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.
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.
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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