01.Apple ipod touch
The iPod Touch looks so much like an iPhone that comparisons are inevitable, but that’s not really comparing Apples with Apples — it’s designed to be a touch screen iPod media player, not a touch phone.
Sure, both devices have a 3.5 inch screen and are similar sized (the Touch is 5mm shorter and 3.6mm slimmer) but the Touch lacks the iPhone’s built-in phone, camera, speakers and related programs. Also, the Touch is available now, while the iPhone isn’t expected for a while, possibly several months.
Please note: this information was current as of December 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Main features of the iPod Touch
- Widescreen high-resolution display — view in portrait or landscape mode, with automatic switching.
- Wi-Fi (wireless) networking — for the first time on an iPod.
- Safari web browser — including Google search or Yahoo! oneSearch.
- YouTube internet video player — watch YouTube videos directly via Wi-Fi.
- iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store — download music (but only music) directly to the iPod Touch.
The Touch looks elegant — minimalist glossy chrome and glass, just 8mm thick and only 120 grams (4.2 oz). This is largely due to the absence of an internal hard drive as used in the previous model iPod Video, now reborn as the new iPod Classic (with larger hard drive options — 80GB and 160GB for $349 and $479 respectively).
Instead, the Touch uses solid state flash memory, as does the smaller iPod Nano and Shuffle models, but gives you either 8GB or 16GB, priced at $419 or $549 recommended retail. Though relatively expensive, flash memory uses little power, giving the Touch a claimed 22 hours of battery life for music or 5 hours for video.
The main touch screen has icon 'buttons' along the bottom for standard programs: Music, Videos, Photos and iTunes. At the top are Safari web browser, YouTube player, Calendar, Contacts, Clock, Calculator and Settings. In between, there’s room for another couple of rows of icons for future programs.
As you would expect from the name, most of the Touch’s navigation is done with a simple touch, swipe or flick of a finger. Or, two fingers — the iPod Touch recognises two fingers working together, so you can resize images or web pages by simply pinching fingertips together on the screen or opening them wider.
Videos always display in landscape mode. Touch the screen and transparent video navigation and volume slider tools pop up for finger touch control.
Impressively, the Touch always knows which way is 'up' and rotates photos, music albums or web pages to suit. Turning the Touch sideways while browsing music albums switches to the Cover Flow feature to display album cover art, so you can flick through it with a finger. In Safari, web pages display in landscape mode.
Room for improvement
There are still a few things to fix or improve on the iPod Touch, most notably:
- The onscreen QWERTY keyboard only displays in landscape format for Safari and only if you’re in landscape mode before calling up the keyboard.
- Safari currently lacks support for Adobe Flash and other browser enhancement plug-ins for embedded videos and music, which is no doubt why the YouTube player is a separate program.
- You can enter new contacts directly into the Touch using the onscreen keyboard, but can’t add anything to the Calendar.
The good news is that because like the iPhone the iPod Touch runs a modified version of Apple’s OS X operating system, there’s scope for future expansion via software updates. A software development kit (SDK) is expected to be released in February 2008 which will enable third parties to create new programs for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
However, a hardware niggle is that some accessories designed for previous iPods won’t work with the Touch. For a detailed user discussion and list go online to ipodtouchfans.com/wiki and click iPod Touch accessories.
And while you're looking at accessories, you might want to look for a cover. Unfortunately the Touch doesn’t ship with a protective case or handle and the scratch-resistant glass cracks easily if dropped.
The iPod Touch has been a huge seller so far and deservedly so. It’s a big step ahead of previous video iPods and will become even better as new software programs emerge.