Apple iPod Mini: a first look

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At Macworld, Apple announced a new, smaller iPod, just as many experts predicted. Apple included a 1in., 4GB hard drive instead of the flash memory many assumed it would use. Although the iPod Mini holds an impressive (for its size) 1,000 tunes, at £199 (inc. VAT), it can't be had for a song.

The original iPods came in any colour you liked, as long as it was white. The new Minis come in hues that spread across the rainbow: silver, gold, blue, pink, and green. But the biggest breakthrough is that the clickable scroll wheel now doubles as play/menu/fast-forward/rewind controls; pressing against the wheel activates each of the four functions, as labelled. We were impressed when we tried it -- kudos to Apple for improving the strongest part of its device.

Still, some things haven't changed. You get the same in-line remote found in the larger iPods, as well as a sharp, scaled-down version of the GUI found on its older brother, fitted for the Mini's 1.67in., white-backlit LCD. As expected, the iPod Mini syncs to iTunes and handles MP3s, AACs, Audible audiobooks, WAVs and AIFFs. Although it doesn't work with the Belkin voice recorder and media attachments, it's compatible with most other iPod accessories. Apple throws in a snap-on holder with a belt clip. Even at its reduced size (9.14cm by 5.08cm by 1.27cm; 104g), the iPod Mini is larger than Rio's competing Nitrus, which will also ship in a 4GB version later this month. The Mini uses a smaller, non-replaceable battery that Apple claims to have optimised so that it provides eight hours of juice. The device's £199 (inc. VAT) price tag is still out of reach for some consumers, and depending on Rio's pricing of its forthcoming competitor, Apple could face stiff competition in this emerging market. Inevitably, mini hard drive-based players will be a big story in 2004, thanks to the availability of 1in. drives. But the iPod is still the king of the larger devices, and unless Rio or someone else attacks it on a price level, we see the iPod Mini following in its footsteps. The iPod Mini will be available in the UK in April. Click here to see a video of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPod Mini at Macworld.