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.
Apart from bug fixes, iPhone OS 2.1 has changed very few of the other applications and features found in the prior iPod touch software release. The following list enumerates all of the other pre-installed applications and their recent important changes, if any.
Safari: This web browser enables you to view and interact with virtually any major web page on the Internet—except those using Adobe Flash Player or comparable plug-ins. Though it has waxed and waned in stability with every new version of the iPhone OS, its current version on the iPhone OS 2.1 iPod touch is sturdy and does a good job of displaying web pages in either horizontal or vertical format. On-screen keyboards appear in each orientation when you need to input text, and bookmarks are transferred automatically from your computer to the device.
We tested the old and new iPod touches side-by-side in 802.11g web browsing to see if either one loaded sites appreciably faster or slower. They didn’t, though the second-generation iPod touch occasionally seemed to have a very slight (one second or less) speed advantage on large pages.
Mail: Based upon the iPhone’s Mail application, this one provides POP3 or IMAP access to virtually any type of e-mail account you may have, as well as Microsoft Exchange or Apple MobileMe servers, and lets you both receive and send e-mails from multiple accounts. This application is useful for casual browsing of e-mail when you’re away from a computer, but between the on-screen keyboard and its lack of sophisticated folder and junk mail management, it’s neither a good replacement for a computer-based e-mail program nor for a device with a pressure-sensitive keyboard.
iTunes Store: Added to the iPhone and iPod touch in an early software revision, the iTunes Store lets you buy music—not videos—from Apple’s 8-million-song library. Songs transfer wirelessly to the iPod touch without the need for a computer’s iTunes application as the conduit, and transfer back into your iTunes library during synchronization. Purchases are handled with credit card information stored in your Store account.
App Store: Added to the iPhone and iPod touch in software version 2.0, the App Store lets you download free and paid applications from the applications section of the iTunes Store. Since the iPod touch uses a Wi-Fi connection, you can download applications of any size to this device without using a computer’s iTunes as a conduit; again, backups take place when you synchronize the iPod. Applications have been widely criticized as buggy and unstable, in part due to poor application programming and in part due to the iPhone’s buggy OS; the latest iPhone OS is more stable than before, but still not perfect.
Calendar, Contacts, Notes: These old iPod carryovers store information you’ve compiled on planned events, people you know, and things that you find noteworthy. They have not received major updates since their release, but all three are editable on the iPod touch with an on-screen keyboard—editing and Notes were added belatedly after the first-generation iPod touch was released.
Stocks, Weather, Calculator, Clock: These applications provide widget-like stock and weather tracking functionality, as well as an on-screen calculator and world clocks. The only major change here came months ago in Calculator, which now includes both vertical and horizontal (scientific) calculators.
Maps: Though it hasn’t seen huge improvements since version 2.0 of the iPhone OS was released, Maps includes a location finder that uses Wi-Fi signal information to roughly triangulate your location, as well as a directions feature that works roughly as well as the iPhone’s, minus the more expensive device’s GPS functionality. You can see satellite or roadmap views of locations around the world, zoom in or out to your heart’s content, and get driving directions to or from any location, including addresses in your Contacts list. You can also use Maps to lookup phone numbers and addresses of nearby businesses, which is often more convenient than using Google in Safari.
Settings: A master settings menu for all of the iPhone OS and third-party applications provides individual menus for certain programs and combined menus for others. There’s nothing remarkable or new in the iPod touch second-generation Settings menu, except for the presence of the Nike + iPod settings mentioned above, which includes an option to turn the icon on or off. We’d like to see this icon off-feature in more of the device’s menus; having the choice to separate music and videos would be great, as would be the option to turn off each of the iPod touch or iPhone’s individual icons save for Phone.
Downloadable Applications: Discussed in great detail on iLounge already, iPhone OS 2.0’s ability to download and run third-party applications radically expands the iPod touch’s ability to serve as a miniature computer or game-playing device. You can read much more about the most popular and noteworthy iPhone OS applications in our iPhone Gems articles.