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Monday, October 15, 2012, 04:46 pm PT (07:46 pm ET)

Review: iPod touch (2012)


iPod touch software



There's not much new to report about the iPod touch's software. It gets all the new features of iOS 6, detailed in our review of the similarly proportioned iPhone 5. That includes its expanded use of the 176 new lines of pixels in apps such as Music, where accessory menus appear by default (below).



Apart from adaptations to make use of its larger screen, most of the new capabilities in iOS 6 are also now available to fourth generation iPod touch owners, apart from some of the aforementioned features that require a faster processor or specialized hardware: Siri; advanced camera software such as face detection, HDR, video stabilization and Panorama; Maps' Flyover; AirPlay Mirroring and 1080p AirPlay.



There are also a few things still missing on the latest iPod touch that puts it behind iPhone 5 in terms of software support. For example, there's no digital compass, so you can't orient Maps or use some third party apps without manually calibrating for North. SkyView, for example, can use the gyroscope to find your orientation only after you line up true north for it; this is done automatically on iPhones via the compass.



There's also no mobile chip, meaning no GPS as well as no support for mobile networking outside of WiFi. However, Apple's work on FaceTime and iMessages (and third party apps like Skype) means that there's far more you can you with iPod touch than previously. The efficiency of Apple's new vector based Maps also let you explore around a wide area without needing constant data connectivity, as iOS 5's Google-based Maps did.

iPod touch in review



Overall however, Apple's latest iPod touch is its best ever, with a real camera, bigger and better screen, enough horsepower to keep up with the entirety of iOS 6 and fun new colors that should attract new buyers to the iOS platform via a product that Steve Jobs once called "training wheels" for the iPhone.

However, you'll also have to pay a bit more to join the latest iPod touch party: pricing starts $100 higher than the older fourth generation iPod touch at a fairly steep $299/32GB or $399/64GB. Given that the iPod touch has historically sold about half its units to pre-college youths, this may cause many to settle for the older iPod touch, which continues to sell for $199/16GB or $249/32GB.

Apple didn't discount the old iPod touch because there was no room to as it introduced the simpler, smaller iPod nano just $50 below it for $149/16GB. And given how little competition the company faces in the media player business, it doesn't really need to.

It's notable that Apple still sells 40 million iPods per year (at least half of which are the more sophisticated iPod touch models) long after dire predictions were made about how MP3-playing smartphones would gobble up the entire iPod market. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Apple positions its iPod line along with its expanding selection of iPads. So far, Apple seems to have its pricing and features targeted at exactly what people want to buy.



Pros



Thin sturdy construction
Larger, 4 inch widescreen display with better color
Very easy to setup and use
Fast A5 chip supports new iOS 6 features
Very good cameras, rear LED flash

Cons


Priced higher than previous iPod touch versions
Lacks iPhone's compass, GPS, mobile data