As a device the nano is much more dependent on connecting to iTunes than the iPod touch since there's no way to download or buy content on the device itself – everything must be downloaded through iTunes on your computer, then copied across.
There's also no Wi-Fi connection, so streaming music isn't a possibility either. The only wireless capability is Bluetooth, which is a new addition in this year's model and adds an extra string to the nano's bow.
Like its bigger brother, the iPod touch, it's only the back of the iPod nano that has the colour on, with the front face bezel always being white in all cases.
The screen itself has a 2.5-inch diagonal, with a resolution of 240x432 pixels. At just 233 pixels per inch it's not a Retina display, but the colours look quite vibrant.
It's capable of playing back movies you've brought or rented on the iTunes Store, but watching an entire HD movie on a tiny 2.5-inch screen is hardly ideal, but its perfectly acceptable for watching short video podcasts on.
The multi-touch screen works really well. As you'd expect from Apple, the nano feels responsive and the control method is completely intuitive. The home screen can fit six app icons on it at a time, in two columns of three.
The icons are perfectly round, complete with the usual Apple shadows and sheen. You swipe the screen from right to left to move on to the next page of icons, just as you would in iOS. But unlike iOS devices there's no lock screen, so as soon as you hit the Home or Sleep/Wake buttons you're into the action.
Let's start with the Music app. If you're already familiar with iTunes and the concept of playlists then there will be no surprises for you here. It's very similar to the iPod touch app.
You can browse by Song, Artist or Album and it has the Genius Mixes feature, which creates playlists for you based on songs which go together. You get to see album artwork, but it all feels fairly flat as there's no Cover Flow view available.
The Videos app is even more basic – just containing a list of all the videos you've transferred to the device. The Podcasts and Photos app work in just the same way as well, requiring iTunes on your computer to dictate their content.
The Fitness app takes advantage of the iPad nano's built-in pedometer to track your steps, or distance run, telling you how many calories you're burning during a workout. It's really for runners. Your trainers voice (male of female can be selected) tells you what's happening as you run; double tap on the sleep-wake button and you get a spoken progress report telling you how far you've run and how long you've been running for.
It's intelligent too, so if you stop moving it will pause your workout for you then start it off again once you're running again. You can also set up a PowerSong, so that once your workout is running you can give yourself a quick boost by one simple tap.
The iPod nano is compatible with the Nike+ system, so you can track your runs over time by logging in with the website.
In our tests the iPod nano accurately logged all our runs, and its step counter seems also very accurate.
If you're a fitness fanatic then having all this built-into a lightweight music player gives you reason enough to buy an iPod nano on its own.
The FM Radio app uses the earphone lead as an antenna. The skeuomorphic design features a tuning band that you can move left or right to find stations. While the app will automatically find your local stations it can't display their names, which is a bit disappointing, especially when something as simple as a car radio can do this.
The ability to find non-local stations is also limited – there's no auto-tune feature for anything beyond local radio. On the plus side, the FM Radio app does have live pause, and you can rewind live radio, too. Reception isn't brilliant though, and to avoid crackles and get the best signal we had to make sure the iPod was stationed far away from us with the earphone cable extended as far as it would go, which was a bit of a hassle.
Next, there's Voice Memos. There's no external microphone on the iPod touch, so this app requires the earphones to be plugged in to work – if you unplug them the app simply disappears from the screen. This means its usefulness is limited - you can't put your iPod nano on a table to record an interview or conversation, for instance.
The final app we'll look at is the Clock. The shape and design of last year's iPod nano gave people the opportunity to wear it as a watch, thanks to some 3rd party developers who created watchstraps that the nano fitted into. It worked really well, as the clock face fills the whole screen, but the iPod nano watch concept never really took off – the main problem being that to save battery the display on a nano always turns off if its not being used.
So, you always had to tap the 'watch' to wake it before you could tell the time, which defeated the purpose of wearing it on your wrist.
The new iPod nano, without a clip, puts the concept of the nano watch firmly on the backseat, as there's no way to wear this on your wrist. As a clock app it does pretty much everything you'd want – there's a choice of six clock faces, a timer and stopwatch built in.
In the box with the iPod nano 2012 you'll find Apple's new EarPods – these new earphones are much more comfortable than the old Apple earphones and sound much better, too. They sit slightly inside your ear without going all the way in, funnelling the sound to where it needs to go. They feature in-line controls too, so you've got everything you need at your fingertips.