Apple’s dropped the price and slimmed down the body of the iPod Touch in its second outing, but aside from that – and new features that you can implement on existing Touch models – it’s largely business as usual. That still means it’s a great player – but the imperative to upgrade for existing Touch users probably isn’t there.
The iPod Touch has undergone a very slight diet, as the new model is ever so marginally slimmer than the first generation Touch units were. It’s also gained a few new features ,most notably an embedded speaker – so you can annoy people on the bus with your music – and a dedicated volume control on the left hand side. It’s further blurring the line between the iPod Touch and the iPhone 3G, essentially. For the fitness enthusiasts, the new model Touch supports Nike+iPod technology, so keen runners with an affection for only one shoe brand can track their exercise progress with the iPod Touch.
As with the other recently announced iPod models, the new iPod Touch supports Apple’s "Genius" playback functionality. This allows you to select an icon when listening to any song, and have the iPod build a compatible playlist on your iPod based on the music that’s already there. You’ll need to have iTunes 8, and the Genius feature enabled in iTunes, to make use of Genius playlists.
Like the iPhone, the iPod Touch supports Apple’s App store, which lets you install programs – everything from games to social networking software, all the way up to enterprise level CRM applications. That’s not exactly a new feature for this model of iPod Touch; existing Touch users with the 2.1 firmware can perform the same trick.
We liked the original iPod Touch a lot, and even in the context where the iPhone is available, it’s still a quite compelling little gadget. Adding App functionality makes it even better, as there’s a wide range of very easy to use applications. As before, audio and video quality are very good, although we’d suggest you ditch the awful white bud headphones that Apple slaps into the box. They might be a fashion statement, but they aren’t very good. Speaking of not very good, we’re going to mentally place the iPod Touch speaker in that bin as well, as it sounds awful. Acceptable perhaps for demonstrating a song lyric quickly, but a boombox this is not.
The battery life of the Touch has been improved in this release, up from 22 hours to a claimed 36. That’s going to vary very widely depending on what you do with it; with WiFi enabled and a relatively heavy App usage model running alongside music we could exhaust it within twelve hours during our test period. That’s probably still enough for most uses, and unlike the companion Nano 4th Generation, at least the battery life hasn’t actually decreased.
Apple touts the new iPod Touch as the "funnest" iPod ever, and we’re not entirely sure we agree with that. It’s not that it isn’t "fun", but the essential differences between this model and its predecessor really aren’t that great, and aside from the slight thickness difference, you wouldn’t even necessarily tell which model was which if you put them side by side.
Apple hasn’t done anything strikingly wrong with the second generation Touch. At the same time, they haven’t done anything all that striking. Yes, it’s slightly slimmer and lighter, but beyond that, and the slight price drop – which you might expect over time anyway – it’s much the same as its predecessor It’s still a great little unit, and with the inclusion of App support, it’s a good choice if you’re tempted by the iPhone but either can’t afford the plans or don’t want or need another phone.
Additional pricing information
This review was conducted on the 32GB version of the iPod Touch, which has an RRP of $549. The Touch is also available in a 8GB version for $329 RRP, and 16GB for $419 RRP.