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.
Three of the most noteworthy additions to the new iPod touch have been heavily requested by readers: true Nike + iPod Sport Kit support, a miniature speaker to let users enjoy music, movies, and games without the need for headphones, and microphone support. Without question, Apple’s choice to add all three of these features to the iPod touch will thrill most users, though they each come with modest caveats.
While Apple could easily have added support to the original iPod touch—or the iPod classic, iPhone, or iPhone 3G—for the Nike + iPod Sport Kit Receiver and Sensor combination, it chose not to do so for reasons that remain unclear. Instead, the company appears to have included a special chip in the iPod touch that would normally be used for Bluetooth functionality, but here has been repurposed to communicate directly and solely with the shoe-mounted Nike + iPod Sensor. As such, you can buy a $29 Nike + iPod Sport Kit, but you won’t need the Receiver; the Sensor can now be purchased alone for $19.
The iPod touch version of the Nike + iPod interface isn’t exactly the same as the iPod nano’s, but it’s close. There’s a main screen with basic, time, distance, calorie, and calibration options, plus tabs on the bottom of the screen for your past workouts and history. A separate settings screen is found under Settings, letting you turn the Nike icon on or off, select a PowerSong, pair the Sensor, and lock the on-screen displays into horizontal or vertical screen formats if you prefer.
One notable omission from the Nike + iPod interface for iPod touch is the absence of apparent support for wireless remote controls, such as Nike’s Amp+ Watch, which are capable of pausing playback, changing controls, and changing volume levels while you run. As such, you’ll need to interact solely with the touch’s integrated volume buttons and on-screen track controls to handle music, which is a little less convenient than the nano’s Click Wheel-based interface, but not awful.
Apple also enables you to hit the Home button in the middle of a workout to use other applications, placing an iPhone-like “Touch to Return to Workout” bar near the top of the screen with a number indicating your workout’s progress. Your current connection to the Nike + Sensor is also indicated by a plus sign that’s wedged between the play and battery icons in the upper right corner of the screen. While all of this looks a little nicer than the third-generation iPod nano’s Nike+ menus, we prefer the streamlined design and remote compatibility of the fourth-generation nano, and hope that Apple updates this feature for Amp+ compatibility—and possibly flashier graphics—soon.