In what’s beginning to become a habit with me, it’s time to take a second, “now that I’ve lived with it” look at an Apple product I’ve reviewed. In this case, the iPod touch, the phone-less iPhone I reviewed in September.
Since the publication of that review, Apple has released a couple of updates that have improved the touch. The first, the 1.1.1 update, addressed the touch’s worst video issues — a situation where dark portions of video and photos could, at best, look really dark and, at worst, produce X-ray-like artifacts.
The subsequent 1.1.2 update added some language support that could be easily overlooked by all who don’t specifically require that support. Key to this update was a fix for a fairly minor, though annoying issue: You could now input events in the touch’s Calendar application. While hardly a burden to sync events from your computer to the iPod as you’ve done with any display-bearing iPod since time immemorial, given that the iPhone could do it, it seemed needlessly tightfisted of Apple to withhold the feature on the iPod touch.
Fine, the worst aspects of the iPod touch’s video performance have been improved and it now behaves in a more iPhone-like way in regard to calendars. So, how does it feel now that I’ve incorporated it into my digital life?
Darned good. As in….
First choice for video
When I place the iPod touch next to my iPhone and compare the quality of the screen, I still prefer the iPhone display’s clarity. But it’s rare when I view the devices side by side. Take the iPhone away and banish the memory of its video purity and the iPod touch offers a perfectly acceptable viewing experience.
Once you accept that it’s a fine vehicle for watching videos, you can’t help but wonder why you’d burn through your iPhone’s allotment of battery charges when you have such a serviceable video player at hand. Underscoring its value as a video player is the top model’s 16GB capacity. While my colleague, Jonathan Seff, may feel that the iPhone’s 8GB capacity is enough, I like the roominess of the 16GB iPod touch. That extra 8 gigs means I don’t have to rob Peter O’Toole to pay Paul Newman. If I want both Lawrence of Arabia and Hud on my iPod, a couple of seasons of Weeds and last year’s Heroes , and every insightful question uttered by Terry Gross in the past 24-months, I can have it all.
Second choice for audio
Wikipedia tells me that I’ve purchased exactly 32 iPods, so I may not represent the typical iPod owner. That said, given that I have other iPods I’m perfectly happy to devote nearly all of my iPod touch’s storage to video and pack my music library on a “traditional” iPod. I do so for a few reasons.
I tend to jump around my library when listening to music on an iPod and I still mourn the lack of physical buttons for doing just that on the iPod touch. Today’s iPod nano offers plenty of storage at 8GB for the $200 model and it’s tiny enough to fit in that little change pocket in my Levi’s. And finally, as impressive as Cover Flow on the iPhone and iPod touch is, I can find my music more quickly with a traditional iPod’s clickwheel interface.
The Mobile Store
The iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is just freakin’ awesome. After the typical initial rush of excitement (and spending) when the original iTunes Music Store opened, I’d pretty well settled down, purchasing an album or movie here and there, but otherwise keeping it under control. As my credit card can attest, the Wi-Fi Store brought back the fever.
Used to be that every Tuesday morning I’d fire up iTunes to see what was new at The Store. Now, more often than not, I grab my iPhone or iPod touch, tap iTunes, and check out New Releases. If something strikes my fancy, it’s the work of a moment to purchase and download it.
This was particularly helpful over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was at my mom’s place and my sisters and I were sitting around, digesting and talking about old albums we once owned. A simple “remember that perky song about cannibalism?” from my sister prompted me to whip out the iPod touch, tap iTunes, and search for The Buoys’ “Timothy” over my mom’s wi-fi network. While they reminisced I jacked the touch into the stereo and said “You mean this?”
Man, it was like I walked on water.
Hacks make the difference
Like others, when I first laid hands on the iPod touch I couldn’t help thinking “Why can’t this be more like my iPhone?” Thanks to those intrepid individuals who’ve “jailbroken” the iPod touch, it now is. My iPod touch carries the iPhone’s Notes, Mail, Maps, Stocks, and Weather applications. It also holds diverting versions of Yahtzee, Minesweeper, Solitaire, and an Etch-a-Sketch. I can grab screenshots of whatever’s on the display and I have a Terminal application should I wish to delve into its guts.
As I’ve said before, I anxiously await the day when Apple-approved third-party applications come to the iPhone and the iPod touch. In the meantime, my view of the touch is far sunnier thanks to the added abilities delivered by the AppSnapp Installer application.
Touched by the touch
So, have I changed my tune and proclaimed the iPod touch the greatest thing since sliced low-carb, multi-fiber bread ? Not exactly. I’d still like buttons and getting some of the iPhone’s apps stock rather than having to hack them onto the touch would be nice. But were I to be asked to recommend the nearly perfect gift for a loved one who wants to take video on the road, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest a stop at the nearest Apple Store for a gander at the iPod touch.