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Apple's next-gen iPod nano takes its lumps as current models run dry

It isn't even available yet, but Apple's likely successor to the iPod nano has been dubbed the red-headed (and overweight) stepchild of the lineup by the online media.

A recently leaked image on the web suggests that the as yet unnamed sequel to Apple's mid-range iPod nano would resemble a stubby blend between today's model and the company's full-size players, borrowing the width and larger screen of the video iPod but the colorful look and short body of the more diminutive nano. The photo also showed the iPod in five paler (and more controversial) variants of today's iPod nano colors.

The squat, out-of-proportion look has been dismissed by some as a hoax. But after a swift attack by Apple's legal team —which essentially confirmed the widely syndicated image as authentic by claiming it was "stolen" from the company —online news media quickly savaged the new player, hinting that Apple's new darling could stand to slim down its wide-hipped look.

Gizmodo was first out of the gates with a mockup image and an ample dose of blunt criticism. "Compared to the iPhone, we think it looks like crap a step back," said blog editor Jesus Diaz. "It better be 3mm thin —or else."

Other sites that followed were even less kind to the jukebox, with Engadget unflatteringly naming it the "iPod nano 'phatty'" and comment posters labeling it the "Danny DeVito of iPods." At iLounge, a size comparison harshly christened the mystery player as the "iPod bilbo" —a not especially subtle jab at its Hobbit-like appearance.

iPod nano 'phatty'

Giz-style rendition of third-gen iPod nano (aka "iPod phatty") | Source | Gizmodo

Whatever the reaction, checks by AppleInsider with multiple suppliers make it clear that the a nano replacement is on its way to stores as soon as next week. Best Buy and Target retailers across the US have all but run out of the flash-based player on shelves and in warehouses. Some hopeful buyers have simply been turned back by store clerks who neither had players to sell nor an estimate of when new models would be ready.

For those that had received advanced notice from their suppliers, deliveries weren't set to resume until at least September 6th, according to the reports. This follows just a day after the planned Apple event where the company is expected to announce Mac OS X-based replacements for the majority of its iPod line.

And while the 'fatboy' nano is almost certain to be one of these replacements along with a refreshed iPod shuffles, additional sources have observed that 30GB and 80GB models are listed as discontinued or otherwise impossible to order from regular buyers, further hinting at the much-anticipated arrival of a video iPod akin to the iPhone.