Multi-touch is, without a doubt and entirely obviously, the biggest reason why anyone would consider the iPod touch. The best thing about multi-touch is how intuitive it is – even my grandparents can cope with the concept of pressing the icon labelled with the function they’re trying to get to. Want to move a list of emails to the top of the screen? Just drag them up. Want to navigate through your music as if you had the CDs in front of you? Just turn your iPod on its side and use Cover Flow to scroll through your collection by album art. Actually, I still think Cover Flow is more use as an “ooh, look at me” facility than anything else, but I know Ed is a fan – horses for courses I guess. It definitely garners a few glances on the train, that’s for sure.
Mobile Safari is as (s)good(/s) bloody fantastic as ever it was and is still by far an away the best mobile web browser going by a country mile. Sure, it still doesn’t support Flash but the BBC iPlayer and Youtube are both watchable and that’s more than most rival devices can offer.
The on-screen keyboard, too, hasn’t lost its brilliance in the last year or so. Whether typing notes or URLs, adding calendar entries or composing emails It never ceases to amaze me how good both the touch screen’s ability to ‘know’ which letter you were jabbing for or what word you were trying to type.
Apple is making a pretty big deal of the iPod touch as a gaming device this time around, too – thanks to the arrival of the Wi-Fi accessible App store. I would pay good money for a few minutes in a locked room with whoever thought calling it “the funnest iPod ever” was a good idea but I at least agree with the sentiment, if not the grammar. Aside from annoyingly requiring an iTunes Store account to download, there’s nothing wrong with the plethora of free games available for the iPod touch. Dactyl is my current favourite and if anybody can best a score of 53 I don’t want to know about it.
Games aren’t the only thing on the App Store either. A slew of paid-for and free applications are available for download and the list is growing all the time. Add to that the ability to buy and download music away from a PC via the wireless iTunes Store and you’ll have to concede that Apple has almost every Wi-Fi base covered – add syncing over Wi-Fi and I’ll be content.
Wired-up, the biggest catch of an iPod – that you have to use iTunes – is made bigger with the latest generation of devices, which will now require iTunes 8. The addition of Genius playlists might be recompense enough for that inconvenience for some, but I can’t think of any other reason for the restriction so it’s a tad frustrating. Would I refuse to buy a touch because of that, though? No, simply put the touch is by far the most desirable MP3 player going.
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The iPod touch isn’t really even that expensive considering what you’re getting. The £289 asking price of the 32GB model may sound expensive, but there’s no other device that can compete with the touch’s feature set save the iPhone. And you’ll be paying £400 for a 16GB PAYG iPhone 3G. Heck, I remember paying some £300 for a 20GB third gen iPod back when I was just starting college (2003, for the curious). My point? Value is a relative thing and as a fashion accessories go the touch is impressively practical and arguably pretty cheap.
The £169 8GB touch makes for an especially interesting trade off of coolness against capacity with the 120GB, £179, Classic. I already have an iPhone so I know which I’d pick, but without that deciding factor I’d definitely be thinking it over for a while.
For many £169, £219, £289 for an 8GB, 16GB or 32GB MP3 player will be an unjustifiable expense. That’s rather missing the point of the iPod touch, though. There was precious little wrong with the first version and there’s even less to dislike the second time around.
Living on the bleeding edge is never going to be a value proposition and the touch is still streets ahead of the competition, at least from a technology perspective. Not only that but it’s still eminently stylish and the 32GB offering, while expensive, is pretty practical, too. If you don’t want one you probably don’t want a portable player at all.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8