Review: Apple iPod touch 2008 (8GB/16GB/32GB) + 2009 (8GB/32GB/64GB)
Pros: A substantial improvement to 2007’s polarizing original iPod touch, featuring better screen and audio quality, superior battery performance, and lower prices for previously offered storage capacities. New enclosure looks and feels better in the hand than its predecessor, and adds both volume buttons and an integrated, decent speaker for easier listening. Incorporates hardware and software support for the Nike + iPod Sensor, lacking only support for Nike’s wireless remote control, as well as limited support for upcoming microphone accessories. Continues to include all of the software and hardware features found in the prior iPod touch, with only one exception, enabling users to enjoy music, videos, games, web browsing and email, as well as numerous downloadable applications. Much faster transfer speeds than prior model. New 32GB and 64GB models offer faster processors and enhanced graphics capabilities, as well as new Voice Control and Accessibility features.
Cons: Low storage capacities relative to hard disk-based iPods continue to force users to choose between the smaller-screened and more capacious iPod classic or the bigger-screened and more versatile iPod touch. While improved, battery life is still not comparable to Apple’s best prior iPod classic. No longer supports FireWire charging accessories, rendering the device unable to be recharged by some popular past iPod docks, speakers, and car kits, and video-out to an external display can only be unlocked by overpriced cables or relatively new docking accessories. Though hardware is now microphone-compatible, device currently lacks software support for microphone accessories, and recording software developed for the iPhone does not work. Software updates may add to device’s actual cost of ownership.
In 2007, Apple released three substantially new iPods: the biscuit-shaped third-generation iPod nano (iLounge Rating: A), the metal-faced iPod classic (iLounge Rating: B+), and the phoneless iPhone called iPod touch (iLounge Rating: B-). This year, Apple has updated all three models with new features that range from trivial to important, generally improving each while boosting storage capacity for the dollar. Our review of the second-generation iPod touch (8GB/$199
$229, 16GB/$299, 32GB/$399
) covers all of the key changes and details you want to know about. We’ve also posted a video walkthrough of the interface for those who may be interested.
Over the past seven years that we’ve been writing about iPods, there’s never been a model as polarizing as the original iPod touch. As Apple’s first multi-touch, widescreen iPod, the first-generation device offered certain features and potential that really excited users. It was the first iPod to include an 802.11b/g wireless antenna, enabling the device to not only play music and videos from its own library, but also to surf the web with a Safari web browser and purchase music wirelessly from the iTunes Store. But its potential was crippled by disappointingly high prices, low storage capacities, screen issues, and comparatively weak battery life. iPhone owners and fans of high-capacity iPods pilloried the device; even Apple CEO Steve Jobs surprisingly described it as “training wheels for the iPhone” only days after its announcement.
After initial sales apparently didn’t meet expectations, Apple started to rehabilitate the iPod touch. Applications that had deliberately been left out from the iPhone were added back in, unfortunately in the form of a $20 software update. The company started to pitch the iPod touch as a breakthrough “mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform,” and later, after another $10 software update, began to highlight its potential as an affordable gaming device. Early adopters complained that Apple’s policy of paid upgrades had fleeced them, but the new software was pre-installed at no charge on newly shipped touch units, undeniably growing the appeal of the device to new customers.
Still, it was obvious that software fixes weren’t enough. With only 8GB of storage capacity at a $299 price, the iPod touch seemed underequipped and overpriced when compared to the newer “$199” 8GB and “$299” 16GB iPhone 3G. It still lacked for a lot of the iPhone’s functionality. And neither its audio nor its video quality was up to Apple’s highest levels of performance.
Thus, the second-generation iPod touch has emerged with a number of substantial changes, and it hasn’t lost anything—except as noted on page six—that was found in its predecessor. Physically redesigned, the new model is lighter and feels thinner than before, sports a nicer chrome front bezel, and packs both an internal speaker and side-mounted volume control buttons, just like the iPhone. Audio, video, and battery upgrades at least partially remedy concerns we had about its predecessor, while surprising new features—Nike + iPod Sport Kit and external microphone support—have been added to broaden its appeal to accessory users. Additionally, though storage capacities have stayed the same, their prices have dropped by $70-$100, making the device a much smarter buy than the first iPod touch. Our comprehensive review of the new model discusses all of these details, and many more; read on for what’s new, what’s old, and many illustrative photos.
[Editor’s Note: On September 9, 2009, Apple introduced a physically identical “Late 2009” iPod touch model that has been variously described as the “third-generation” or “new” iPod touch, replacing the prior mid-range and high-end iPod touch units with higher-capacity, faster versions at the same price points. These models, the 32GB ($299) and 64GB ($399) iPod touch, were reviewed by iLounge on September 13, 2009. Apple also dropped the price of the second-generation 8GB model to $199. As such, we have added a tenth page to this review dealing exclusively with the new models and explaining our updated ratings.]