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.
Unlike the original 8GB iPod touch, which sold for $299 and came in a deluxe cardboard box, the second-generation 8GB iPod touch sells for $229 and ships in a transparent hard plastic container that’s nearly identical to the ones used for the iPod nano and iPod shuffle. This box is interesting for only one reason: it’s the first to place a sticker on the front of the iPod, letting the buyer know what the device looks like with the screen turned on. Apple’s packaging doesn’t become any fancier as you step up to the $299 16GB model or the $399 32GB model, marking the first time that the company has sold iPods this expensive in see-through plastic boxes; frankly, we don’t mind.
The new iPod touch’s pack-ins are very similar to the first version’s, dropping only slightly in number and quality. Preserved are the pair of Apple earphones, USB-to-Dock Connector cable, and Universal Dock Adapter from before, though the Adapter is now version 16, and features updated curves. Apple now includes a thinner, cheaper-feeling screen cleaning cloth rather than the thick, suede-like one that comes with iPhones, and no longer includes the small plastic stand that held the original touch on a recline for video viewing. Most users won’t mind the stand’s omission, given that similar parts come with many iPod cases, but it would have been nice for Apple to keep it anyway.
Two Apple logo stickers, a safety and warranty booklet, and full color Quick Start pamphlet are also in the package. As with all iPods sold over the past couple of years, you’ll need to download iTunes from Apple’s web site in order to actually use the device in any way, as that media synchronization software is required but not included in the package. iTunes 8 or later is required for the second-generation iPod touch.
Significant changes have transformed the original iPod touch’s shape in entirely positive ways. You still get the same glass face and a 3.5-inch, 480x320 resolution display, front Home button, top Sleep/Wake button, bottom Dock Connector and headphone ports—all in virtually identical spaces—but now there are also tiny black left-mounted volume controls like the ones on the iPhone, only thinner, and a redesigned back casing. The volume controls are easy to use, as is the Home button, which is no longer recessed slightly under the front glass surface and consequently is easier to touch.
Most notable about the new back shell isn’t its continued use of scratch-attractive polished metal, but rather a few changes that were designed to make the device look slimmer. To create the illusion of thinness—the new model is actually a half millimeter thicker at maximum than the prior one—the second-generation touch’s back now tapers from a 0.33” (8.5mm) thick center to thinner, soft edges that wrap around the face to form a chrome bezel, replacing the separate charcoal-colored matte black bezel of the first iPod touch. This particular set of design decisions make the new iPod touch look and feel better in your hand than its predecessor; its soft corners even help it feel nicer than the smaller, thinner fourth-generation iPod nano.
The 4.3” (110mm) height and 2.4” (61.8mm) width are identical from the first iPod touch to the second, but between a slight decrease in the weight—4.2 ounces to 4.05 ounces—and those tapered side edges, most users will have a hard time believing that it’s thicker at any point than the first iPod touch. It’s an especially stark difference from this to the iPhone 3G; there’s even more of a gap in their sizes than there was between the original iPhone and iPod touch. Note also that there are no differences in size, thickness, or weight between the 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB models of the iPod touch; unlike last year’s iPod classic, they have the same batteries and general parts inside, save for their different memory chip capacities.
One big surprise about the new iPod touch is the manner in which Apple has integrated a speaker into the casing. Unlike the iPhone, which has special metal vents for both its bottom speaker and microphone, the iPod touch has no apparent perforations at all for speaker ventilation. Instead, the speaker performs somewhat like a NXT flat-panel design, radiating through the unit’s metal back surface and bottom ports. We discuss the speaker more fully on page four of this review.
While we really like the changes that Apple has made to the new iPod touch’s body and packaging, there’s one thing that still sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s the device’s Wi-Fi antenna cover. Still made out of black plastic, this cover no longer forms an odd corner of the touch’s otherwise metal rear surface, but instead is a small pill-shaped compartment floating in the same general area. The original iPhone got the antenna cover design right; as much as it’s otherwise improved, the iPod touch continues to look a bit odd from the back.