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A week ago, I bought a 16GB iPod Touch. I meant to write a long fawning review praising this thing as an incredible device. I never got around to writing that blog. It's a good thing too. Now that I've spent a full week with it, I've had time to get a much more realistic opinion of it. Here are a few of my likes and dislikes about it.
- The screen: The screen on this thing is absolutely gorgeous. It's large, full color 320x480 screen is a joy to watch videos on and the album art looks positively huge on it. There have been some reports of problems with the screen on the iPod Touch, but I haven't noticed any problems on mine.
- Safari: The mobile browser on this thing is fantastic. It's the best mobile browser I've ever seen. I'm curious how you would program for it though. What screen resolution does it report? Is there any way to detect when the screen gets rotated between portrait and landscape mode.
- Onscreen keyboard: The onscreen keyboard is very well designed. It's also one of the 'smartest' keyboards I've ever seen. The keyboard adapts itself to whatever type of information you are entering. If you are entering an email address, it displays letters, an '@' symbol and even a '.com' button right on the main keyboard screen. If you are typing a company name into the Contacts, it knows to capitalize the beginning of every word automatically. If you double click on the space button, it inserts a period followed by a space. This is a great way to end a sentence and start a new one. If you are typing in a text field, and you hold your finger down on the text field for a few seconds, it will show you a 'magnifying glass' view of whatever area you run your finger over on the text field. Inside this magnified view, it shows you where the typing cursor will be as you move your finger. This makes it very easy to reposition the typing cursor, even on a small screen using a big 'stylus' (your finger.)
- Connecting to the PC: You no longer have to manually 'eject' the iPod from the computer. Just unplug it. If you are not syncing anything to it, you can unplug it at any time. This works beautifully on the Mac. I haven't tried it on the PC.
- Device construction: The iPod Touch has a surprisingly solid feel to it. It doesn't feel cheap. It's encased in metal with a nice, real glass screen, and it has a surprising weight to it, for a device as slim as it is.
- Storage capacity: I rather expected that I would have a lot of trouble living with 'only' 16GB on it, but I find that it's not really that big of an issue. Yes, if you put a large number of videos on it, it will eat the space fast, but if you limit it to just whatever music you like and whatever videos you are watching right now, it's plenty of space. I find that I use the iPod Touch to mostly listen to podcasts and music. Podcasts are a very 'transient' thing in that once you've listened to it, it no longer needs to be on your iPod, so they often don't stay on the iPod for very long - usually no more than a few days. As for music, by forcing you to limit your music selection to only the songs you like off of every album, it makes shuffling the music much easier. You don't even really need playlists. Just shuffle the whole thing and you'll still end up with lots of music you like.
- Contacts application: This application is very well designed and feels nicely 'Mac-ish'. It has lots of smooth animations from one screen to another, and it quite capable for creating, editing, and deleting contacts. The UI of it is very intuitive. I was easily able to make any change I wanted to a contact without any documentation. I certainly can't say the same for the confusing UIs on every other contact manager on the various cell phone's I've used.
- No disk mode: There is no way to use this thing as a portable hard drive, as you could on the older iPods. It never even shows up on the Mac desktop at all when you plug it in. It only shows up in iTunes.
- VERY hard to hack: The previous iPods were very easy to hack into. The file formats of everything on the iPod had been long since reverse engineered and you could do just about anything you want with it. This thing is locked up as tight as a drum. From what I read, a lot about the file formats have changed, to include things such as hashes and other very difficult to crack changes. it's even considerably more locked down than the iPhone, of which it is otherwise nearly identical.
- No physical playback controls: There are only two buttons on the entire iPod - a 'Home' button that goes back to the main list of applications, and a 'sleep/off' button. There are no buttons to allow you to pause/play, fast forward, rewind, etc. a song. You have to actually click the controls on the screen to do this. The problem is, once you start playing a song, the screen will shut off to conserve power while you are listening. In order to get to the controls, you have to essentially double click the home button to turn the screen back on and display the controls. THEN you press whatever control you want. That means to pause the music, you need to press at least three buttons every time. This is an annoying feature. The old iPods where much easier. Just in the physical play/pause button.
- Wi-fi eats the battery: I've come to the conclusion that if you have the WiFi turned on, even if you are not using it, it eats the battery MUCH faster than if you turn the Wi-Fi off. I've even had cases where I pause a song, turn of the screen and walk away. I come back a while later, and despite the fact that it's been sitting there with the screen off, doing nothing, the battery has been drained considerably. My best guess is that since the WiFi was still on, it was still eating the battery trying to connect to a WiFi access point, even if I'm doing nothing else. if you want good battery life out of this thing, turn off the WiFi unless you need it. If you need the WiFi, turn it on just as long as you need it and then turn it back off (in the Settings). This should provide much better battery life. I will experiment with this and report back as to how much it seems to help, if any.
- Can't add Calendar items: It completely puzzles me why you have full access to create, edit and delete contacts, but you can only view calendar items. it makes no sense The iPhone can create calendar items, so why the hell can't the iPod Touch? It's the same application! This strikes me as a stupid attempt to differentiate the iPod Touch from the iPhone.
- No email application: The email application that was present on the iPhone is missing. While you could certainly make the argument that since the email requires a network connection, and the iPod Touch won't always be connected to a network, like the iPhone usually is, that the app is not necessary. Of course Safari also requires a network connection and it's on the iPod Touch, so that argument kind of falls apart. Stupid.
- No notes application: Yet another application from the iPhone that was removed from the iPod Touch for no apparent reason. Note that even on the iPhone there is no way to sync notes back to the computer, so even on the iPhone the Notes app is of little use. I wonder if this will change once Leopard is released. All in all, this mising feature is another stupid omission.
- No document reader application: The older iPods had a 'Notes' feature. This was a very primitive way to keep text notes on the iPod. You could then read these notes from the iPod at any time. There is no equivalent on the iPod Touch. This is a previous iPod feature that has gone entirely missing on the never version of the iPod. This makes no sense. What I had hoped they would do would be to design some simple way of syncing a list of PDF and Word documents onto the iPod Touch. Then all they would need is a very simple application that presents you with a list of the documents and lets you view them. The iPod Touch already has the ability to view PDF and Word documents loaded from a web page (and the iPhone can also do this from documents attached to emails.) It already can view the documents, so what's so hard about writing a simple program to show a list of documents and then pass the document onto it's existing document viewer? The iPod Touch (and the iPhone) would make gorgeous document readers.
All in all, I'm quite impressed with the iPod Touch. From a hardware point of view, it's downright beautiful (as is typical of Apple hardware design). As for software, it's mostly quite good, but has a few glaring things missing.