Apple 5th-Gen iPod touch in Its Clear Case
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Apple's fifth-generation iPod touch is nearly everything the iPhone 5 is, with the notable exceptions of cellular service and a quite-awesome 8-megapixel camera. It's also a digital device that appears to lose more relevance with each passing year; when the iPhone surges, a standalone device seems silly, especially when it can do the same thing an iPhone does except make cellular calls. Yet, this iPod touch makes sense.
I think it’s the perfect device for a child or pre-teen -- someone who may be too young for a phone, but is constantly stealing Mom’s iPhone from her purse. No, they don’t want it for calls; people use their iPod touches for games, TV shows and movies, and taking photos and videos. If they're online they also throw in web browsing, email and social media.
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More than ever, Apple's fifth-generation iPod touch reflects those activities and that younger market segment. This version of the device is the first to feature color options, and it even has a wrist strap, called the "Loop." When I first saw it, I thought it made the iPod touch look like the world’s thinnest point-and-shoot camera (and to a certain extent, it is). However, the wrist strap is really about handing the $299, 32GB device to kids and making sure they don't immediately drop it.
I have to admit, I kind of like the strap, too. I carried the iPod touch all over New York City with it dangling from my wrist. Sure, I looked ridiculous, but I never worried about fumbling with the device when I was trying to take a photo with one hand. If the iPod slipped from my grip, I was covered. On the other hand, the Loop holder, a little retractable button on the iPod, is a bit of a miss -- and not because it doesn't work. It does, but when you push the button back into the iPod, it squeaks and doesn't feel very Apple-like.
Looking at the iPod touch, it's -- at least from the front -- almost a dead-ringer for the new iPhone 5. The two devices are almost the same height and width. The iPod, though, is considerably thinner (.24 inches versus the iPhone 5's .30 inches) and lighter (3.1 oz versus the iPhone 5’s 3.95 oz).
It naturally lacks the iPhone’s ear-side speaker. Volume, power and home controls are all in similar (or the same) spots, and both devices now feature the tiny Lighting jack on the bottom. Like the iPhone 5, the iPod touch does not ship with a 30-pin adapter (it should). So for now, you'll have to either buy one of those overpriced $29 adapters, or use an audio jack if you want to connect it to any of your existing 30-pin iPod docking peripherals.
From a design perspective, the two gadgets diverge on the side and back case colors and materials. The iPhone has sharp edges and a mostly aluminum back (black or “white”), and the fifth-gen iPod touch features curved edges and colored aluminum backs. On the back, you'll also find the Loop button, a tiny microphone hole, the LED flash and a slightly raised camera lens.
That last item is somewhat unusual since Apple typically produces devices with clean profiles. The iPhone 5's 8-megapixel camera is flush on the back surface. But this 5-megapixel camera lens on the iPod touch sticks out roughly a millimeter.
It's What's Inside the iPod touch
The iPod touch features the exact same Retina display as the iPhone 5. It’s 4 inches, the same 1136x640 resolution, and even has oleophobic coating to fight smudges from human oils (blech). Suffice to say everything looks just as good on the iPod touch as it does on the iPhone 5. If you own a previous iPod touch, however, the difference will be startling.
Running iOS 6, the iPod touch brings with it many of the same features found in the iPhone. That fact also brings the iPod touch just that much closer to being a phone (without the ability to make calls). It supports Find My iPod (like the iPhone’s but using Wi-Fi), FaceTime over Wi-Fi and texting between iPods and iPhones using iMessage. The iPod touch even gets the same dual-band 802.11N Wi-Fi radio, which made browsing zippier than previous iPods and my older iPhone 4. It also helped FaceTime stay real-time.
All the email, calendaring and contact features you find in iOS 6 on the iPhone 5 are there and work just as well as they do on the iPhone -- which is to say, quite well.
Having that information on your iPod touch comes in handy now that Siri, the artificial intelligence-based virtual assistant is on board. She worked fine for local data and the Internet, as long as she was connected to Wi-Fi. Outdoors, without a connection, Siri is useless on the iPod touch.
Apple did upgrade the iPod touch’s camera, but it’s still a level below the 8-megapixel model found on the iPhone 5. The touch’s 5-megapixel camera takes great outdoor shots, but struggles in low-light situations. The grain is significant at dusk and even fluorescent-lit office environments. It can take panoramas, and with enough light, they look good. Oddly, the file sizes for iPod touch’s panoramas are almost as large as those of the higher-resolution iPhone 5 -- an indication that they probably take them at the same resolution.
The iPod touch also doesn't get as big of an assist from its CPU. While the iPhone 5 got the new dual-core A6 chip, the iPod touch relies on the previous generation dual-core A5. The A5 CPU does, though, do an excellent job with the 3D map flyovers in the much-derided Apple Maps app.
In general, photos looked good, though not always great. The 1080p video I shot with the forward-facing camera looked excellent and the 720p resolution I experienced with the front camera made FaceTiming with friends a pleasure.
Where the iPod touch really shines is in gaming and video. It’s hard for me to fathom why anyone would buy another portable gaming-only device when you can buy an iPod touch. As always, gameplay looked amazing on the Retina display. I played Asphalt 7, Temple Run, Angry Birds Space, Bad Pigges and The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Developers have yet to roll out widescreen updates for all games, and some I played are still letterboxed. Yet each game looked great and operated flawlessly.
The fifth-gen iPod touch is also a great video consumption device. I bought Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (so sue me) and thoroughly enjoyed the cheesy flick on the small screen. Similarly, Netflix, especially with the new interface, is a pleasure to use. Episodes of Battlestar Gallactica looked brilliant on the 4-inch display.
In case you forgot, the iPod touch was originally a digital music player. It still is and remains the best in the business. The Music interface hasn’t changed much, but the player benefits greatly from the new store interface, where music discovery and purchase is easier than ever.
There’s only one tiny speaker on the iPod touch, so get used to using the new EarPods. I like them, though I know some people complain that they do not fit “snugly” in their ears. I like that they fit comfortably and never, ever fall out. The sound is rich and deep, though they do nothing for external noise cancellation. If you want that, get a pair of decent headphones.
Charge and Charge It
Battery life is very good. I did all the things I listed above in a single charge. After a full day of mixed use, I still have half my battery life left.
Apple made an interesting choice with the fifth-generation iPod touch. In an effort to define the low end with a different product, the touch starts at $299 for the 32GB model. There are no 8- or 16GB options. For a cheaper player, Apple will steer you to the tiny iPod nano, which starts at $149 for the 16GB option.
$299 may seem like a lot to pay for a device that does less than the $199 16GB iPhone 5, but that device is subsidized. Bought unlocked, it could cost you almost $700.
Would You Buy an iPod touch?
Would I buy an iPod touch? If I didn't already own an iPhone 4, yes. However, I think the bigger question will be if parents want to buy their children and young school-age kids this sporty, new device. It’s attractive, fun to use, plugs effortlessly into the Apple iOS ecosystem and does almost everything an iPhone does.
But I do worry about the price ($199 is the magic price, not $299 and definitely not $299 without an AC adapter) and that the camera is a weak cousin compared to the superior shooter on the iPhone 5. Plus, if you're only buying it for gaming -- a reasonable assumption when it comes to kids -- the 3D-ready Nintendo 3DS (which I do not like as much) is half the price.
Overall, I recommend the iPod touch as the ultimate MP3 player and a great mobile entertainment device for kids who aren't ready for smartphones. For everyone else, I'd say buy it only if you're not in the market for a new phone. In that case, go for the iPhone 5.
This story originally published on Mashable here.