I’ve owned a number of MP3/digital music players, but up until recently only one of them was an iPod. The first two of note were versions of the original Creative Jukebox – the silver and blue ones that came in a form factor not dissimilar to an overweight portable CD player. The battery like was as woeful as the interface, and uploading songs using USB 1.0 was not fun.
In 2003 I succumbed and purchased a 15GB 3G iPod – the one pre-clickwheel with the touch sensitive row of buttons under the monochrome display. The size was sufficient at the time, even though my digital music collection was more than 15GB even at that time. I never found that not being able to carry around every single track I own limiting. In fact it was refreshing to have to consider what to put on the device.
The 3G iPod served me well. So well that I felt no need to ever upgrade it. I didn’t need a colour screen, and whilst video and photo display was enticing, viewing them on a tiny screen wasn’t. I swore that I wouldn’t upgrade until it either broke (which it hasn’t, nor has the battery diminished enough to warrant replacement either) or Apple produced a true video capable iPod, by which I mean one with a screen you could actually contemplate watching on a plane.
The iPod Touch fulfills my criteria, and so I’ve bought one. The 16GB model give me more space than I’ve had before (so no problem there. I’m even happy to sacrifice music space for video space) and has the killer advantage of wifi and web browsing. It is pretty much the perfect device for me. I’ll address the major features in turn.
At last the effort I put in earlier this year to re-rip, encode and provide album art for all my music pays off. Coverflow on the touch is so much better for choosing what I want to play than looking at a monochrome list of albums or artists. For one thing I can now see the artist and album information at the same time. The killer though is being able to see the artwork. It is so much more like flicking through my CD collection. Something I can no longer do as it is all boxed up and in storage.
One entirely understandable but slightly annoying thing (certainly in comparison to the iPhone) is the lack of an external speaker (bar a simple one for the alarm and a couple of other things) A number of times I’ve found myself showing off the device only to say “of course you have to have the earphones in to hear the audio for this video” It is an iPod at the end of the day though and really meant for personal consumption.
If Coverflow is the eye-candy, then it’s made all the more better by the multi-touch interface. Using this is simple and effective. The damping effects when you scroll at different velocities are awesome.
Video playback. Not made much use of this yet, save for the Make Love Not Warcraft episode of South Park which was immediately downloaded from iTMS. Playback is good though. The YouTube stuff I’ve found flaky. Some work fine, some seem to hang the application (from which the touch recovers quite well after a short delay.)
Wifi and web browsing. The killer factor, and the reason I already love my touch. I’ve had mobile wifi in the form of my Nokia N80 for 18 months now, and whilst viewing HTML based web sites is possible, it is not a pleasant experience and I found myself heading to WAP sites in preference. Safari on the iPod Touch however is awesome. It renders pages faithfully and quickly, the landscape view is perfect and the zoom function easy to use and effective. Text input is excellent (most notably when in landscape mode) and little things like adding previous and next buttons to the keyboard popup to save you having to press to select individual fields on a form make it truly usable. One of the annoying things about the N80 was filling in forms. Something you typically have to do any time you join a public wifi network, even if it is just a userid and password. With the touch it is simple and quick. I need go no further to prove that the touch is a capable and usable web browsing device than to say that a friend managed to do the whole of the Facebook movie compatibility test application, in the full Facebook web UI not the cut-down iPhone/Touch optimized version, whilst connected to a public wifi point in the pub last Saturday night.
Yes, the lack of flash is an annoyance, but not a big one.
Lack of mail app? So what, web-based mail is perfectly usable (at least mine is)
As for the lack of 3rd party application support. Well I did Jailbreak my touch, as you can see from the photo above. To be honest however I’ve not found any compelling additional applications for it. Yes I could find and install the mail app if I wanted to, but I don’t. When I show the device to people I end up demonstrating the hacked nature by running a terminal and typing ‘ls’ To be honest, so what if I can now ssh into my touch, or run a VNC client on it (honestly, why would you want to?) I’ll be doing a restore and upgrade if a new firmware comes out rather than keeping it hacked. Things may be different once the official SDK comes out I feel.
Battery life is superb. I charged it up on Thursday night before a day of work, followed by a flight over to the UK for the weekend. Music playback during work, the flights, lots of showing off and a good couple of hours of wifi usage and browsing over the course of the weekend failed to use the full charge up by the time I got back on Sunday evening. That’s good enough for me.
Annoyances? Well it seems to have a problem with the correct display of some album art. I’ve seen various thread on this and it seems to be a problem with the way iTunes stores album art and corruption of the data. Everything is displayed fine in iTunes, but some albums get the wrong art when transferred over to the iPod. I’m still searching for a resolution that doesn’t involve anything too drastic like resyncing the entire device.
Why didn’t I wait for the iPhone. A number of reasons. Firstly there’s no news on when it will appear in Ireland. I am not interested in getting a hacked one, the touch is much thinner and finally because I don’t believe in uber-converged devices. The battery life suffers and it tends to become a jack of all trades and master of none.
So in summary, I couldn’t be happier with my iPod touch!