Ipod Touch: iPhone without the Phone
Oct 28, 2007 (Updated Feb 15, 2008)
Review by Mark Antunes
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Beautiful device, fun to use, has internet, pictues & video in addition to MP3s
Cons:No browser plugins, video player with no sound, certain features missing from iPhone
The Bottom Line: Its a great device that allows you to listen to MP3s and browse the internet at the same time.
One day I went in to the Apple store to look at laptops and also just to check it out. When I got there, I saw the iPod Touch, Apple's newest iPod. The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without the phone and a few other features. I really wanted an iPhone, but since switching to AT&T isnt an option for me, I realized this would probably be as close as I would get. I was in awe of the Touch. It was beautiful, like a work of art. Even though my old MP3 player worked fine, I just had to get this, an uncharacteristic move for me.
Recommend this product?
The Touch is similar to the iPhone, but it is missing some of the iPhone's features. Some of these make sense - by removing the phone and the camera, Apple is able to create a cheaper product, one they can sell to those unable or unwilling to get with AT&T. However, those familiar with the iPhone will notice several missing features. Some
of these include the Google Maps, Weather, and Stock Quotes buttons from the main menu. Apple could have easily included these on the iPod Touch, but it did not. I have no idea why. I would have gladly sacrificed some disk space for some of these features. But the Touch's greatness is not in what it is missing, it is what it has that other iPods dont.
Navigation on the Touch is done using the same touch pad (hence the name) the iPhone uses. The user interface is slick and easy to use. Even when trying to select small items, the Touch is remarkably responsive, usually selecting the right thing, even though it equivalent to font size 4 to your eyes. Entering text into a box (like in the web browser) is done using a small on-screen keyboard that appears when you click inside an empty text box. The Touch only has 2 hardwired buttons: one brings you to the main menu, and the other is an on/off switch you can also use to power up the display after it turns off to save power. This lack of buttons does bring a disadvantage though: unless the screen is powered up and accessible (you have to unlock it after powering up the screen), there is no quick way to change the volume or skip to the next track. The screen will change orientation based on how you hold it. If you hold the Touch in a vertical position, it will appear vertically. However, if you rotate it so that it's horizontal, the screen will rotate and display horizontally. This is good when searching your albums or when browsing the web.
As an iPod, the Touch's main purpose is to play music. The music sounds crisp and clear, and you dont have to turn the volume 90%+ up to clearly hear a song like you do on my old MP3 player. The default of 50% is fine for most songs. You can easily search your playlist by song, artist, or album. The album search is probably the most fun because it shows you the album cover of the CD the song comes from. Its just like looking through your CD collection at home, only it hardly takes up any space. Be warned though: when you first load your MP3s onto the Touch, scrolling in album mode will probably not look like it does in commercials. Unless you filled out all of the ID3 tags on your MP3s (including the album), they will appear as generic black tiles with notes on them. iTunes, which you use to sync the Touch, can go and search for album art, but even at that, I spent about a week updating ID3 tags, and there were still quite that did not get album art. Learning the various ins and outs of iTunes made this process interesting. After updating the tags and manually adding art for a few albums, I'd say I now have around 80-85% of the album art. The Touch also has a few playlists. Creating, adding to and deleting from the playlists is easy, and some of these are self-populating.
The Touch also allows you to download and play back videos. In limited experience with this, I have found that with one exception, it works fairly well, with a smooth, easy navigation. The one problem I experienced was with the sound - there is none. iTunes, which you must use to load data onto the iPod Touch, will not accept most normal video formats. Rather, it must convert them to another format before it can load them onto the iPod. This is a lengthy process and easily takes several minutes for every minute of video converted. Overall, due to the slow conversion and the lack of sound, I would give the video function a poor rating. The Touch also will display still pictures. You can view them one at a time of in a slideshow. You can even zoom in on them.
Before I talk about the next three features, I need to explain something. The Touch has internet capability. Unlike the iPhone, which accesses the internet via AT&T's network, the Touch accesses it using whatever wireless internet it can find. The advantage is that you dont have to pay for it. However, access is far from universal. I have a wireless network where I live, so that is how I often access the internet with the Touch. Wireless access is easier to find that you might think, if you know where to look. It can be commonly found at Starbucks, airports and hotels, making it easy for the traveler to access the internet while on the road. Some cities are even creating wireless for all within range to use. The Touch constantly searches for wireless networks. When it finds some, it asks you which you want to connect to (it shows you signal strength and whether it is locked). If you select a secure network, you have to enter in a password, but it will remember that password, and you wont have to enter it again - ever. With that said, let's dive into the internet-enabled fucntions.
The Touch has a direct link to the iTunes store. This allows users to buy music and load it directly onto the Touch without having to use a computer. Once its on the Touch, syncing it with your computer will create a copy of the song on your computer. Apple announced a partnership with Starbucks whereby you can access the iTunes store and immediately have the option of downloading whatever song is playing at the moment in the store. This option is being rolled out a few cities at a time, so it may not be available where you are. Incidentally, the iTunes, music, photos and video make up the 4 buttons on the bottom of the main menu, and are probably intended to be the main ones on the device.
The next feature is the safari web browser. This is what allows you to access the internet. Navigation, including typing things in, is easy. Web pages are the full version you are used to seeing on a computer with one major exception: there are no browser plugins. That means that all the Java enabled or flash things that appear on any given page will not display on the Touch. While disappointing, you can still do most of your web browsing. In addition, there is no downloading of any files off the internet, so you cant save something then transfer it to your computer later. However, you can zoom in on the browser, enlarging the text, and you can save bookmarks and have multiple browser windows open at the same time. Having portable internet access was a big selling point for me, and although its not perfect, I enjoy it very much.
Strangely, the Touch includes a button that allows you to access YouTube directly. This is the only button that allows direct access to a web site or internet application, so I found this odd. Why not include some of the other features from the iPhone? Regardless, it works just like the YouTube web site, and you can view videos off the internet.
The next couple of features are just a few minor things Apple threw onto the Touch. They include a calendar, an address book (contacts), a clock, a calculator and finally there is a button for settings. Most of these are self explanatory. The address book has many fields for you to fill in (none are required), so you can use it to store information. Since there is no notepad or any other place just to make a few notes, this is what I use mine for. Also, there is no way to send email or text messages unless you are able to do so through a web site. The clock has world time, and the calendar does not let you set up events or reminders, even though there is a window for that (maybe I just havent found it). The calculator looks really good, it blends in with the Touch almost seamlessly, but its just a regular calculator, nothing fancy, and it looks just like a calculator you would buy at a store. The settings allows you to adjust the settings on almost anything. For example, you can turn off the wifi so you can still listen to MP3s when you are on a plane.
Overall, I think the iPod Touch is great. I have no major problems with the way it works and I am happy with it. My only complaints are that it is kind of large for an MP3 player, the lack of quick volume/skip track buttons, browser plugins, the lack of volume on videos, and other features found on the iPhone. It really makes no sense to me why certain programs were left off the Touch but included on the iPhone. I think the key to this is to remember you are buying an iPod, one that just happens to have internet access, kind of like the iPhone - its a phone that plays MP3s, that just happens to have internet access. It won't replace your laptop, or anything like that, but as long as you keep your expectations grounded, you will enjoy that nice little bonus.
Update: I have discovered work arounds that give the iPod Touch some of the additional functionality missing from the iPhone. These will not add buttons to the main menu, but you will still be able to do a lot of the stuff you could on an iPhone. Stock quotes and weather reports are easy enough to get with the wifi from regular web sites, so I wont get into those. However, some people are developing web sites specifically for the iPhone/iPod Touch. One such site gives Touch users the ability to access Google Maps. Others allow users to play games on their Touch. I am familiar with one that will show the schedules for the subway trains in Washington, DC. The way all of these work is to visit the web site with the built-in browser (Safari), then to bookmark the page. Then to come back, all you have to do is open the browser and load the bookmark. Not as easy as with the iPhone, but it still gets the job done.
Update 2: Apple is now offering a download on its web site that will give users some of the additional functionality of the iPhone. For about $20, you can get the weather, maps, stocks, notes and mail. The weather feature is nice, it gives you a 5 day forecast for as many places as you want. It will show you the high, the low, and what kind of whether there will be. The maps feature is great too; with it, you basically get Google Maps (with links to satellite imagery) on the iPod Touch. You can even get traffic reports for major roads. I find this very useful because you can load up a map, then bring it with you, and the Touch will keep it in its memory. The stocks will give you a report on how your stocks did, the notes allows you to make notes to yourself (I think you can even send them as a text message). The mail will allow you to read your email (from certain major providers like AOL and Yahoo) on the Touch. Its very easy to navigate, with a smooth interface, and if you click on a link in an email, it will switch over automatically to the safari browser. All of these (except the notes) depend on a wireless internet connection. I always wondered why the iPhone, which came out first, had these features, but the iPod Touch didnt. Now, these features complete the Touch. Im not sure if the Touches currently being produced include this upgrade, but if they dont, I'd certainly recommend getting it.
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