First Look: iPod touch 1.1.3

In all the hubbub over the announcement and release of the iPhone 1.1.3 software update, the existence of the same-numbered update for the iPod touch and the $20 package of application updates for the iPod was somewhat overlooked. As I packed my touch for the week in San Francisco, I’ve been able to put the update through its paces. Here’s what I found:

Installation

My iPod touch poses some unique upgrade changes since it’s “jailbroken”—altered in such a way so that I could install third-party applications on it. Before attempting to upgrade the touch, I wanted to restore it to its pre-jailbroken state with the hope that this would make the update go smoothly. This was easily done by connecting it to my MacBook Pro, selecting it in iTunes’ Source list, and clicking Restore in the Summary tab. In shortish order, the iPod touch was restored to its near-virgin 1.1.2 state.

I then fired up Software Update and downloaded and installed iTunes 7.6 and QuickTime 7.4. QuickTime demanded a restart of the Mac. Once restarted, I again jacked the iPod touch into the Mac. iTunes asked that I agree to its license agreement and I was soon back to a familiar iTunes screen where the program informed me that a new version of the iPod software was available. “Go get it,” I said, and the 165MB iPod 1.1.3 software update downloaded and, eventually installed on the iPod.

The process wasn’t completely seamless. Twice the iPod touch displayed the “Connect to iTunes” icon. After unplugging the iPod a couple of times and then forcing it to restart by holding down the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons for about 10 seconds, iTunes finally installed the update successfully.

iPod touch January Software Update

My jailbroken phone already included copies of the iPhone’s Mail, Maps, Weather, Stocks, and Notes applications, and I was anxious to have them back. Currently the most painless way for that to happen is to purchase Apple’s $20 iPod touch January Software Update. To locate the update, I opened the iTunes Store, and clicked the icon you see to the right.

The resulting information screen told me what to expect—the applications I listed above as well as the ability to add Web Clips on the iPod’s Home screen and lyrics to the iPod.

Like the iPhone running software version 1.1.3, I could also have multiple Home screens. To proceed I clicked Go to Software Upgrade.

Is this a sign of things to come when third-party apps arrive?

Though Apple hasn’t stated so specifically, it’s likely that the next screen gives us a hint of how the iTunes Store will handle third-party applications when the iPhone SDK is released in February. On this screen you see a nice illustration of what the upgrade will do to your iPod touch, the title of the upgrade, who it’s from, its year of release, its price, and finally a Buy Software button. Click the button and it’s very much like clicking any other iTunes Buy button. You confirm your Apple ID and password in a dialog box and the software downloads to your Mac and the update is applied.

Again, not seamless. It appeared that the updated downloaded but the iPod failed to show the new icons. I attempted to download the software again, and iTunes kindly told me that I’d already purchased it but that it had failed to download. As suggested, I clicked OK but nothing happened. I then chose Check For Purchases from the Store menu. Again, no dice. I finally just let iTunes sit for awhile and unplugged the iPod and then plugged it in again. This time the software downloaded and installed.

Like an iPhone

The update made my iPod touch even more like an iPhone. Place the iPhone and updated iPod touch side by side, run each device’s Mail, Maps, Weather, Stocks, and Notes applications and you’ll find them indistinguishable (not surprising considering they are exactly the same applications).

The Settings screens of the two devices are a little different as the iPhone has to accommodate settings for the iPhone telephone functionality (Airplane Mode, Usage, and Sounds—for assigning ringtones). Contacts settings earn their own entry on the iPod touch while they’re contained within the Phone settings on the iPhone. The iPod touch has separate Music and Video settings whereas the iPhone puts these settings within the iPod entry. The General setting on the iPod touch lacks a Bluetooth entry as, obviously, the iPod doesn’t have Bluetooth capabilities.

Move to the Home screen and tap and hold on an icon and all the icons on the screen start shimmying. To move an icon just drag the icon to a new location—to the dock at the bottom of the screen, to a new location in the main collection of icons within the main window, or to the right, off the screen, to move the icon to a separate page. To stop the shimmying effect, just press the Home button.

To move to another page, you can either swipe your finger horizontally across the iPod’s screen or tap the dot just above the Home screen’s Dock row that represents the additional page you want to move to. (Jailbroken phones running the Summerboard application have a similar multi-page flicking system, but tapping Summerboard’s dots don’t move you to another page.)

The applications behave just as they do on the iPhone running 1.1.3 software. All the new capabilities of the Maps application are here too—Location, hybrid map view, the ability to place a pin and bookmark it, and the cool page curl effect that exposes options behind the current map. Mobile Safari’s new-found ability to save bookmarks as Web Clips on the Home screen is there too.

The result

The iPod touch running the 1.1.3 software with the iPod touch January Software Update is essentially an iPhone that can’t make or receive calls and lacks a speaker and camera. And it’s a nice thing to see.

Many people found the lack of some of the iPhone’s features and applications on the touch more than a bit arbitrary. It appears that Apple now believes so too—or, at least, is willing to believe so if you’re willing to pay an additional $20 to add those things to the iPod.

[Senior editor Christopher Breen tracks iPod developments for the Playlist forum.]

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