Your next watch may be an iPod (or vice-versa)

When the sixth-gen iPod nano was announced, Steve Jobs commented that an Apple board member planned to wear it as a watch. Ever since, a cottage industry has cropped around ways to wear the new nano as a watch.

When the sixth generation iPod nano ($149 - 8GB, $179 - 16GB) was announced, Steve Jobs commented that an unnamed Apple board member jokingly planned to wear it as a watch. Ever since, a cottage industry has cropped around solutions to wear the new nano as a watch.

Apple facilitated this new use for the nano by a) including an elegant analog Clock app, and by b) adding a "Time on Wake" setting that, when enabled, displays the Clock app when you press the sleep/wake button instead of the home screen. Did Apple include these features thinking that people would wear nanos on their wrists? It's more likely that Apple did this so that it could be easily clipped onto clothing and such, but hey, maybe Apple's secretly targeting the billion-dollar fashion watch industry?

The nano has an impressive feature set for such a tiny footprint, including a 1.5-inch, 240 x 240 pixel, color, multitouch display, long battery life (one week in Clock mode), music/books/podcasts, FM tuner, photos, pedometer, Nike+ and clock. All of these features lend themselves perfectly to a wrist-sized form factor.

The first wave of iPod nano 6G > watch conversions involved attaching said music player to a standard 22mm watch band. All 22mm nylon single piece bands (like the Maratac $17, pictured) fit the iPod nano perfectly, so you can wear your nano as a watch at an extremely low price-point.

Next up the price ladder is the HEX watch band ($25), a silicone strap that comes in nine colors that you can easily pop your nano into and out of. (I ordered one in black, but it hasn't arrived yet.)

At the same price point as the Hex, Griffin Technologies offers a modern take on the slap bracelet. The silicone wrapped Slap wristband ($25) is constructed of memory-metal so that you can simply "slap" it onto your wrist. Slap's flexible, steel band lies flat until you slap it onto your arm. The Slap band self-adjusts to a comfortable fit and is listed as "coming soon" on the product page.

Scott Wilson's TikTok and LunaTik multi-touch watch kits are my favorite of the lot so far. They transform the 6g iPod nano into the world's coolest multi-touch watch.

TikTok ($25 pre-order, $35 at launch, below) is a snap-in, snap-out design that will begin shipping to "backers" in late December:

LunaTik ($50 pre-order, $70 at launch) is designed for someone that wants to dedicate their Nano to being a watch. It's forged from aerospace grade aluminum and machined into its final form.

From the project Web site:

The straps are made from high grade silicone rubber and the hardware is solid stainless steel not some chrome plated brass that will wear off. The quality of these watch cases and straps will be scrutinized very carefully and produced in the same factories that produce the best watches for companies like Nixon, Diesel, Vestal, and Nike.

Here's an exploded view:

A limited-edition, red anodized version ($150) is being produced that is definitely one of the coolest looking watches that I've ever seen.

The iPod nano as a fashion accessory isn't a new concept, but the new multitouch nano opens up a completely new world of options.

Unfortunately, miniaturization comes at a cost. Apple had to compromise on a few things to squeeze all of the features of a multitouch iPod into a nano-sized enclosure. Bluetooth is one of those things. Bluetooth would have been great in the new nano because it would allow you to use wireless headphones, (like the $99 Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 wireless stereo earbuds, which we covered on Ep 144 of the PowerPage podcast). But alas, no dice. Keep your fingers crossed for the seventh-generation.

Absent Bluetooth, you'll still have string a wired headset up your arm if you want to listen to your nano while wearing it as a watch. Not the end of the world, but not ideal either. There's a lot of directions that Apple could take the iPod nano in the future. Companies like Garmin have embedded all kinds of technology into wristwatch-size form factors. Witness the Forerunner 410 which has GPS, heart-rate monitor, and ANT+ wireless technology. But it doesn't have a color multi-touch screen like the nano either.

Apple could improve on the nano by adding Bluetooth and a way to remove the bulky clip when installed in watch frames and other jewelry applications.

Update: @vicorly notes: if the nano got FaceTime (and a camera, and a wireless radio) we'd actually have Dick Tracy's 2-way Wrist TV:

Screen grab from the unsold 1967 pilot episode of Dick Tracy by Jaruemalak.

What's your take on the new nano? Have you seen any other interesting watch applications? Post them in the TalkBack...