My theory on why Apple changed the design of the iPod nano - to make room for a watch-like wearable device
This is just a theory, but I suspect it could be that they intend to introduce some sort of watch-like wearable device next year, one that would sync with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (presumably over Bluetooth 4.0) and act as a secondary display for notifications, controlling the music player, accepting and rejecting calls, etc. To avoid confusion with the watch-like design of the 6th-generation nano, they needed to switch things up for the 7th-generation, hence the new version.
They could certainly could build that sort of functionality into the iPod nano as it was, but perhaps it'd be simpler to offer a new device specifically designed for this purpose, and one that could be sold for less as it wouldn't need any on-board memory (or even a specifically powerful processor).
Again, it's just a theory, but it's hard to imagine Apple not taking a stab at wearable computing, and this move certainly opens up space in their product line for a wrist device.
Also, for reference, here's the last few generations of the nano: gdgt.com/compare/portable-media-players/77441+2554...
I'd have loved for Apple to just add Bluetooth to the Nano Watch...
The nano + strap was an interesting idea, and some people were excited about it, but it was never going to be a mass market product. The nano was never designed to be watch, and the results of trying to make it into one were bulky and hacky. Definitely not apple-like design.
If Apple do venture into wearable computing it wont be a Bell & Ross style oversize watches which is basically what you end up with with a nano+strap. It will be finely industrially designed and thoroughly considered when it comes to use cases, scenarios and user experience.
My other thought was that Apple has some kind of problem or dislike of one of the primary benefits of wearable computing: glance-able information. They continue to avoid adding any sort of widgets to the iPhone home screen despite the extra real estate. The Mac dashboard widgets were always kept on a second screen, not on the desktop. It's possible they simply feel a lot of this information is unimportant or distracting.
If that is the case, they would need to come up something with more than just a tiny screen with status updates, etc. I can't think of those features but then I don't work for Apple :)
One thing I can say is that I stopped wearing a watch around the same time I started carrying a mobile phone on me full time, since it just became redundant. So whatever Apple is thinking, it will be something which is more than just a redundant mini-iPhone, redundant mini-iPod and of course a redundant digital watch.
I just got my Loop band for my orange nano a couple of weeks ago and it's really cool on many levels and even practical to some degree. Even the pedometer on the nano works quite well for tracking my daily walking.
I like your theory and it's one that has a lot of merit to it. I'm sure there are many Apple employees that support the Nano watch combo and would like to make something that fits on the wrist and connects to other iDevices.
On Peter's theory, I think within 2 years we'll see a wearable watch again. Apple iterates, this is an iteration. Just to sell more ipods ...
If your theory is correct, then they really shouldn't have released a new Nano and just waited until their wearable device was ready to go. I just don't think this new Nano appeals to nearly as many people as the last one did...
This took little engineering time and will sell like crazy, just like the iPod Touch. Everyone loves the iOS experience and this is a way to get it into a kid's hands so when they get a job they want to buy their own iPhone/iPad/Macbook.
I think it would just be too easy for Apple to integrate some sort of health monitoring software that would be essentially a Fitbit/Nike Fuelband that serves as a connected watch.
They could sell it for $300 if they wanted, the great thing about this idea is that price doesn't really matter. People already spend thousands on watches that are worn as jewelry. The biggest hurdle I see is Apple making their first "waterproof" device. To appeal to a big enough market, this would have to be something that swimmers could wear to track their lap time or divers to use 60 feet under. That's the biggest challenge here. And Apple, being the biggest most profitable company today and ever needs to appeal to every market in a new product launch to keep that share price climbing.
The watch part is just making this dumbass 2inch iPod nano into a decent looking touchscreen that people would want on their wrist. Figuring out how to finally make a durable device is another challenge completely.
And for the watch design, they don't have to make the band. In fact, I would encourage them not to enclose a band with the watch at all. Watchbands, like headphones, like other peripherals, break and wear out all the time. Apple just needs to get third party companies interested in making a different kind of peripherals. Which has never been a problem in the past.