Review: iPod Touch

It’s been quite a while since I got my iPod Touch, and considering quite a few people already have them, I wasn’t planning on reviewing it. However after a...

It’s been quite a while since I got my iPod Touch, and considering quite a few people already have them, I wasn’t planning on reviewing it.

However after a lot of people I meet still unaware such a device exists, and the recent focus during Macworld, I feel the need to provide my rundown of the iPod Touch.

Background:
I’m a large consumer of music, I have been since for about the past 10 years. My previous method for music playback was simply ripping CD’s to MP3. I tried a cheap portable MP3 player, however after a couple weeks at the gym, it died.

So for quite a while I was restricted to a PC for music playback. I made the decision I wanted to purchase my music online, happily forgoing the traditional CD case and artwork for the convenience.

iTunes accompanied by an iPod quickly shone as the only real option. Microsoft’s Zune is still unavailable in Australia and iTunes simply had the most extensive collection available. Throw in the addition podcast integration (of which again, I’m a huge consumer), and it my decision was made.

The iPod Touch had just launched and in my eyes, it left all other iPod’s in a different era.

Interface:
Without a doubt, the iPod Touch along with the iPhone set a new bench mark for user interaction with mobile devices. This is already proved with the huge number of copy-cat devices hitting the market.

The number one most impressive feature is being able to take it to a party, hand it to someone and with no instruction at all, they can use the device. That is simply amazing for any device.

As for the iTunes interface, it’s certainly better than Amazon’s music store, but it’s well beyond the need for a web 2.0 refresh! Apple, bring on iTunes 8, sooner rather than later.

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Web Browsing:
I’ve used quite a few Mobile Web Browsers, none of them, NONE come anywhere close to Safari on the iPod Touch. This is quite simply the best Internet experience of any mobile device.

No longer are we forced to endure a list of text links, but we can actually enjoy the full version of website, just as the developers had intended. As a multimedia developer by day, I really appreciate this move forward in mobile browsing as it means all the craziness of developing a mobile version of your site will soon be gone.
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Audio:
Let me first start with iTunes quality.. I was so very, very disappointed and quite honestly shocked to discover that all the millions of iPod users had accepted the amazingly low 128kb quality of iTunes music for years now. I thought to myself how did iTunes and iPods ever get so popular with this rediculously low quality. I stopped ripping CD audio that low bitrate at least 8 years ago. Apple are making very slow improvements in this area with iTunes Plus doubling the quality to 256kb, however this is far from their entire library.

The iPod Touch comes with some ok ear phones, which frustratingly don’t have an in-line-control. Other than that, they’re good solid headphones, they’ll even be your lifeline to your Touch if you try and drop it. Tried this a couple of times (unintentionally while fumbling at the gym). I also tried a friend’s Bose ear phones, wow what a difference! Although pricey, if you want much, much better bass, then I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.

iPod Touch 009

Resiliance:
I’ve had the iPod Touch since November last year. I’m incredibly impressed scratch resistance of the glass screen up front. Not a single mark, despite getting cosy with a number of items in my pocket.

The rear side however is a different story. The polished chrome finish is now supporting an array of scratches.  Of course there are cases, but I just can’t cover such a slick sexy device with an ugly cumbersome case.

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Purchasing the January Apps:
There’s been an awful lot of discussion around the fact existing iPod Touch users were forced to pay $25 in Australia for the new applications. I woke up at 4am to watch the keynote coverage, so after the not so quick iTunes 7.6 update and the 1.1.3 firware update, I instantly downloaded the new apps – Mail, Weather, Notes, Stocks, and Maps.

It felt really good to get more functionality from the iPod Touch, bringing it closer to the iPhone. I didn’t have much of a problem laying down the cash for the apps, I’ve had months of use out of the Touch and the purchase price is long forgotten.

I wasn’t so impressed when I learnt that new iPod Touch owners would get them for free. Technically I’m sure it was a very easy port from the iPhone to the iPod Touch, so next to no development cost would need to be recovered. Despite this, I believe the January App pack is worth the money.

My favourite new app – Mail.

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Image from shadowzblog.

Negatives:
As brilliant as the web browsing experience is (see above) it has one of the biggest downfalls. NO FLASH SUPPORT. I can’t tell you how much of a deal breaker this is for mobile browsing. There are literally millions of websites that utilise Adobe’s Flash Player, some even completely Flash-based and without support, it renders them useless.

I believe the reason for this lies in the lack of processing power inside iPod Touch and iPhone. Most developers publish Flash content using the fully fledged Flash Player, not what’s called Flash lite, Adobe’s mobile targeted version (used by other mobile devices). The reason:  Flash lite dramatically reduces the feature set available to developers.

Some animation and ActionScript (the language behind Flash) programming can contain large calculations to display, something modern computers have no problem with. However I have strong suspicions, that the limited processing power inside the Touch / iPhone would mean a lot of Flash Movies would crash out, leaving Apple to not include any Flash support at all.

I really wish Apple would come out and announce that this is in fact the reason for the lack of Flash support and what the future plans for a solution are. Fingers crossed once the SDK is released at the end of February that something can be done with this problem.

Side issues:

– I’ve raised this before about Australia being gouged for iTunes music. Apple’s not great at math, the US$0.99c per track, somehow translates to AU$1.69. This  frustrates me to no end.

– Australia’s Wi-Fi is very far between, so using the Maps locater basically isn’t an option.

Overall:
Despite not being an Apple fanboy, I’m really impressed by the iPod Touch. If nothing else it’s a great promotional item for the iPhone.

As most users find the accessories is where Apple really gets you. I’ve already switched out my car stereo for a new one with iPod support. I’m also seriously considering an iPod dock for the bedside table. If only they weren’t so expensive.

iPod Touch 013

Tip for iPod Touch users:
Double-click the home button with the Touch is locked and you get access to your place controls. This saves you unlocking then doing simple things like volume and track changes.

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