iPod touch - Nice device, shame Apple crippled it

iPod touch - Nice device, shame Apple crippled it

Summary: You might remember from a few weeks back my desire to get my hands on an iPod touch. I was so eager to get my hands on one that I made a five hour round trip to my nearest Apple store to get one only to be turned away because they were all sold out. Well, I didn't let that put me off and eventually got a couple via Amazon. Am I still as enthusiastic about the iPod touch now I've had one for a couple of weeks? Read on to find out.


You might remember from a few weeks back my desire to get my hands on an iPod touch.  I was so eager to get my hands on one that I made a five hour round trip to my nearest Apple store to get one only to be turned away because they were all sold out.  Well, I didn't let that put iPod touch - Nice device, shame Apple crippled itme off and eventually got a couple via Amazon.  Am I still as enthusiastic about the iPod touch now I've had one for a couple of weeks?  Read on to find out.

The message from Cupertino is loud and clear - Enjoy the iPod touch Apple's way, or take a hike I'm not going to bore you with the specification of the device, other than to say that I have the 16GB version (if you're interested in the spec, go here).  I'm also going to dispense with the traditional review and simply pass on my thoughts and feelings about the iPod touch.

Overall, I'm pleased with the iPod touch.  It does what I want it to do as an iPod - I can store 16GB of audio and video on it (I have a lot of audio books from Audible.com so I welcome the doubling of space that the touch offers over my 8GB nano).  Battery life is pretty good and close to what Apple says I could expect (I'm getting about 20 hours on audio and about 5 hours with video).  The iPod touch is relatively small and lightweight and can easily be slipped into a shirt or jacket pocket when on the move.

But once I start to look at functionality that goes beyond that we've become to expect from an iPod, I'm simultaneously excited and deeply frustrated.  For example, the Safari web browser does indeed offer browsing functionality that works for most web pages out there, but it's seriously lacking in some areas, for example:

  • Password management
  • Saving data/web pages
  • Caching for offline viewing
  • No RSS reader
  • ...

The list goes on.  Sure, Apple has called the browser "Safari" and the browser does look a bit like Safari on the Mac of Windows, but it's not Safari.  The Safari on the iPod touch is a dramatically cut down and crippled version of the one you'll find on desktops and notebooks.  And remember that Safari is a pretty rubbish browser to begin with so the fact that Apple has found a way to make it worse is in fact quite an achievement.

Next -->

The disappointment doesn't end with Safari either.  The YouTube application is equally disappointing.  Sure, it allows you to browse YouTube videos, but that's it.  You can't log in, you can't rate videos, and you can't cache videos.  Again, like Safari on the iPod touch, Apple is a good arm's reach away from perfection.

Maybe the 2nd gen touch will come with a bit less hype and a little more substanceSure, there are some brilliant nuggets of gold with the iPod touch interface.  The pinching action to zoom in and out in intuitive and very effective, but I wish that feature was backed up by an operating system and applications that were as fully featured as what I can expect on a Windows Mobile device (and Opera on a Windows Mobile device blows Safari out of the water in terms of functionality).

I'm also annoyed by the overall lack of features.  No games, no notepad application, no access to the file system.  I'm assuming that there are going to be applications available (via iTunes, for a fee) at some point in the future, but right now the iPod touch offers very little extra functionality over the WiFi enabled Archos devices.  Tell me, what's the point of running OS X (again, like Safari, a dramatically cut down and crippled version) if it's locked away? 

Little things also annoy me about the touch.  For example, there's no way to customize any aspect of the UI.  Even the choice of wallpaper is limited to what Apple offers me.  The keyboard is nothing short of awful and all predictive features are a complete waste of time.  There are no cursor keys to allow easy editing of URLs and such and there's a magnifier that you can call up by pressing on the address bar but the text is more often that not off the top of the screen and out of sight.  Some of these omissions clearly demonstrate how little usability testing this product underwent before shipping.  The message from Cupertino is loud and clear - Enjoy the iPod touch Apple's way, or take a hike.  After years of telling us about how Microsoft locks consumers into one-size-fits-all products, applications and services, Apple then does exactly the same thing.

What about the hardware?  Well, the iPod itself is nice and robust (although it's a total fingerprint magnet), and the earphones are OK but nothing to brag about, but the polishing cloth and stand are lame. 

Apple apologists have told me that I need to be patient and give Apple time to make the iPod touch better.  That's just not good enough.  Either the iPod touch is a finished product or it isn't.  Buying a product and hoping that the features you want appear somewhere down the line is a recipe for disappointment in my experience (think Windows Ultimate Extras ...).  My guess is that many of these issues won't be addressed until the 2nd gen touch is releases ... and so the cycle continues.

So, as an iPod, the touch is fine and does exactly what you expect from an iPod.  As a portable platform for occasionally browsing the web, it's OK as long as you don't try anything ambitious on it, but as a mobile platform to compete with Windows Mobile, Apple has missed the mark by a mile.  Maybe the 2nd gen touch will come with a bit less hype and a little more substance.


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Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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  • Proof positive!

    Now it is official, Apple has lost the war to Microsoft and Windows Mobile. Now once the rest of the American public finds out, Zunes will outsell the iPod touch at Christmas this year. I am looking to make a few extra bucks and just bought 20 next-generation Zunes and will post them on eBay for $800 each. Buy Now price is $1000. Adrian, if you want one of these BAD BOYS just let me know.
    Mike Cox
    • 2.1 . . .

      You need to get some sleep, Mike!!! Definitely off your marks . . .
    • 3.3 Better, but still not as good

      This is better than the last, but I feel that you must be just too busy with a project at your real job to put the attention to detail that you used to into your posts.

      Hopefully after the end of the year, you will be able to focus on us and amuse us with your usual banter. Right now, you just seem to pre-occupied.
    • For the first time ever, I have actually seen Zune products! (NT)

  • but it IS an iPod & "a portable platform for occasionally browsing the web"

    ... and it's NOT supposed to be competing with WinMobile... so what's your point?

    even the iPhone which is what i think you want the iPod touch to be is not a direct competitor of WinMobile.

    i'm having all kinds trouble trying to figure out what point you're trying to make??

    it's a wide screen, touch screen iPod with some extra stuff thrown in... and it WILL get better
    • Wait

      I have to point something out -->

      "and it WILL get better"

      I'm sorry, but that excuse isn't good enough. When it's used as an excuse of a Microsoft product, people come out of the woodwork screaming that they should have gotten in right before it was shipped. I agree. But, Apple gets held to the same standard.

      This is the double standard that people are constantly throwing out as a negative of Mac users.

      Please, help to end the hypocrisy, not contribute to it.

      Have a nice day. :)
      • Re: Wait

        I would agree with you about the hypocrisy if the iPod Touch was competing as a mobile platform with Windows Mobile and the likes but it is not. It is an iPod first and foremost with touch, and extra features. As Adrian said he is please with the iPod Touch (as an iPod). Heck PC Mag just gave it the higest rating ever for any DAP, 5 Stars. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2704,2179699,00.asp

        Now I think Microsoft have developed a pretty good reputation in releasing a dud of a first Gen product (Zune) and not getting it right till about the 3rd Gen.
        • Just too bad they crippled it

          It is primarily a music/video player, but it would have been nice if Apple had let people use the Contact and Calendar functions completely. Why not let people enter contacts and calendar events and not just synch them . It could have, and should have replaced my Palm.
      • Wait

        How many times do you get to say we'll get it right the next time? How long has
        Windows mobile been around? You are comparing a product that has been out for
        years to a first release. What other music player has any of these features & can be
        updated with more features through a software release? I guess if we are going to be
        fair...why is it that if Apple doesn't create the perfect product that the whole concept
        & product sucks? Any flaw no matter how small is made to sound like a huge mistake
        & we constantly her the grain of sand is the same as the desert arguments. I use
        windows at work IE is a slow pig on a Windows machine.
        • Well, you see

          I didn't say that it sucked. I'm quite sure that it doesn't, and only those who are particularly persnickity about it would find any major problems (outside of the minority with actual problems from the word go, to which I would say 'nothing is perfect...you got a bad one...try again').

          On the other hand, that doesn't mean that it's not hypocritical to claim that it's not okay for MS to get another chance - forget WM for a second, let's look back at other MS products ever released and on v1 it's always the same thing...they still give it to Vista which doesn't have it's SP1 yet and therefore has only had one chance thusfar, Zune didn't do well, and they only had one chance at that so far, the new Office takes hits from people and it's not gotten an SP either...the list goes on and on...they don't give them the chance to fix it...but yet it is okay for Apple to get another chance.

          Have all of their products been fixed with only the second chance? No. But that's not the case in this discussion, is it. Nevermind that it's excusable for some problems (like the QT error) to go for 2 years with no fix, or even admission that there was a problem, but Microsoft had better have everything perfect within 5 minutes of release.

          I'm not faulting Apple for a mistake. It happens. But sitting there and acting like it's okay because it will get better is not acceptable until you afford the other companies the same latitude, and I'm not just talking about MS (although they catch more than others).

          The fact is that no one is perfect, and no program is perfect. There will be mistakes, products will have flaws. But that doesn't make them the devil. The problem I have is not that they are being faulted, but at the clear double standard.

          I frankly don't care between one or the other. It doesn't matter. I've used both, and those that claim an actual difference other than tiny changes are full of themselves and their platform. I don't care what you use, and I don't pull for either. You wanna get down to brass tacks, I pull for Linux because it's free and I dig penguins (that's how trivial the differences in the three are to me). But, that doesn't mean that hyporcisy can be excused.
      • Damn right...

        Either it is a functioning product or it isn't. Neither Microsoft or Apple get a pass for this kind of crap. Yes the iPod touch is cool but it is no longer so cool that it is unique and has no competition. And of course it is competing with windows mobile, it just isn't winning. Not even close. Why even include a browser that is crippled like that? Why not test the damn keyboard so that it works. I find it ridiculous that this kind of performance isn't cause for a recall anymore. I don't care if it's cool. Make it work or don't make it.
  • I agree....

    I originally purchased the iTouch, and took it back 3 hours later for the following reasons:

    1. I thought I could live with 16GB. Not a chance...
    2. While geeky, I tired VERY quickly of browsing on such a small screen. Basically, it invalidated the feature for me.
    3. No volume control.
    4. YouTube implementation is terrible!
    5. Would not play most of the existing iTunes videos I had purchased. You get sound, but no picture.
    6. Low battery life.

    Mainly, it was the space issue that did me in...

    I took it back and purchased the Black Classic iPod 160GB. I'm SO glad I did.

    40 hours of play time (Audio). Video is about 7.

    I was able to put all 240 of my Music CD's on it (I ripped in 192K vbr ACC).

    I was able to put 130 of my DVD's on it, including 27 Music Concert DVD's and 103 Movie DVD's.

    I had to stop there only because I ran out of space. Yep, I filled a 160GB iPod :)

    The 2.5" screen is fine for viewing movies and concerts, considering the usage the device is designed for.

    I have NO regrets at all having returned the iTouch and getting the 160GB Classic instead.

    One thing. The Black Classic looks great. The Silver Classic looks crappy to me. I don't like the finish at all. Looks like cheap pot metal (though it isn't). It's just the finish they applied that makes it look that way to me.
  • Nokia N800 Series

    Say what you want about the Nokia N800 series but it does everything that Andrian docked on the iTouch on an open platform. The only real area it's lacking is memory, but you can expand it with miniSD cards.

    Even my Nokia 770 does most of the things the iPod doesn't do. The only shortfall again is the memory, which is 2 gig max on a mmc card. I can even use it as a phone using VOIP via Gizmo. ;)
    • 2GB limit?

      Are you sure. My wife just got a 6GB microSD card for her T-Mobile Wing.

      I bet the Nokia either supports it or will support it with a firmware update.
      • N770 only ...

        Only for the N770 with a Kernel update there is a 2 gig MMC card max. The N800 is much higher with a max of 16 gig on miniSD cards. The N810 will take 10 gig miniSD cards for a max of 20 gig plus there is 2 gig of internal flash storage. :)
    • Some nice features, however

      it doesn't quite have the battery life, seems to have less processor power, and once you add buying SD cards to get comparable or better storage capacity, the overall price goes up significantly.

      But if you can live with that, it's not a bad piece of gear.

      How easy is downloading videos and music?
      • Not that much different ...

        The itouch has a 400mhz ARM 11 while the N800 has a 330mhz ARM 11. The new N810 has a 400mhz ARM 11, same as the itouch. So processing power is comparable. Using video mode the iTouch and the Nokia are about the same 4-5 hours battery life. I don't believe there is a music only mode for the Nokia.

        As for downloading video and music it's just like you normally would with your desktop. You point, click, and save. There are different apps to organize your music, download album art, and stream online music. You can also use wget from the command line if you install BusyBox terminal since it does run Debian as the core.

        The great thing about the Nokia is the platform Maemo. There is a lot of software on the platform both open source and free, as in free beer, such as Gizmo and Skype.

        My N770 is basically a laptop replacement when on the road. I can check my email/respond as needed, draft a letter, ssh into my home machine or vpn using the VNC client, stream music or video, download podcasts, everything a basic laptop would do except print and view very high quality video.

        You can also use a BT keyboard or even attach various USB devices like a flash drive or hard drive with external power. It's very versatile and with the new Intel MID platform coming out others will start getting into the market with similar devices driving the pricing down. :)
  • Rolex is a peice of excrement

    ...it doesn't have a perpetual calendar...

  • Informed Opinion... Finally!

    In October of 2007, we finally have gotten an "in the trenches" informed opinion
    about an Apple product, rather than contemptuous sniping from a hilltop, miles
    away. This opinion includes the experience of having paid for it as well, a rather
    essential component of a truly informed review.

    Apple "apologists, zealots, fanboys, cultists, and Steve Jobs cosplayers" can take the
    good with the bad. It's about time. We finally get the opportunity to hear from
    something other than the "Apple guy" or the "Windows guy" preaching to the choir.
    We are now starting to get, real and substantive criticism that has actual value
    because it comes from within an open marketplace, and not from a myopic single
    platform perspective.

    We can agree or disagree with Adrian at any time. I do hope however, that the
    "Non-whatevers" and "No-whatevers" and any other self declared champions of an
    egalitarian future, read this particular note from this particular Apple fanboy. A fair
    shake was all we wanted. If you were wondering if I'd accept criticism of Apple
    products, lets put that to rest now. Adrian gets to say what he wants about the iPod
    Touch. He put his money where his mouth was, finally. If the decision is to endorse
    another vendor, more power to him. He will have done it from an informed place
    and it is long, long overdue.
    Harry Bardal
  • If this were a Microsoft product

    You would be gushing with praise, and any shortcoming
    would be dismissed with the typical "This is a version 1.0

    The double standard is always fun to see.