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

Review: Apple's second-generation iPod touch


Podcasts

With the new iPhone 2.1 software, podcast art is drawn larger, making programs easier to identify at the expense of limiting the text length of the podcast name. It also now begins playing the next episode after completing the first, so you can listen to a series of episodes uninterrupted rather than having to start playback over and over as each ends.

Other new software and features

The original touch debuted some new software ahead of the iPhone: it came with the new WiFi Store with Starbucks integration, supported video output via the dock connector, closed captioning in iTunes content that provided it, and included some new international and input features related to the its revised 1.1 firmware, including the home button double click feature. Those features later made it to the iPhone in a subsequent software update.

The new touch 2.1.1. software also introduces some new features that were mostly shipped with iPhone 2.1 (Apple hasn't shipped a 2.1.1. update for the iPhone, so they aren't running identical OS versions), including the Genius Playlist feature. Once activated in iTunes, Genius allows you to automatically create a playlist of similar tracks based on a song you select by hitting the Genius atom icon (below left), which produces a Genius playlist based on the music in your library.

iPod touch


Apple is also heavily promoting iPhone apps and particularly games on the iPod touch. It includes WiFi and accelerometer support, so the only iPhone software that would not be compatible with it are those that require a mobile data network, GPS, or camera. Most titles make efforts to ensure they are compatible with both, even if they can make use of features that are only on the iPhone.

Because the iPod touch runs the same software as the iPhone 3G, you can consult our previous review series on the software features of its bundles apps, the Apps Store, and its push messaging features. The previous iPod touch review also profiled its WiFi iTunes Store and other features that haven't changed, such as video output:

An in-depth iPod Touch review

Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone 3G Software
Inside iPhone 2.0: iPhone OS vs. other mobile platforms
Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone App Store
Inside iPhone 2.0: MobileMe Push Messaging

Package details

iPod touch


iPod touch


The second generation iPod touch now ships in a simple plastic coffin box just like the nanos (above), with standard earbud headphones (no mic), a dock connector insert for a Universal iPod Dock, a USB cable, a screen wipe, and a small quick start guide (below). There's no little plastic clip to hold the unit upright on a desk like the one that shipped with the original model.

iPod touch


The clear box is actually strong enough and small enough to serve as a travel shipping box if you cared to use it for some extra armor when throwing the touch into a suitcase or backpack.

If you want a dock, USB power adapter, or video output cables you'll have to buy those separately. Apple will also be offering a pair of standard mic-integrated headphones and a premium dual driver in ear pair that both will allow audio recording, planned for next month.

The iPod touch does not work with the iPod Radio Remote accessory, so if you want to listen to the radio and won't settle for Internet streaming feeds via AOL Radio, you'll need to buy a radio. Like all other iPods since the iPhone 3G, the new touch also does not charge over Firewire.

Product Review Rundown

The new iPod touch delivers nearly all of the non-phone features of the iPhone (apart from a camera, Bluetooth, and GPS), along with a few that might remain unique to the touch, including Nike+ and audio recording.

It feels and looks great, fitting the ideal of a perfectly ultramodern iPod, with the same bright and responsive screen (although it ships with the full brightness turned down) and the same highly polished iPod back that is sure to get scratched up quickly if you don't keep it in a protective case. The front appears identical to the iPhone, with an easy to wipe clean glass front that is very resilient to scratches.

The new touch inherits the iPhone's App Store ability to install new software features and play games, which has greatly improved overall with the latest iPhone 2.1 update, although there's still a few remaining bugs to hammer out. This device is really remarkable as a product overall, and it's great to see Apple didn't take the same conservative path of artificially reserving a lot of software features to create some differentiation between it and the iPhone. It appears that the company is now comfortable selling the touch and iPhone together without worrying about their sales damaging each other.

What's missing? There's no radio features at all, so if you bought the future and need to live in the past you'll have to carry a $15 radio around with you as well. Its slim profile means that the battery will eventually run out, although with the iPhone 2.1 update battery life seems to only get better.

It's hard to find much to complain about, and given that the touch has shared so much technology back and forth with the iPhone, it's not hard to understand why. What will be interesting is how Apple might manage to top itself, as the iPhone touch doens't seem to have much potential for getting smaller. More capacity would be nice as Flash memory becomes cheaper, but the 32GB option, combined with the capability to buy new music on the fly, should satisfy most users. Add in a $100 price cut, and the new iPod touch line ($229 for the 8GB, $299 for the 16GB, $399 for the 32GB version) looks like a great product.

Rating 4 out of 5
4-stars


Pros

Super thin and comfortable to hold, with a substantial, sturdy construction.

High quality, bright, scratch resistant screen.

Full software features, with Nike+ and audio recording (still to be delivered).

TV output for movie rentals and downloads.

App Store, WiFi Store, accelerometer support.

Audio recording features using an iPhone-style integrated mic.

Cons

Polished back will scratch if not protected.

New speaker isn't very high quality.

No GPS or Bluetooth.

More photos

High-quality unboxing photos of Apple's second-gen iPod touch