Apple may have refreshed its entire iPod family with a brand new look, but make no mistake - it's all about the new iPod touch. When this little bundle of joy finally reached our hands, Gollum impressions of "my preciousss", were not uncommon. Basically an iPhone without the phone, the new iPod touch is entirely in a league of its own with its breakthrough touch technology.
Since there is no 'phone' in the iPod touch, Apple has shaved off another 3.5mm or so off its depth for a seriously slim 8mm touch. Holding it in our palm, the iPod touch doesn't just look sleek, it feels absolutely stunning. You'll also get immediately hooked on its tilting capabilities. The accelerometer built-in does a good job detecting portrait and landscape modes and adjusting content to be displayed properly. Putting it into landscape mode while choosing audio tracks will transform the playlist into Cover Flow, where you can effortlessly scroll through album covers. Tap on a cover once, and you'll be brought into the song list. Tap on the outside, and you're back in Cover Flow. While you're listening to your music, clicking the 'Home' button twice (the only physical button on the device cover) will make the music controls appear even when the screen is switched off.
If you never thought of an iPod as a serious photo viewer before, now is the time to take a good long look. With a large 3.5-inch display, the iPod touch displays images with sharp and vibrant colors. Scrolling is a breeze as well and the rotating trick works here as well. Imagine full screen landscape or portrait photos with just the movement of your hand - and in their correct aspect ratios no less. Another thing that the iPod touch also does well is the playing of videos.
Besides audio and video playback, the iPod touch has moved into the realm of the Internet. Web surfing on Safari through a WiFi connection was a sweet surprise. The 'pinching' move coined by Apple on the iPhone works best here allowing you to zoom in and out of any website, launch multiple windows and also double tapping to get an up-close look into a particular section. Surfing YouTube was also a really cool experience as your daily dosage of video clips are available just by soft tapping on the YouTube icon.
Till now, you can get by with simple touch gestures, but surfing the Net would definitely require more, so the iPod touch gets an on-screen keyboard as well. From our experience, the soft keyboard was simple enough to get used to and quite sensitive. Better yet, it even featured predictive text. One of those things thing that sets the iPod touch apart from the iPhone is that double tapping the spacebar will result in entering a period and a space after - a really good way to save time.
There are several drawbacks though. YouTube can only be accessed through the dedicated YouTube button and not through regular means from the browser. Flash content doesn't seem to load this way. Some features available on the iPhone like Notes and Google Maps were taken out much to our discontent. The absence of certain functions like being able to add new Contacts but not new Calendar appointments was also puzzling.
While not an actual problem, a touch screen interface also takes away the ability to operate the device with your eyes closed, as with the regular click-wheel iPods. You will need to look at the device to navigate. While Apple has taken touch screen technology up a notch, it is still far from perfect. Most of us experienced sensitivity issues where it failed to recognize our touch commands. Tapping seems fine in most cases, but sliding motions seem harder to get registered.
As an Apple iPod product, you'll also be restricted to using iTunes for everything iPod touch related. No using it as a standard USB storage as well, a point that Apple competitors like Creative like to stress heavily for their own media players. Lastly, Apple still can't provide a decent pair of earphones with their iPods. The bundled set works fine if you're not incredibly fussy, but you'd be better off replacing the tinny sounding pair with your own.
For a flash-based media player, touch screen aside, the price tag for the Apple iPod touch is way too expensive at US$299 (S$498) and US$399 (S$698) for the 8GB and 16GB models respectively, when compared with its other iPod brethren. In terms of features alone, the iPhone (US$399, 8GB) looks like a better all-in-one product, which also includes a built-in camera. Of course, iPhones are currently carrier locked devices with hefty restrictions, but the iPod touch can be freely used anywhere. In any case, the main reason to go for the iPod touch (or iPhone) is for its looks, and the envious looks you will get in return (don't even try to deny it). Once again, fashion overrules function to dictate price.
On the bright side, iPhone and iPod touch owners can look forward to the promised SDK (Software Development Kit) coming in February 2008, which will mean improved functionality and added third-party application support for these devices.