Review: Apple iPod touch (Fifth-Generation)
Pros: A substantially redesigned and much-improved version of the prior iPod touch, enhancing everything from screen quality to battery life and audio performance. In 32GB and 64GB models, both front and rear cameras are particularly big jumps over prior, poorly-equipped model, now rivaling recent iPhones; new 4” screen is taller and more color accurate than before. The 32GB and 64GB models are now offered in six different colors, including nice silver and black updates to prior models, while including a fabric loop for wrist carrying. Thinner and lighter than before. All models include new EarPods earphones.
Cons: Despite two-year gap since prior model’s release, most of the new features are a full step behind leading iPhone and iPad models, cementing the new iPod touch as a smaller, better-screened remake of the iPhone 4S rather than as an iPod that separately justifies its existence with at least one standout new feature; a challenge as very good $199-$299 tablets continue to grow in popularity. New colors are so-so, and rear shells of 32GB and 64GB models—including a loop connection button and protruding camera lens—are a little unusual by Apple design standards. A 2013-vintage 16GB model regrettably lacks the rear camera feature altogether, seriously reducing the value proposition relative to other models. Lightning Connector breaks compatibility with past Dock Connector accessories unless you separately purchase Apple’s $29-$39 adapters.
Halfway through 2014, during which Tim Cook promised new product categories “across” the year, the only changes to Apple’s lineup have been extremely minor, and in some cases, downright strange. The fourth-generation iPad was unretired to replace the iPad 2 on the same day an 8GB iPhone 5c was introduced in some countries, the MacBook Air got a minor speed bump along with price cuts, and a new 21.5” iMac was introduced with specs matching the Air.
The latest chapter in the saga came on June 26. With a press release as the only fanfare, Apple cut the prices on its 32GB and 64GB iPod touches by $50 and $100 respectively, and replaced the odd 16GB model of 2013 with one that matches the specs of the higher capacity units at a lower price of $200. The missing camera and loop button have reappeared on the device, as have the six bright color options. This brings total parity between the three levels; the only thing separating them today is flash storage capacity and one extremely minor omission from the package.
To be totally clear, the “new” iPod touch is the same device as the 32GB/64GB models we first reviewed in September of 2012, with the exception of storage capacity. The body, display, camera specs, and guts are all identical. That’s a good thing in one way—we really like the design, which is still strong to this day—but it’s a bad thing when you consider the A5 processor was first introduced in the iPhone 4S. While it’ll run iOS 8, there’s no telling if it’ll be upgradable to iOS 9 in 2015, or even if all of the new APIs, especially those related to graphics and gaming, will perform well on the almost three year-old chip. Geekbench 3 tests show the results between the new 16GB model, old 16GB model, and a 32GB iPod touch to be identical.
The only non-capacity related difference between the three iPods is what was left out of the 16GB model’s box: the iPod touch loop. An accessory so forgettable we didn’t even take the time to rate it, and one which we’ve literally never seen used in the wild, the loop is still available as a $9 accessory, but it’s no longer packed in. We also noticed that the particular shade of our PRODUCT (RED) review unit was just slightly different than on the 32GB model, but it’s close enough that it could be a production variation.
There’s no question that adding the camera to the 16GB iPod touch is an improvement, as is dropping the price. The addition of the loop button doesn’t hurt either; we’re pretty neutral on it. This is what Apple should have done last year, instead of the oddball model it did release. It seems as if that was simply a failed experiment on Apple’s part. As for the 32GB and 64GB models, the price cut is certainly appreciated, but coming so late in the game, the value is more questionable. It’s not easy to strongly recommend a $250 or $300 device running years’ old hardware. That’s why all three of today’s iPod touch models earn our general recommendation. That’s a bump up for the 16GB model, and down for the higher capacities. These are good devices to be sure, at good prices, but they’re showing their age, and that’s somewhat concerning.
Update by Nick Guy