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.
There’s a simple way to sum up our thoughts on the second-generation iPod touch: if Apple had released this device at these prices last year, we would have been thrilled. Virtually all of the first-generation model’s functional issues have been addressed—at least, partially—and the new version looks, feels, and sounds considerably better than its predecessor. While it is not a complete substitute for an iPhone thanks to its lack of phone, GPS, and camera features, the new iPod touch is a completely worthy alternative for users who just don’t need that added functionality; considering how expensive and troubled 3G data services have been for many iPhone 3G users, we’re inclined to say that the second-generation iPod touch is currently a smarter buy than the iPhone 3G overall, at least in some countries and regions.
Having said that, the second-generation iPod touch still isn’t the ideal widescreen iPod many people been waiting years to purchase: Apple’s continued obsession with thinness, and its refusal to pair a hard disk with the 3.5” display, force users once again to choose between the video-friendly storage capacity of an iPod classic or the eye-friendly screen size of an iPod touch. It’s both astonishing and aggravating that Apple continues to sell movies, TV shows, and games that are increasing in resolution and size, but doesn’t make a single pocket device that can hold and display them without constant, time-consuming re-synchronization. Is a thicker hard-drive version of the touch, comparable in size to last year’s 160GB iPod classic, really so difficult to release as a stop-gap measure?
Until flash memory prices fall, or Apple decides to give its fans the hard-drive based touch device they’ve been asking for, users will be forced to pick between the iPod touch and iPod classic. Thanks to the new iPod touch’s better pricing, screen, battery life, and audio quality, that choice has just become a lot more difficult—unlike last year, we think that the choice between these options is now a draw, as they’re both B+ products and worthy of our strong general recommendation. Once again, the big question is whether serious video fans will be able to wait another year for the inevitably superior successor.