As expected, a new 6 GB iPod mini was released yesterday, in 4 colours (with gold no longer available). Colour screens, although widely rumoured, are not a feature of the new iPod minis. More importantly, however, is the massive increase in the battery life. The mini is now rated for 18 hours. The 6 GB unit is priced at $249, which is the same price as the old 4 GB, although it no longer includes a power adapter or a Firewire cable. The 4 GB is also offered now in the same four colours, but has dropped to $199 (sans accessories).
Many people never use the power adapter, so it makes sense to offer it only as an add-on accessory. What was a little bit surprising however was the choice to stop including the Firewire cable. From a business perspective it does make sense, since at this price point, even with the $20 Firewire cable the 4 GB iPod unit is cheaper than it used to be, and most people with newer computers can simply use USB 2.0.
However, many older Macs do not have USB 2.0 support, and those with older laptops or all-in-one machines like the iMac, cannot add USB 2.0 at all, so Firewire becomes a necessity. Furthermore Firewire is a technology invented by Apple. Yet despite all of this, Apple has made the financial decision to make Firewire an added cost option only. It is wise from the business perspective, but it signals the end of an era for Firewire. Firewire has truly become niche only, and Apple is capitulating to the dominance of USB 2.0. Fortunately, Apple continues to sell the Firewire cable, and a plethora of cheaper third party cables are available, including retractable ones.
Not surprisingly, Hitachi and Seagate both have announced 6 GB 1" hard drives. It is not entirely clear who provides the drives in the 6 GB mini however. Ironically, the bare 6 GB drive costs $299, which is $50 more than the 6 GB iPod mini, and the 4 GB drive costs $199, the same as the 4 GB iPod mini.
In addition to the new iPod minis, the iPod photo line has been revamped. The 40 GB iPod photo no longer exists, but there is now the much cheaper and thinner new 30 GB iPod photo, dropping $150 from the previous $499 price to $349. The 60 GB iPod photo stays the same, but also drops $150, from $599 to $449. Again, much of the price drop is due to the removal of accessories, but overall, the price drops are still substantial.
Because it is so new, the iPod shuffle line remains unchanged. One point of note however is the new iPod shuffle ads no longer specify that the units are PC and Mac compatible. Only an Apple logo is displayed. It seems that in the short lifetime of the iPod on Windows, Apple has already established enough mind share so that just the Apple logo suffices.