What almost looks like an iPhone 5, has the guts of an iPhone 4S, the camera of an iPhone 4 and the wrist strap you had on your old Nokia? The answer, my friends, is the latest iPod Touch.
The fifth generation of Apple’s music player / gaming machine / baby iPhone has been resculpted and given a candy coloured coating and a batch of updates that really make deciding exactly what it is very difficult. It’s called an iPod, but seriously, if you wanted an iSomething to listen to mp3s, you could pick up a shuffle or a Nano. The iPod Touch is so much more.
The new Touch has all the elegance of the iPhone 5 but none of the bulk. It weighs nothing (okay, 88 grams) and is impossibly skinny – just 6.1 mm thick. Its back is built from smooth curved aluminium which is unfortunately quite cluttered with a camera, flash, strip for the wireless antennae, microphone, wrist strap hook and the iPod name and Apple logo. The small circular clip on the back for the matching wrist ‘loop’ retracts so it sits at the same level as the backing. So if you’re not a strap person, you can click it away and move on.
The base has the Lightning cable port, a headphone jack on the left and the five tiny holes on the right that hint at the speaker grill underneath the back plate. The volume controls are on the Touch’s left side, and the un/lock button is located on the top. It’s light, but it doesn’t feel cheap at all, and it fits in your palm nicely without requiring much straining to reach all over the screen.
While its gentle edges are beautiful, I found it a bit too thin and sleek sometimes… yes, I dropped it. A lot (it survived without any scratches though). I didn’t like the strap and the iPod’s smooth aluminium and slight frame doesn’t give you much to hold on to – I almost wanted to stick it in a case so there was less chance of it accidentally faceplanting into the nearest tiled floor.
Hello again, Retina Display. The iPod Touch has the 4-inch display that graces the iPhone 5, packing in 1136 x 640 pixels with a density of 326 ppi. The colours are vibrant from whatever angle you care to view it from, and makes pretty much anything look good – from HD videos to the text on webpages and ebooks. It was also surprisingly less of an obvious fingerprint trap than most of the smartphones and tablets on the market – you don’t have to feverishly buff the screen ten times a day to keep the smudges at bay and see the screen properly.
The new Earpods are actually quite an improvement over Apple’s previous earphones, which are generally only good as a desperate last resort. These oddly shaped little pods don’t fall out of your ears at the slightest movement as easily as their predecessors did, and don’t require that you boost the volume continuously just to hear your music over gentle background noise. They don’t offer the level of noise-cancelling insulation as some of the in-ear buds on the market, but they’re still a pretty decent set of earphones.
The sound from the tiny speakers on the Touch is nothing great though – at higher volumes, expect that classic tinny effect that has haunted your gadgets for decades. But the placement of the speakers is smart – because they’re not on the back, you can put the iPod down anywhere or hold it easily without covering the speaker.
The 5MP iSight camera is fantastic for snapping photos outdoors or in well-lit rooms, but it didn’t hold up well in lower light conditions and photos came out grainy in even partially lit spaces, unless the LED flash was enabled. But it’s more than enough for most of the day-to-day shots you’d probably take, and comes with all the features (like autofocus, face detection, iOS 6’s panorama mode and HDR) you’d expect on a higher end smartphone. The camera can also record HD video (1080p) at 30 frames per second, while the front-facing 1.2MP camera shoots at 720p.
The Touch comes in 32GB and 64GB variants and in a range of colours from the standard black and white to pink, blue and yellow. It has a speedy dual core A5 chip, Bluetooth 4.0 and is 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi capable. It doesn’t have built-in GPS, but location based services still work, using a Wi-Fi connection. The battery life is seriously impressive – even when it is connected to Wi-Fi constantly and used to jump around between apps, videos and music for hours a day, this anorexic iPod lasted 2-3 days on a single charge.
Honestly, if you’re a Wi-Fi leech who communicates mainly via email or apps like Facebook chat and Skype, this could almost be your phone. It almost is an iPhone, albeit one that can’t make calls or receive SMSes. It fits into an interesting niche: it’s a backroad into iOS 6 if you’d prefer to spend US$299 rather than drop US$649 for an unlocked iPhone 5, and it’s also a good little device for playing games or using iPhone apps if you can’t find equivalents on your Android or Windows Phone, for example.
But if you’ve got a relatively decent smartphone, do you really need another 3 to 5 inch gadget to cart around? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever your requirements, the Touch is a fast and sleek iDevice with all the benefits of a stunning display and iOS6 with a lower price tag. Gear it.