Apple boosts iPod line at 'Rock & Roll' event

Much anticipated event reveals new pricing, video iPod

Apple cut the price on its 8GB iPod touch today while boosting the performance and capacity of the other models of its touchscreen music player. Apple made the announcements during its Rock & Roll press event in San Francisco. The 8GB iPod touch now costs US$199, a $30 reduction from its old $229 price tag. Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller noted a similar price cut to the iPod mini several years ago helped spike sales of that since-discontinued model, so it's clear Apple is hoping that a lower entry-level price for the touch helps spark new sales prior to the holiday shopping season.

Apple may not have much to worry about in that regard. According to figures unveiled by the company Wednesday, the company has sold 20 million iPod touch models, making it the fastest growing iPod model. With 30 million iPhones sold, 40 percent of the devices running the iPhone operating system are iPod touches.

In other changes to the touch line, Apple added a 64GB model, doubling the capacity of the touch. The 64GB iPod touch will sell for $399, the old price tag for the 32GB model. The 32GB iPod touch now costs $299.

Apple didn't just change the pricing and capacity for those higher-end models. According to Schiller, the 64GB and 32GB iPod touches are now 50-percent faster and feature support for Open GL|ES version 2.0, the cross-platform graphics API.

Apple also announced a new iPod nano with a built-in camera. Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the device by citing the popularity of pocket flash-based video cameras like those from Flip and Kodak. "This market's really exploding," said Jobs, "and we want to get in on this."

The new iPod nano comes in 8GB and 16GB models, each of which incorporates a video camera and microphone on the back of the unit, as well as a built-in speaker. The nano can display video or sync it back to your computer, where you can easily upload the clip to YouTube. The microphone can also be used with the nano's voice recording feature.

In addition, the nano now has VoiceOver support, which provides audible navigation cues, and the new Genius Mixes feature, which creates playlists of music based on your existing library. There's also a built-in pedometer which can measure your steps and sync it with the Nike+ service.

Other than the camera, the physical form factor of the nano remains mostly unchanged, although it now features a larger 2.2-inch display and comes in new colors. The 8GB model runs for $149 and the 16GB for $179 (a discount from the previous nano, which cost $199). Both new models are shipping now.

Apple also released the iPhone 3.1 software update, as predicted. The software includes a handful of new features and bug fixes.

Apple's has extended its Genius media-recommendation algorithm to iPhone applications. It looks at the apps you already own and makes recommendations based on that information.

In addition iPhone 3.1 beefs up the iPhone's ringtone capability, allowing you to download over 30,000 ringtones from major labels via a Ringtones section in the iPhone's iTunes application. Ringtones will cost US$1.29 apiece, and automatically show up in the iPhone's Settings once they've been downloaded.

IPhone 3.1 is free for all iPhone and iPod touch owners will be available on today via iTunes.

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