What started as an attempt to give music aficionados and iPod lovers a way to enjoy music and video on a large touchscreen-enabled device has now transformed into multi-functional one. iPod touch in its third year, now efficiently works as a PMP, a gaming console and supposedly for many, a small tablet computer. The latest “late-2009” iteration came to life and although it did not have a camera, as many had believed, Apple has packed decent features that will enable it to sell well this holiday season.
The new iPod touch differentiates itself from its predecessor on the hardware front. The 3rd gen iPod touch boasts a faster processor, claiming up to 50% faster processing speed, OpenGL ES 2.0 support and a larger capacity option, going up to 64GB. Technically, the iPod touch features an ARM processor, extra storage to load oodles of apps, multimedia content and with OpenGL ES 2.0 support, it gives the freedom to developers to harness the device’s 3D capabilities by developing richer, smoother looking apps.
Other new things you’d find are the bundled earphones, which now comes with remote and mic and on the software front – Voice Control and improved accessibility.
On the face of it the 3rd generation iPod touch is very similar to the previous generation. It has the same button adjustments, stainless-steel enclosure etc. It also weighs and measures the same – 115g and 110×61.8×8.5mm. The device feels and looks good in the hands but there are couple of drawbacks – 1) It’s a fingerprint magnet and 2) It’s easily scratchable. The back gets easily scratched and it’s somehow difficult to preserve it in a pristine condition unless you cover it in a protector, right from the day one.
Moving onto its PMP capabilities, it is undoubtedly one of the best music players in the market. Videos look great on its vivid 3.5-inch display and as far as music quality is concerned, it is top-notch but when heard only with earphones. The integrated loudspeakers are a downer. Hearing music with no EQ on max volume on loudspeakers tends to sound bad. Really bad. However, optimizing the EQ settings a bit makes the songs on loudspeakers listenable, but not enjoyable.
The iPod touch earbuds comprise of the +/-, center button and mic. These new functions enable to take advantage of the Voice Control or activate Voice Control that speaks out the name and the artist of the current song playing. Voice Control on the other hand, allows a user to control the iPod verbally. Holding down the center button on the earphone cord activates Voice Control and with the help of integrated mic, you can ask the iPod to shuffle songs, play songs from album XYZ and much more. Unfortunately, for me, Voice Control did not work as intended as it faced problem picking my Indian accent. Manipulating to an American one gave me few results but was not at par.
Apple has also worked on the accessibility front to give more power to visually impaired users. It brings in Zoom that lets you zoom in or out any part of the iPod menu or app, higher contrast with White on Black, speak auto-text that speaks out the corrected word and large fonts for e-mails.
Here comes the new iPod’s USP – faster processor and Open GL ES 2.0. Frankly speaking, you won’t feel much difference while doing your usual operations like listening to music or surfing web but the difference is obvious when you initiate a game or a resource-demanding app. Faster processor does shove off the extra few seconds and OpenGL ES 2.0 makes it possible to add shaders, improving the overall graphic quality. The upgrade seems worthwhile since Apple pitches the iPod touch as a gaming console than a music player.
Few other things that make iPod touch superior to other PMPs is the ability to have a decent web browser, Wi-Fi, e-mail client, record Voice memos, Maps, Nike+iPod and of course, a very tight integration with iTunes. Users with an iTunes account can easily buy multimedia content as well as apps right from the device and then later back it up on the computer during sync.
We should also not forget the important contribution of the iPod software. Our 3rd Generation 64GB iPod touch came with OS 3.x and if you’re uninitiated with the benefits, the latest firmware gave the ability to run Genius Mixes (bummer is you’ve to enable it on iTunes first), Genius recommendation for apps, cut, copy & paste, Bluetooth with A2DP and parental controls.
As for the battery life, iPod touch packs in a lithium-ion battery life claiming to give 30 hours of battery life and 6 hours of video. Real world test obviously differs and with a continuous usage, it gave us about 6 hours of audio and 2.5 hours of video. Expect the battery life to decrease further if you use Wi-Fi or play games.
Now that we’ve spoken of the current set of features, let me tell you what we can expect from the future iteration. A teardown of the 3rd gen iPod touch revealed some interesting features. There’s some space found at the top that is enough to fit a camera, an 802.11n Wi-Fi chip and FM receiver/transmitter. While the first upgrade will be done only by way of adding a new hardware, the latter two updates can be expected to be unlocked with a future software update.
To wrap this up, the new iPod touch does bring some interesting things to the table but it’s still not enough. If you owned a 1st gen iPod touch wanting an upgrade or a first-time user, the new iPod touch is quite a bargain. But if you own a 2nd gen touch and is satisfied with its gaming prowess, you should rather wait for the next update which will mostly include all the aforementioned features, including the camera.
64GB iPod touch currently retails for Rs. 24,400 in India while it goes for $399 in US.