Electronic Design

NAND Flash Makes Apple's iPod nano "Possibly Small"

With its iPod music player line, Apple Computer has shown it knows what consumers want. The iPods are renowned for their elegant design, compact size, large storage capacity, ease of use—and coolness.

The iPod nano illustrates that Apple hasn't-lost its touch. It preserves the elegance and user-friendliness of previous iPods while significantly reducing the size of the product, according to recent dissections conducted by iSuppli's Teardown Analysis service.

The key difference between Apple's previous-iPod mini and the iPod nano is the music storage medium. The mini uses a 1-in. harddisk drive (HDD), while the nano integrates NAND-type flash. More than any other factor, the use of NAND flash is responsible for the nano's dramatically smaller size.

The iPod mini measures 4.1 by 2.4 by 0.63 in. and weighs 5.9 oz. In contrast, the nano comes in at just 3.5 by 1.6 by 0.27 in. and 1.5 oz, leading to Apple's promotion of the product as "Impossibly Small."

The teardown revealed that the 2-Gbytecapacity version of the nano employs two separate NAND flash memory parts, each with a 1-Gbit by 8 configuration. These parts take up much less space than a 1-in. HDD.

While Apple has changed its storage technology, it has kept the trademark Click Wheel. Unique, attractive, and easy to use, it's an essential element of the consumer-beloved iPod design. But while it appears to be the same Click Wheel other iPods use, the nano's Click Wheel is different.

Previous iPods used Synaptics' technology-for the circuitry behind the Click Wheel. The nano employs Cypress Semiconductor's CapSense technology, which relies on Cypress' CY8C21x34 line of programmable system-on-a-chip (PSoC) devices to convert signals relating finger position into digitalcontrol functions. A PSoC is a programmable chip that integrates a microcontroller with several analog and digital components that can be configured for specific applications.

Shifting to flash memory while retaining the Click Wheel showcases Apple's skills at enhancing a product while retaining its best, most distinctive features.

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