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.
For years, we have tracked the speeds at which various iPods synchronize with iTunes under real-world conditions, and have performed tests on both the new iPod touch and the new iPod nano to see how quickly they can be filled with data. In our test environment, it took exactly 2 minutes for 1GB of mixed music and video files to transfer to the new iPod touch, versus 3 minutes and 31 seconds for the same files on the original iPod touch, and 1 minute and 29 seconds for the iPod nano.
In other words, though the new touch isn’t as fast at transferring files as the nano—and can slow down even more when you’re syncing mixed types of files such as applications and photos—it’s nearly twice as fast as the slowpoke original iPod touch. You can expect that completely filling the 7.1GB of usable space on a second-generation 8GB iPod touch will take roughly 14 minutes, versus 29 minutes for the 14.5GB of usable space on an 16GB iPod touch, and around 59 minutes for the 29.6GB of usable space on a 32GB iPod touch; older computers, and those with hugely shared USB hubs, may well take longer. Note also that the amounts of usable space will vary based on the version of the iPhone OS system software installed.
These positive transfer results are offset by a disappointing change to the iPod touch’s accessory compatibility: like the iPhone 3G and fourth-generation iPod nano, the second-generation iPod touch no longer supports charging from a collection of past iPod accessories, notably including Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi and Bose’s SoundDock, which used an unpublicized but widely adopted charging technology called FireWire charging.
There’s no way to assemble an exhaustive list of all of the accessories that used FireWire charging rather than Apple’s subsequently preferred standard, USB charging, but it suffices to say that a number of old iPod speakers, car accessories, and docks won’t charge the new iPod touch. They trigger one of two dialog screens that alert you that the iPod has detected an attached charger, but cannot actually charge from it. These accessories will still generally perform properly for any feature other than recharging, and most add-ons released—not sold—in the past two years will work without any issue at all. Of course, Apple’s included USB cable still charges the iPod touch when connected to any USB 2.0 port-equipped computer.
As we noted with the release of the iPhone 3G, Apple alerted developers to this change quite some time ago, so the only people who will be surprised will be the many users with incompatible accessories, including some high-end car kits. Thankfully, it doesn’t disable most accessories entirely, but it’s yet another example of a communications disconnect between Apple’s “Made For iPod” program and the customers who have relied upon it to purchase add-ons.