The new iPods may be pretty, but only the iPod touch can sync Apple Music tracks.
Though Rene and I had speculated about Apple revamping the iPod nano and shuffle line to include some sort of Bluetooth authentication for Apple Music, it looks as though the iPod line won't get access to offline copies of Apple's newest streaming service.
When you try to sync offline Apple Music tracks to a nano or shuffle, you're met with this rather disappointing message: "Apple Music songs cannot be copied to an iPod." You'll have to rely on your purchased music for those devices, instead.
Why did Apple do this?
It's probably a record label requirement: In theory, you could sync an iPod shuffle or nano up with Apple Music tracks, then cancel your Apple Music subscription and continue rocking out to those "copied" tracks forever.
Given the small storage space of both the nano and shuffle, though, I think this is pretty dumb. For one thing, you'd at most be stealing a couple hundred to a couple thousand songs; for another, how hard would it have been to perform an authentication check every time you plug your iPod into your Mac? If iPod has expired Apple Music tracks on it, delete said tracks. If not, keep on rocking.
This makes the least sense for the iPod nano, as the device already has Bluetooth built in. You'd think Apple could include a wireless sync-style option for it like it does for the Apple Watch, but no—the nano is doomed to purchased music only, as well.
At its heart, though, this is
probably an issue regarding priority and time. Apple needed to write a software update for both the nano and the shuffle to recognize and use Apple Music; instead, they get a new paint job and that's about it. (The nano is still using the iOS 6 UI, which is kind of horrific when you think about it. Jony, you really let this out of your lab?) I suppose there's a small chance that Apple could take the time to update the device's software in the future to allow for this, but I'm skeptical.
The iPod touch, alone
This leaves the iPod touch as the lone iPod in the line that can take advantage of Apple Music's catalog in both online and offline formats. It gets Apple Music because it can run iOS 8.4; Apple doesn't need to create a major software update for the iPod touch because one already existed.
As a result, if you want your kid, friend, or significant other to have access to Apple Music and a new iPod, the iPod touch is the only really viable option.
The sad truth about iPods
Much as I love the delight of the iPod shuffle line, this is the latest in a long line of moves toward making the iPod obsolete. The Apple Watch is the future for semi-offline small devices you want to listen to while on the go; the nanos and shuffles of the world are the elegant, ancient weapons from a more civilized age of wired headphones and purchased music.
Long may they live on our shelves as reminders for what we used to have.