Technology Apple

Get the lowdown on the 2nd generation iPod touch in this review Rating


The Good
  • Terrific feature set - iPod, web, apps
  • Full App Store support
  • Great iPod
  • Lightweight and slim

The Bad
  • Software updates cost money
  • No camera
  • 32GB may not be enough capacity for some libraries

The Price
8GB - US$229
16GB - $299
32GB - $399

If the second-generation iPod touch represents the future direction of much of the iPod line, iPod lovers are in for a very pleasing future.

The iPod touch combines the best features of the iPod with some of the strongest aspects of the iPhone into a top-notch portable media and game device that’s perfect for anyone looking for advanced features, but who doesn’t want to take on the phone contract associated with the iPhone.

An iPhone without the Phone

The iPod touch has been described as the iPhone without the phone, which is about accurate. The iPod touch doesn’t have the phone and cellular Internet access features or a camera, but in most other ways the two devices are very similar. In fact, the iPod touch stacks up against the iPhone very well on size: it's lighter (at 4.05 ounces) and thinner than the iPhone.

In most other ways, the second-generation iPod touch is virtually identical to the iPhone 3G (the iPhone 3GS adds some features and hardware the second-generation touch doesn’t offer): the touchscreen, hardware, programs, and overall experience of using it are very similar.

And, like the iPhone, the iPod touch packs a lot of functionality into a small device: it’s an iPod, video player, Internet device that sends email and browses the web, a contact manager, and, thanks to the App Store, a mobile video-game whiz.

Top-Notch Performance

In order to support all these features, the iPod touch offers robust hardware.

Opening and using applications is snappy and rare is the moment when you feel like something is happening too slowly.

In keeping with this punchy performance, setting up the iPod touch is quick. A few short steps in iTunes and you’re syncing content. I synced 600 songs – about 2.3 GB – in a blazingly fast 6 minutes.

One place that the iPod touch outshines the iPhone is battery life. While the iPhone battery tends to last a day or two in normal use, I was able to squeeze 32 consecutive hours of music playback out of the touch’s battery. Of course using the device for more tasks will drain the battery differently, but battery life in that neighborhood at all is impressive.

A Mobile Entertainment Center

The iPod is thought of, more than anything else, as an MP3 player and the player in the iPod touch doesn’t disappoint. It offers the now-traditional features: music, podcast, audiobook playback, CoverFlow or standard browsing, etc. What makes this iPod different than others, and much more fun when browsing large collections or the image-intensive CoverFlow, is its touchscreen. While the Clickwheel was a great invention for its time, being able to control the iPod touch simply by touching its screen is compelling.

On top of the iPod, the touch plays video added by the user or bought or rented from the iTunes Store with good clarity and quality. When combined with the device’s other features (more on those in a minute), there’s only a small chance that an iPod touch owner will ever be bored when out and about with their device.

Mobile Internet

The iPod touch is able to browse the web with the same ease and features as the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone, though, the iPod touch can only connect to the web via WiFi, so it’s not always online. Still, the WiFi connection is plenty fast for most needs. The device also supports email.

The iPhone’s always-on Internet connection is handy, but it drains battery and commands a pretty penny on user’s monthly bills, so for users who won’t always need to be online (or who already have phones; teenagers perhaps) the iPod touch’s Internet features are solid.

App Store Evolution

Though the iPod touch and iPhone share the same shape and features, what makes the touch such a dramatic upgrade from earlier iPods is that it runs the iPhone operating system. This means that it supports the tens of thousands of applications available through Apple’s App Store.

This addition makes the already-good device a winner. With the wide variety of apps available, the expansion opportunities for the touch are practically unlimited (and simple. Apps can be downloaded via Wi-Fi, installed on the device, and played in just a few seconds). From increasing its productivity apps to gaming, the App Store adds substantial benefits.

Mobile gaming is perhaps the place that the iPod touch shines most. Combining the touchscreen, Wi-Fi connection, and multiple sensors, games can offer all kinds of innovative interfaces, from controlling driving games by tilting the iPod touch like a steering wheel to tapping the screen to shoot or throw items.

The mobile gaming features are so solid, in fact, that leading mobile videogame companies like Nintendo are starting to worry that the touch will cut into their markets.

The Few Drawbacks of the iPod touch

While there are many worthy features of the iPod touch, it is not a perfect device for everyone.

For instance:
  • Unlike the iPhone, the iPod touch doesn’t have a built-in digital camera, so no snapshots uploaded to Flickr while on the move or movies created for YouTube at the beach.
  • Updates to the iPod touch’s operating system cost money, usually US$10-$15.
  • Since it doesn’t have a phone inside, it doesn’t have an always-on web connection.
  • The highest capacity iPod touch is 32GB, which will be too small for many libraries.

Despite those drawbacks, the iPod touch is clearly a capable multipurpose media and Internet device. It also appears to be the direction iPods are heading. It’s Apple’s most buzz-laden iPod these days and the only one (so far, at least) that can expand its functionality via the App Store. I suspect we’re going to see other iPod models gaining features from the second-generation iPod touch in the future.

And all the better: this is a terrific device for almost any user, and especially for those who want the best of the iPhone without the two-year phone contract.

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