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Monday, September 22, 2008, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Review: Apple's second-generation iPod touch


Battery Life

The previous touch claimed 22 hours of audio and 5 hours of video, but could easily last for nearly 30 hours of audio playback, although reaching a full 5 hours of video was hard to accomplish. The new model now claims 36 hours of audio and 6 hours of video. We found it actually lasts for nearly 40 hours of music, but delivers roughly 5:45 of video with the screen a half brightness. The iPod touch ships with the screen set to about a third brightness, so Apple's video settings are probably accurate when used at its out of the box setting.

Battery life will drop if you have WiFi on, or use the Nike+ transmitter, or particularly if you're playing games, which tax both the backlight and the processor. That being said, the ultra thin touch begin able to last for that much audio playback is pretty remarkable. If you want even longer playback, you can choose from a variety of standard external battery packs that use the dock connector.

Bluetooth

The new iPod touch also doesn't officially support Bluetooth, but that may be because Apple hasn't finished its Bluetooth software support, even on the iPhone. Currently, the iPhone's Bluetooth support is only limited to mono headsets and car integration kits. Many users would like to see support for data sync and stereo headsets. It appears the touch has Bluetooth hardware, so this limitation may be addressed in a software update.

Display

While many complained about the screen on the original iPod touch, we could see no differences between the 2G touch and an iPhone 3G with both set to the same brightness and viewed next to each other, let alone in casual independent comparisons. The display is clear, bright, and sharp. We experience no problems related to touch sensitivity either.

iPhone Design

When the first iPod touch appeared, it sported a distinctive industrial design that made it look significantly different from the iPhone; it had a polished metal back but an anodized black bezel around the face, and unlike the original iPhone, it had a wider black matte margin around the screen.

The iPhone 3G swapped its flat aluminum back for a shiny black or white plastic shell, gained a curvier body, and copied the same black margin of the iPod touch while keeping its chrome bezel.

The second touch model takes cues from the new iPhone, with the same smoothly rounded back (albeit in polished aluminum characteristic of the iPod line), and now has the same distinctive chrome frame around the screen as the iPhone, although it is slightly more subdued than on its iPhone brother.

iPod touch


iPod touch


iPod touch


Physical features

The new touch, like the previous model and recent nanos, continues to put the headphone jack on the bottom of the unit next to the dock connector. On the iPhone, this is on the top. Both models have a wake button on the top edge, although the touch places it on the top left rather than the top right (above).

The body itself is remarkably thin, thinner that even last year's wafer thin touch that seemed impossibly thin already. While thinner, the new touch feels more substantial and less fragile. The device feels remarkably comfortable in the hand, and it is so slim that it will make iPhone 3G users feel like their new phone is thick, just like the original touch made the first iPhone suddenly feel bulky.

One last difference in the touch and the iPhone 3G is that the metal back (now with a streamlined oval WiFi window) of the touch always feels cool as it wicks heat away from your hand. The plastic back of the new iPhones feels warmer because the plastic acts as an insulator (and when you're using 3G, it feels particularly warm of course.)

iPod touch


Nike+

The new touch includes built in support for Nike+, so users can put it to work with their existing sensor device. Apart from the entire iPod nano line, the second generation touch is the only other iPod model that currently works with Nike+. The original touch, iPhone, and iPhone 3G are not supported, nor are any hard drive based iPods.

The new touch ships with Nike+ software that currently does not work with the iPhone. This not only supports the Nike+ shoe sensor, but also plugs into compatible treadmills, ellipticals, stair steppers, and stationary bikes via the dock connector. Setup is performed by going to Settings/Nike+iPod and turning the setting on. Once enabled, you can select Sensor, and a voice will instruct you to "walk around to activate your sensor" (below).

Neither iPhone model includes built in support for Nike+, nor do they work with the dock connector wireless receiver designed for the Nanos. The iPhone also lacks the software for working with either the shoe sensor or exercise equipment. Whether the iPhone will ever be supported by Nike+ is yet unknown, but there is greater potential for the iPhone to not be supported for Nike+ than for audio recording, as it would apparently require the development of a new Nike+ dock connector adapter.

We'll take a closer look at the Nike+ features of the new touch in a followup segment.

iPod touch

On page 3 of 3: Podcasts; Other new software and features; Package details; Product Review Rundown; and Rating.