Cover Flow, of course, has made the transition from iTunes to the touch with its effective, Rolodex-like browsing as it has with the rest of the iPod range, but the touch sensitive screen adds another dimension in the touch. Click into the music browser, turn the touch on its side and an internal sensor rotates the screen into landscape format and turns Cover Flow mode on automatically. Browsing your music is then a simple matter of flicking your finger across the screen to the right or left. Flick hard and the Rolodex spins quicker; drag your finger slowly and the animation is more sedate. And the whole lot moves as if it were governed by real-life physics, gradually slowing to a standstill, rather than abruptly stopping.
This system works just as well in the rest of the touch’s menus. Whether it’s scrolling up and down through lists of albums, creating playlists, browsing photographs or videos it works superbly well. You never find yourself stabbing the screen with no response, and it’s been designed so that even those with the fattest fingers can click buttons, links and options accurately. There’s a whole host of lovely touches that’ll get you cooing with delight too, such as the unlock control, which requires you to drag a slider across the screen – no fiddly hardware switches here – and the on/off settings switches which you slide from left to right instead of simply pressing. The one hardware control is a single button to the side of the screen, which is employed as universal back/exit button.
But the touch really comes its own when you start to take advantage of the Wi-Fi connection to browse the internet via the built-in Safari web-browser and the mobile version of the iTunes store. As before, a flick of the finger has you scrolling up and down lists with ease and, amazingly, even tiny text links seem relatively easy to click – you don’t need the precision of a Harley Street surgeon to get to the page you want. Again, Safari has been revamped and adapted almost perfectly for the touchscreen interface. Tap the address bar at the top of each page and a keyboard pops up with a remarkable effective QWERTY keyboard. As you type on this, the letters pop up above your finger so you know exactly what letter/number you’ve just hit.
If you can’t read the text on the 3.5in, 480 x 320 resolution widescreen, you just pinch your fingers together, spread them apart on the screen and, hey presto, you zoom in; reverse that manoeuvre and you’re zoomed out again. The touch pulls off what no other pocket device or smartphone I’ve used can – browsing the web with your fingertips without having to resort to using a stylus.