In my recent review of the iPod touch, while acknowledging that the touch bore the iPod name rather than something along the lines of “noPhone,” I suggested this iPod must be viewed through the filter of the iPhone rather than compared to “traditional” iPods like the new 3G nano and iPod classic. Try as one might to dismiss its faults because “it’s an iPod, not an iPhone,” the iPhone’s existence necessarily changes how we view the device.
Were there no iPhone with a gloriously bright display, I and others like me wouldn’t be clucking our disapproving tongues at the quality of the iPod touch’s display.
Were there no iPhone with a calendar application that allowed us to input events on the device, we wouldn’t be scratching our heads over why this feature was intentionally removed—particularly when the touch’s Contacts application does allow editing.
Were there no iPhone with volume buttons and a headset that contains a tiny remote you might not question Apple’s decision to place no physical controls on a portable media player that begs to be controlled.
Were there no iPhone with a virtual keyboard and a Notes application to take advantage of that keyboard, the lack of a similar application on the touch might not have elicited a collective “Huh!?”
Were there no iPhone with Mail, Maps, Stocks, and Weather applications that take advantage of the device’s Wi-Fi capabilities, some looking at the iPod touch might not question why their Apple Wi-Fi device can’t do the same thing.
Were the iPhone and 16GB iPod touch not priced exactly the same, those considering the iPod touch who don’t need or want a new mobile phone wouldn’t wonder, “What harm would it have done to give me most of the phone’s features on the iPod touch? Buying a phone and a media player are two completely different propositions. I’m going to buy one or the other so what’s it to you where my $400 goes?”
Unfair? Perhaps. But in defense of this argument I’ll quote one Steven P. Jobs who, when asked how Apple might respond to customers upset about the recent iPhone price cuts, replied:
“That’s what happens in technology.”
The fact is that the iPhone does exist. The iPod touch was clearly built on that technology and you can’t avoid comparing the two simply because the thing has a shiny metal back with iPod imprinted on it.
It makes sense that Apple would try to distinguish the two. Ideally, customers would buy both. But spin doesn’t match reality in this case because Apple hasn’t clearly defined the two feature sets. It gives us some very cool parts of the iPhone (Safari, the touch screen interface, contacts, and YouTube), leaves out others (calendar editing, physical controls, the iPhone’s brighter display), and skips expected iPod features (notes, games, and compatibility with a lot of iPod accessories).
While there’s much to like in the iPod touch it remains a confusing compromise.