New 8GB iPod touch models
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A: Actually, the answer is even simpler than the models being “essentially the same” — they are exactly the same. More to the point, there is technically no such thing as a “third-generation” 8GB iPod touch. The third-generation iPod touch is only available in the 32GB and 64GB models. Apple is simply continuing to sell last year’s second-generation iPod touch as an 8GB entry-level model in the same way they continued selling the 8GB iPhone 3G after the 16GB and 32GB iPhone 3GS models were released.
Therefore, an 8GB iPod touch that you purchase brand new in an Apple Store today will be physically no different at all from the same 8GB iPod touch that you could have purchased a year ago except that it will come with at least iPhone OS 3.0 pre-loaded. Note, however, that the included OS version does not make it a different-generation model — only a model that was more recently manufactured. Also keep in mind that models purchased from other retailers may be older stock that has been sitting around in the store and therefore may still have older OS versions on them, so be wary of this if you plan to purchase a new iPod touch somewhere else; in the very least make sure that they have a reasonable return policy so that you can take it back if you discover that it’s an older unit that has the 2.x OS installed.
On the other hand, second-generation refurbished iPod touch models still ship with OS 2.2.1 and you must pay for the iPod touch OS 3.1 upgrade. The refurbished models are considered old stock, and Apple does not include the latest OS version on them for whatever reason. However, when OS 3.1 was released, the upgrade price was dropped to $4.95 and you can update directly from any older OS directly to 3.1; you do not have to purchase 3.0 first. So ultimately the only real difference between a refurbished second-generation iPod touch and a new second-generation iPod touch at this point is the additional $5 that you have to pay for the 3.1 OS upgrade, which is considerably less than the price difference between a new and refurbished unit.
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