Review: Apple iPod touch (8GB/16GB/32GB)
Pros: Apple’s first iPod-branded device with a widescreen display, wireless Wi-Fi antenna, and icon-based touchscreen interface, offered at a lower price than the company’s same-capacity iPhone. Includes iPhone-style music, video, photo, and web browsing features, plus updated versions of several classic iPod applications, plus wireless access to the iTunes Store for audio downloads. Offers longer audio and video run times than last year’s models, in a surprisingly thin package.
Cons: Feels less like a flagship iPod than an intentionally stripped down iPhone, with diminished cosmetics, interface and features. Noticeably downgraded screen exhibits problems such as inverted blacks and dead pixels, which detract from video viewing experience, while shorter battery life, lower storage capacity, longer transfer times, and less impressive audio quality make it a surprisingly so-so alternative to the less expensive iPod classic. Neither Apple’s best portable video or audio device; also lacks games. Continues iPhone’s overly expensive battery replacement program, despite using less powerful battery.
[Editor’s Notes: On January 29, 2008, we added a new section to the last page of this review, detailing Apple’s release of a $20 software upgrade for the iPod touch, containing five applications (Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather and Notes) previously reserved only for iPhone users. On February 5, 2008, Apple released a 32GB version of the iPod touch at a $499 price point, without changing the device’s other features or dimensions. Due in part to screen quality concerns that were raised in our original review, found in multiple early units we’ve tested, and never fully addressed by Apple, our rating of the iPod touch has remained unchanged since it was originally issued in September, 2007.]
Executive Summary: Standalone applications familiar to iPod and iPhone users have returned on iPod touch in their more iPhone-like, evolved forms, albeit with fewer editing features and lower-quality sound effects. Users will enjoy the ability to edit contacts and re-synchronize them to their computers, but wonder why they cannot do the same with their calendars, an unnecessary and not especially comprehensible Apple product differentiation.
There’s little to say about the iPod touch’s helper applications, which are almost identical to the same-named iPhone programs: they’re nice visual improvements on ones previously available for iPods, but generally missing small things from the iPhone versions.
Calendar synchronizes iCal or Outlook calendar data, presents it in list, week, or month views on the screen, and keeps you informed about major upcoming events with on-date dots. Unlike the iPhone, you can’t edit events on iPod touch—a disabled iPhone feature that made little sense to us, or to our readers—but the feature’s still better than Calendar on any other iPod model.
Contacts synchronizes Address Book, Microsoft/Outlook, or Yahoo contacts to the iPhone for review. Surprisingly, you can edit contact data on the iPod touch, including adding photos to your contacts from the collection you have in Photos, but you can’t do much with the contacts thereafter, such as actually contacting the people on your list through e-mail or the phone. You can click on any web URL you’ve stored for a contact, and if you’re on Wi-Fi, Safari will go automatically to that web page.
Clock still contains world clocks, alarms, a stopwatch, and a timer. They all work just like the features of the iPhone, and much the same as on the latest iPod classic and nano models. The only major difference is that the alarm tones aren’t based on ringtones, and now play through the iPod touch’s micro clicker speaker rather than through the iPhone’s nicer actual speaker. These tones—Checkmate, Jump, Time Passing, Time’s Up, and Up Down—are all simple beeps, and it would be generous to call them anything but annoying.
Finally, Calculator is just like the one on iPhone—a handy feature when you’re out and about and just need a quick way to compute tips, your bank deposits, or whatever else you may need. Oddly, all that’s different is its main menu icon; when Calculator is opened, it looks just like the iPhone’s calculator.