposed to have been bumped to 12 hours (a 50% increase over the 8 hours of the 3G model). It’s interesting to note that Apple claims this is achieved through “more efficient processing”. Could it be that the battery life increase might be made available to current iPod owners via a firmware update? Dare to dream…

Other changes include a headphone jack that’s now centered on the top of the unit (just to break compatibility for all of us iTrip owners), a re-arranged menu system (can we say firmware update? please?), and the ability to speed up or slow down songs (useful for slow audiobooks).

The price of the new “4G” iPod has dropped – the 20 GB model is only $299 (down from $399), and the 40 GB model is $399 (down from $499). Notably absent is a 60 GB model, which was expected to inhabit the $499 price point, but it might come later as bigger drives become available from Hitachi/Toshiba.

So the big question is, will I be upgrading from my 40GB 3G iPod? The answer is, not right now. The smaller size, longer battery life, and click-wheel interface are definitely attractive, but I’ve got a bit of investment in accessories (iSkin eVo case, iTrip FM transmitter) that wouldn’t work with the new models. I’d also like to get a bigger hard drive if I’m going to upgrade, though I’m only using about 18GB of my 40GB for music (I’m using the USB/Firewire hard drive functionality to store another gig or so of backup files and utilities). We’ll see. It might be worth exercising a replacement plan if/when the 60GB model comes out.

What do you think? Will you be upgrading to the new iPod, or if you don’t already have one, will the new low price finally tempt you to make the plunge? Let me know what you think in the Comments section below.