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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Small, beautiful form factor
Limited security features
The iPod Touch (2019) is for those who need almost all the features a smartphone can offer, but don’t want to spend an iPhone price.
The iPod Touch, recently updated for 2019, is a bit of an enigma in the handheld device space. Most adults already have a device that can do basically everything an iPod Touch can do—a smartphone. But that doesn’t mean the iPod doesn’t have its clear uses in today’s world. In fact, we found it to be a great alternative for those that don’t want to be always connected with a smartphone like younger kids, or those who want a Wi-Fi-focused device while traveling abroad.
Of course, it also works flawlessly as an on-the-go-music player, so we can see it being valuable for those who want to take something just a bit smaller and a bit lighter to the gym. We ordered a blue iPod Touch (2019) and spent about a week with it. Read on to see how it worked for us.
One of the most vexing aspects of the new iPod Touch is the design. For starters, calling it “new” isn’t really fair. This is essentially the same design as when Apple updated its iPod Touches with new colors a few years back. That is to say, we’re pretty sure it’s the exact same shell. There are big, outdated-looking bezels, and a colored aluminum back. There’s a giant home button on the front, and a single camera lens on the front and back. This all amounts to an aged look. But when we unboxed ours and got it in our hands, we were surprised at how nice it felt.
We’ll get more into the premium feel in the build quality section, but on looks alone, this device is a refreshing alternative to the giant devices that every smartphone manufacturer is shipping. It’s just under 5 inches tall, only about 2.3 inches wide, and has an impressive sub-quarter-inch thickness (0.24 inches). This makes it among the smallest and slimmest music players you can still get from any tech brand. It’s important to note that this size does restrict you to a 4-inch display, which limits you when consuming media (we’ll touch on that later), but on size alone, the Touch gets a thumbs up from us.
You can get the iPod Touch in six colors: the classic Apple Silver, Gold and Space Gray, plus the more vibrant Pink, the (PRODUCT)RED color, and the one we received, Blue. On every color, the front of the device consists of big, white bezels (half an inch or so on the top and bottom). But if you opt for the Space Gray, you’ll get sleeker black bezels.
The rest of the design leans on the beautiful Retina display. The display gives you an impressive resolution of 1,136 by 640 with 326 pixels per inch, meaning it feels pretty modern from a pixel density standpoint. It looks really great, but the 4-inch size means that watching YouTube videos or scrolling Instagram feels a little claustrophobic. All in all, it’s a great looking design, befitting of the Apple brand. But don’t expect it to be cutting edge.
As we hinted at in the design section, the build quality is one of the best aspects of the device. The whole back is built of aluminum, while the front is completely glass. This gives you a much more premium feel than even another smartphone at this price level. Apple has also put in some premium touches, like a chrome metal ring around the camera and flash, as well as around the charger and headphone jack. These touches all make for a really solid-feeling iPod.
The whole back is built of aluminum, while the front is completely glass. This gives you a much more premium feeling than even another smartphone at this price level.
At only about 3 ounces, it’s also one of the lightest devices we’ve used. It’s impressive that Apple has accomplished a premium feel with such a lightweight device, and we definitely put this in the pro column. But, something to note, is that we think the durability might suffer a bit with this build. It’s metal, so it won’t crack on the back like the “glass sandwich” phones that are out there, but it does seem to have a bit more flex than we’d like. With such a skinny device, we don’t recommend tossing it at the bottom of a bag or dropping it on the ground—the LCD is almost certainly at risk.
Easy setup is far and away the biggest pro of the 2019 iPod Touch. If you opt for an MP3 player from Sony, or a budget brand like AGPTEK, you’re leaving anything except music playback out of the equation. The iPod Touch gives you everything you’d expect from a smartphone, except for cell service. You set it up the exact same way as an iPhone, complete with using an Apple ID to log in and the App Store to download apps. You can even use iMessage.
This makes it a great option for those who just want an intermittent smartphone-like device. It’s great for kids who are too young for cell phones, or for those who want to unplug, but still connect to Wi-Fi in emergencies. The sharp display and snappy processor also combine to give you a really great user experience.
You’ll get plenty of other options, too, including Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, motion tracking with the built-in accelerometer, a three-axis gyrometer, and even the option to call up Siri voice assistance.
The standard, snappy multi-touch iOS experience is here in full force (without 3D touch, though). There’s an 8MP main camera on the back, that takes pretty impressive pictures considering its resolution, and lets you record 1080p videos. The 1.2MP front-facing camera does feel pretty cloudy and dated, but it’s nice to have the option for FaceTime.
You get plenty of other options, too, including Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, motion tracking with the built-in accelerometer, a three-axis gyrometer, and even the option to call up Siri voice assistance. You won’t get any added security features, like a fingerprint sensor or Face ID, and as a result, it’ll be tough to justify using the Touch as your main device. But so much of the iOS experience is still intact, with HDR photos, image stabilization, and the full App Store. We really were impressed with just how much we could accomplish on what is billed as a music player.
It’s odd to call the iPod Touch an MP3 player, but it’s important to associate it with its lineage in Apple’s groundbreaking iPod line. As a music player alone, it does work really well. You can play MP3s, as well as lossless audio just like you’re able to with most other MP3 players (compatibility includes AAC, AIF, FLAC, and even Dolby’s digital formats). Because this is a full-fledged iOS device, you can also stream audio from Spotify, Soundcloud, etc., provided you can connect to a Wi-Fi connection. This makes it a lot more versatile than just a plain music player. Also note that Apple includes a pair of EarPods in the box, which are just okay on the sound quality front—we’d recommend picking up a nicer pair of buds if music is your primary focus.
Performance was not only great for day-to-day interaction (scrolling websites, swiping between pages and apps, etc.), but it also meant that video streaming and even gaming kept up without lag.
What’s more, is that Apple has taken what worked well for the iPod two years ago, and loaded it up with the A10 Fusion chip. This is essentially the same processor that powers the iPhone 7. This amounts to a truly snappy performance, one you won’t find in any other dedicated music player. Performance was not only great for day-to-day interaction (scrolling websites, swiping between pages and apps, etc.), but it also meant that video streaming and even gaming kept up without lag. That said, while it’s nice to have smartphone-level processing power, if you’re only buying this device as a music player, the processor is overkill.
Storage is a pretty simple aspect of the iPod Touch. The base level offers 32GB of storage, but you can opt for 128GB or 256GB, meaning you’ll have a ton of space for music if you’re willing to spend more. If you want to use the device as a photo storage option, or you’re planning on downloading lots of movies or apps, you’ll find that capacity will fill up quickly. It’s nice to see so much storage in such a slim package, though.
The battery life is another story. The lithium-ion battery is the same one that was in the older model of this iPod. Apple clocks the usage time at up to 40 hours of music playback and up to 8 hours of video playback. These are somewhat strange metrics, because as we mentioned, this is so much more than a media playback device.
We spent a week with ours in New York City as a companion device to our main smartphone—using it when we had Wi-Fi connection to play music, stream to smart speakers, and other tasks. While the battery life was much better than what you’ll get on the iPhone XS, it wasn’t mind-blowing. The lower resolution LCD screen doesn’t require quite as much power as a sharper OLED display does, so you’ll get more than a day with standard use. But we did find our unit died quicker than we were expecting with casual use (about 2 days before recharging). Again, it isn’t anything egregious, but it also isn’t winning any awards.
A conversation about price point can’t go very far without comparing the iPod Touch to an iPhone 7. After all, you can get an iPhone 7 for $449 at the base level if you buy new. That means, if you’re going for the 32GB iPod, which goes for $199, it’s really a no-brainer. But to upgrade to the maximum 256 GB of storage on the iPod, you’ll pay $399. At that rate, you should opt for the iPhone 7 and its security features, better camera, and cellular option. At the entry level, the $199 price tag for the iPod Touch is more than reasonable considering just how much you get, including the premium build. If you want something to kick around the house with, or give your young kids as an emergency device for sleepovers or play dates, this is a great device. And of course, if you want to put a big music collection on a lightweight device to bring on a run, $199 is justifiable.
Sony Walkman: Sony’s Walkman line of MP3 players give you really amazing music playback features, and basically nothing else. Our vote goes to the iPod in this case.
AGPTEK Players: There are a few overseas brands like AGPTEK that give you great bargain MP3 players. If you need a music player only, you can save a lot of money with this option.
iPhone 7: As we mentioned in the price section, at higher storage levels for the iPod, an iPhone 7 is actually a competitive choice, giving you more features for a similar price point. Plus, you still have the option of getting a phone plan and full LTE connectivity if you decide you want it.
An affordable music-playing smartphone substitute.
We weren’t expecting much when tested the iPod Touch updated for 2019. But from the premium unboxing, to the beautiful music, all the way through to the smartphone-level app support, we were pleasantly surprised at just how well this device keeps up in 2019. If you want a cheap communication device and don’t mind needing to hook up to Wi-Fi, and you want to play your MP3s while you’re at it, then this could be a great choice for you.