Second Generation Apple iPod touch Review

apple ipod touch
The Second-Generation iPod touch, from Apple. image copyright Apple Inc.
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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.

It's 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 an iPhone's phone contract.

An iPhone without the Phone

The iPod touch has been accurately described as the iPhone without the phone. The iPod touch doesn’t have the phone and cellular Internet access 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 touch doesn’t offer). The touchscreen, hardware, apps, and overall experience are very similar.

Like the iPhone, the iPod touch packs a lot of functionality into a small device. It’s an iPod, video player, email and web device, a contact manager, and, thanks to the App Store, a mobile video-game whiz.

Top-Notch Performance

The iPod touch offers robust hardware to support all these features. Opening and using applications is snappy and it's a rare 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 lasts a day or two in normal use, I squeezed 32 consecutive hours of music playback out of the touch’s battery. Using the device for more tasks will drain the battery differently, but that kind of battery life is impressive.

A Mobile Entertainment Center

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

In addition to the iPod, the touch plays video synced by the user or bought or rented from the iTunes Store with good quality. When combined with the device’s other features, there’s only a small chance that an iPod touch owner will ever be bored when out and about with their device.

Great Mobile Internet

The iPod touch can browse the web with the same ease and features as the iPhone.

Unlike the iPhone, the iPod touch can only connect to the web via Wi-Fi, 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 the battery and costs a pretty penny on user’s monthly bills. 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

The iPod touch is such a dramatic upgrade from earlier iPods because it runs the iPhone operating system. This means that it supports the tens of thousands of applications available through Apple’s App Store.

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

Mobile gaming is the place that the iPod touch shines most. Combining the touchscreen, Wi-Fi connection, and multiple sensors, games 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. The mobile gaming features are so good that leading mobile video game 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 good features of the iPod touch, it is not a perfect device. For instance:

  • Unlike the iPhone, the iPod touch doesn’t have a built-in digital camera, so you can't upload snapshots to Flickr while on the move or movies to YouTube at the beach.
  • Updates to the iPod touch’s operating system cost money, usually US$10-$15.
  • No always-on web connection.
  • The highest capacity iPod touch is 32GB, which will be too small for many music libraries.

Despite those drawbacks, the iPod touch is a very capable multipurpose media and Internet device. It also appears to be the direction iPods are heading. It’s Apple’s most buzzed-about iPod these days and the only one so far that can expand its functionality via the App Store.

I suspect we’ll see other iPod models gain features from the second-generation iPod touch in the future.

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.