Apple - what you might have missed

Apple introduced new iPods this week - but it's the little extra introductions that fascinate me.
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The Independent Tech

Sure the new iPod touch is pretty neat - you could almost call it ‘iPhone light'. There are two major differences: it's not a phone, and you can get it in 32GB capacity (or 8 or 16GB). Other than that, the new touch looks like an iPhone, runs iPhone 2 software, happily uses most of the iPhone apps and games and even fetches your email and surfs the net when you're in wireless zones. It syncs to your Mac or PC if you use Apple's MobileMe service too - but there's no cell phone plan to pay monthly.

The new Nano is pretty awesome too - available in nine colours now, it has an all aluminium body and glass screen. It's super slim, comes in 8 and 16GB capacities and uses the new Genius feature of iTunes 8 - but to my mind the best thing about it is the accelerometer. This lets you play games, sure but the coolest thing has to be that you can choose a playlist and just shake the new nano to shuffle the play order.

So these and the iTunes 8 upgrade were the big ticket items in Tuesday's

‘Let's Rock' event in San Francisco, but Apple has been busy in lots of other little ways too. iTunes 8 is available now for Mac and PC, with a new feature called Genius which can automatically create playlists of like-minded songs and artists. With an keen eye on your wallet, it also suggest iTunes purchases of a similar material.

The new standard visualizer in iTunes 8 is now like a once-freely-available visualizer called Magnetosphere. It seems much more reactive to the music in a War of the Worlds kind of way.

iTunes 8 has a new Grid View and the music player software is better at dealing with changing tags on multiple items. iTunes 8 is now screen-reader friendly, on both Macs and PCs. On Macs you can use Apple's standard VoiceOver screen reader to manage your library and purchase from the iTunes Store. iTunes 8 is a lot faster - some users say it even rips tracks from audio CDs faster.

Apple has also slipped in an update to QuickTime, its video playing technology which has become a standard across platforms. Version 7.5.5 is recommended for all QuickTime 7 users and it's needed to coexist with the new iTunes 8.

Front Row 2.1.6 is also available now - the entertainment software, which use the little Apple remote unit every new Mac user gets in the box, improves iTunes 8.0 compatibility and contains a few bug fixes.

What else? Yes, there's more. The little clip-on, screenless iPod shuffles are still available in 1GB and 2GB capacities, but the product's colour range now includes much a brighter silver, blue, green, red (Product (RED)) and purple. Prices should stay the same.

Apple also introduced two new sets of iPod headphones without much fanfare.

The two new headphones consist of a version of the ear-bud-type headphones which ship with every iPod, but boosted with buttons for play/ plause/ forward/ reverse and up/ down volume controls, along with a small built-in microphone.

The second set is an in-ear headphone set with two drivers in each earpiece (tweeter and woofer). They ship with three tips and contain the same controls as above.

Oh, and let's not forget the environment. How could we? Greenpeace has issued a release heaping praise on Apple's new iPod range. That's because the new iPods are free of toxic chemicals such as PVC, BFRs and mercury - even the glass used in them is arsenic-free.

Apple has released another piece of Windows software, too. The MobileMe Control Panel 1.1 syncs contacts, calendar, and bookmarks automatically between your PC, iPhone, iPod touch, and the suite of web apps at The software is required in order to set up sync on a Windows PC and enables users to manage their 20GB MobileMe iDisk for online file storage and sharing.

There were no MacBook announcements - but we still expect new models. It seems like they're still on the agenda, again more environmentally friendly and possibly with new glass trackpads.

Meanwhile - cheaper ‘old' iPods: look for deals fast before they disappear from stock.

This article originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald