A marked improvement over earlier models, but is it worth upgrading?
Price: 8GB £149; 32GB £229; 64GB £299
Available from: www.apple.com
During the “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it” keynote, Apple dropped a silent bombshell. It wasn’t the usual announcement of new hardware or features, but rather the lack of one specific piece of equipment: a camera in the third generation iPod touch. This was the one feature everyone expected. Rumour sites had been rife with camera details for months, producing prototype shots of the iPod touch’s innards with the camera in place. Third-party manufacturers had even pre-emptively produced cases with holes for the camera. So what happened? We have our own suspicions that you can read in the news section on page 8, but ultimately there’s no conclusive explanation. It’s possible that Apple will quietly add a camera during one of its Tuesday updates to the Apple Store – but there is always the promise of new features and improved specs around the corner. As such, we shall put the lack of camera behind us for the rest of this review and consider the iPod touch in its current form, not what it may become. As with the iPhone 3GS, this updated revision looks exactly the same as its earlier sibling, with the exception of a larger storage space listing and a serial number laser-etched on to the back. Under the skin, however, things are somewhat different. Thislargest model now offers 64GB, up from 32GB, which should be more than enough room for most users’ needs. We honestly have no idea what magic Apple used to squeeze so much storage into such a diminutive frame. Perhaps most importantly, this third generation of the iPod touch includes some much improved hardware. The processor has been bumped to 600MHz (improved from the second generation iPod touch’s 533MHz) and the graphics card has been upgraded to the PowerVR SGX, which means support for OpenGL ES 2.0 and faster frame rates when playing games. To give you an idea of speed improvements we loaded a selection of websites over Wi-Fi and a couple of games using both a second generation iPod touch and this latest model. The iCreate website loaded in 13 seconds using an iPod touch 2G, and seven seconds using an iPod touch 3G –almost half the time. Similarly, the BBC’s News 24 site loaded in nine seconds on the 3G, and 16 seconds on the 2G. As for games, Real Racing loaded in nine seconds on the 3G and 20 seconds on the 2G. Duke Nukem took two seconds on the 3G and four seconds on the 2G. It’s important to note that these speed increases are across the board; in general this third generation feels smoother to use in every respect. These new upgrades also mean you can use both Voice Control and Apple’s Voice Memos app. These two features only work with the included Apple headphones, as the iPod touch doesn’t have a microphone built in. Updated features aside, this model retains the same 3.5-inch LCD screen, volume controls on the side, and the dock connector and headphone jack on the bottom. The tapered edges and polished back combine to make this Apple’s most comfortable media player to hold. Understandably the iPod touch is often compared with its bigger brother – the iPhone. There are a few notable differences between the two. The iPod touch screen isn’t quite as bright for a start – which isn’t surprising given the thinness of the device – but it’s missing a camera, phone, GPS chip, compass, silence switch, and the speakers are located somewhere behind the screen. This last point is interesting, because as iPhone users we’re used to silencing the audio by simply covering the speaker port. It’s actually a bug-bear when playing games in landscape mode. But when using the iPod touch, there’s something magical about hearing music and sound effects emanate from the device. Of course, the differences are justified by the price. At £149 the iPod touch is a genuine bargain, especially when considering you get access to the App Store – Apple’s jewel in the software industry. It has become the envy of the entire software industry, and a source of never ending fascination. Indeed, the sheer number of games available has led to the iPod touch becoming Apple’s hand-held gaming device. It’s an interesting time for Apple; 2009 might very well be known as the year that it tweaked its products without any killer launches. On face value this appears to be a minor revision to the iPod touch, and as with the iPhone 3GS there’s nothing immediately apparent to separate this from the earlier models. Spend some time with this third generation of the touch, however, and the improvements become pretty obvious. It’s quicker, has more storage space, and is more affordable than ever before. If you already own an iPod touch there’s no killer feature to warrant upgrading to this model, but if you’re looking to upgrade from an iPod classic, nano or shuffle then there’s never been a better time to jump on the touch bandwagon.
Pros: Much faster, with added Voice Control and Voice Memo features.
Cons: The lack of camera is confusing, especially given that the iPod nano and iPhone include one.
Verdict: Four out of five stars.