Like the iPod nano, the Apple Watch can play music—but it needs to be synced with a partner device. For the nano, that was a Mac—for the Apple Watch, it’s an iPhone. If you’ve ever synced a playlist or two from your iPhone to your Apple Watch, you’ve probably recognized the similarity—including the often-frustrating wait times while the syncing happens.
However, the Apple Watch supports Apple Music, something that Apple never bothered to update the classic iPod line to do. Those iPods were a representative of a world where everyone owned the music they listened to, but today subscription services are a huge part of the landscape. Only the most recent generation of iPod nano supported Bluetooth headphones. No iPod nano ever supported Wi-Fi, either, something that the Apple Watch does—and could potentially be used to automatically sync Apple Music playlists without even needing to consult with its partner iPhone.
Most importantly, the Apple Watch is a fully realized interface in a way that the last two generations of iPod nano never were. Those latter-day nanos tried to fake aspects of the iOS interface, but they didn’t actually run iOS—and it showed. The Apple Watch, on the other hand, runs the watchOS derivative of iOS and feels like a more well-thought-out product because of it.
What the iPod nano was and Apple Watch isn’t is a dedicated music player. Like iOS devices, the Watch has a Music app, but other features—telling the time, pushing notifications, and tracking fitness—are the primary focus.