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Article: The iPod Touch is Not an iPhone

by on September 16, 2010

After reading commentary on the new iPod touch on web sites, forums, and personal communication, I’ve come to the conclusion the majority of the population falls into three groups: it’s a great evolutionary, yet safe update; Apple missed the mark by “cutting corners” when comparing it to the iPhone 4; they are satisfied with their current iPod touch or iPhone. Why is the middle group so unsatisfied?


The first noticeable change about the new iPod touch is its design—it’s thinner, simpler, and less round. The shape is more like that of the first-generation model, which should make some happy. Disappointing to me is that it still maintains the easily-scratched chrome back, originally found on the very first iPod, introduced nearly nine years ago. The design is pretty familiar, and unless someone is really paying attention, it may be easily confused with prior generations.


Most of the complaints are that Apple cut corners with the display. Rather than using the really-wide-viewing-angle in-plane switching display, like that found in the iPad, iPhone 4, and LED Cinema Displays, Apple went with a higher-resolution version of the prior iPod touch display technology, known as twisted nematic. If you compare the current iPod touch to the previous model, the resolution update is worthwhile and “good enough” for most users not to even care. I think that since most will be satisfied with it, Apple decided to cut costs in this department. It’s not really a bad thing, especially since the iPod touch’s demographic is largely the 16-34 one.

If this screen is good enough for the iPod touch, then why not the iPhone 4? I think the reason is because of the iPhone’s importance to Apple. There’s lots of competition in the smartphone market and the iPhone 4 has to be the best Apple can make it without inflating the cost too much. The iPod touch has virtually no real competition. Besides, if Apple ditched that cost, we may have seen 32GB and 64GB iPhone 4s…or maybe not due to space.


I’m not a fan of the idea of a .7MP still camera. This reminds me of my days using a Motorola RAZR. That being said, Apple was trying to go for thin and this camera seems similar to the one used in last year’s iPod nano. Looking at the target market, the type of photos shot with this will most likely be for Facebook, Twitter, or other online services and sharing with friends. The HD video is a bigger deal because of support in things like Facebook or YouTube. Furthermore, most will also have a mobile phone, so shaving every last millimeter off the iPod touch is a good idea. For years I carried an iPod touch and a mobile phone and often found myself leaving the phone in the office or at home when I cared more about having my music and Wi-Fi. Lastly, good point-and-shoot cameras can be had for around $100 or less, so why would you live with just an iPod as your camera? As for the iPhone 4, blame it on the smartphone arms race.


I’ve heard this one quite a bit—Apple only gave the iPod touch 256MB of RAM! While looking at a numbers perspective, more RAM is where it’s at, you have to remember that the first- and second-generation iPod touches, original iPhone, and iPhone 3G have 128MB of RAM. The third-generation iPod touch, iPhone 3GS, and iPad have 256MB of RAM. As logic would state, Apple should have given the iPhone 4 256MB of RAM, since that should be sufficient for multitasking with iOS 4. It’s not a desktop operating system, and with apps being suspended or running in a limited capacity behind-the-scenes, that should be sufficient for the next couple of years. I would start to worry once the iPad gets 512MB of RAM. The iPhone probably received the upgrade just for the sake of being more robust—a phone has to be reliable.


The iPod touch may often be referred to as the iPhone without the phone, but Apple has made the division a bit wider. I think the analogy of the iPod touch is to the iPhone what the iPad is to the iPad 3G. This simply isn’t true, as they serve different purposes. Ultimately, the iPhone has to be the most powerful mobile device Apple sells, because it costs the most for consumers (look at non-contract pricing). It also was the first and often gets features the first. Some will say the iPhone has become a better value for the money, while others will say the iPod touch is overpriced. I think the low-end iPod touch should at least be 16GB, but it is better than selling the prior-generation as an entry-level model.

The average iPod touch buyer is going to get the iPod touch for what it can do, not what it can’t do compared to the iPhone 4. The iPod touch has always lacked some features compared to the iPhone, and while some of the new hardware additions are the biggest items to contrast, it is important to remember that the prior iPod touches also lacked or had lower-end components compared to the iPhone. Not too long ago, the first iPod touch didn’t have Bluetooth, a microphone, a camera, external volume control, or a speaker. Apple still sold quite a few of those, and only added or enabled a few of those features on more recent models.

That being said, the iPod touch is not supposed to be your entire media and communication life in your pocket. That’s what the iPhone is supposed to be for. Instead, the iPod touch is a media player or gaming device at its core and other goodies like Internet, Face Time, media creation, or VoIP are just icing on the cake.

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