Apple expanded its wildly successful iPod family of portable music players last week, lowering prices and adding new capacities to the iPod mini and iPod photo product lines.
With its 4 GB capacity and new, lower price of $200 in the U.S., the basic iPod mini, which also gains extended battery life (the company claims "up to 18 hours"), fills the midrange gap between the $100-$150 iPod shuffle and the previously pricier models starting at $250. A new 6 GB model takes over the $250 price point. The new iPod minis are available now worldwide in metallic silver, pink, blue, and green hues (gold, one of the original iPod mini colors, apparently lost its luster).
At the same time, Apple is offering a slimmer 30 GB model of its iPod photo, featuring a color screen and video connector for photo slide shows for $350, down $150 from the price of the original (now discontinued) 40 GB iPhoto photo. The 60 GB unit drops from $600 to $450. Both models are available immediately worldwide. (The 40 GB Click Wheel iPod has also quietly disappeared from Apple's lineup, leaving the original lineage with only the 20 GB model, at $300, and the 20 GB U2 Special Edition model for $350.)
The new lineup is also notable for what's missing. Both the iPod mini and iPod photo models come with USB 2.0 cables for transferring data and recharging the internal battery. If you want to use FireWire, you need to buy an optional $20 iPod Dock Connector to FireWire cable. A $20 iPod photo AV cable is needed to view photos on a television, or the $30 iPod photo Dock offers an S-video connector (as well as audio out and the Dock connector).
A new $30 iPod Camera Connector, expected to ship in late March, will enable photographers to free up limited camera storage card space by transferring photos to the iPod (check Apple's site to verify compatibility with your camera before buying). Once transferred, the photos can be displayed on the iPod photo's built-in color screen or, after previously being connected to a computer, on a television through the unit's video connector, and they can later be moved to a Mac or Windows PC.