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Article: What is the Current State of iOS Devices?

by on August 9, 2010

There’s the iPhone, the iPod touch, and the iPad. All three are so similar, yet different, and now that all the controversy about the iPhone 4’s antennas has died down, speculation over the next device update has lots of people curious. A couple of rumors were discussed on iLounge, sparking discussion.

iPod touch

One update that is not even worth speculating is that we’ll see a new iPod touch soon. Already the iPod touch and iPad are the closest of any devices, although the iPod has iOS 4 and we’re still waiting for it on the iPad. I suspect the iPod class will be eliminated soon. Although updates and R&D costs are probably relatively inexpensive for Apple, the company really has 4 different operating systems to maintain right now: Snow Leopard, iOS, the AppleTV OS, and the iPod classic. The iPod touch is already more profitable, more popular, and offers Apple ways to sell people things other than just music (and actually make the purchases worthwhile). For those who say that the classic has a lot of life left in it, give up your iPhone or iPod touch and use one exclusively. It feels like a step back to 2005.

Getting back to the subject of the iPod touch, it makes sense for Apple to market it as a smaller iPad, rather than just an entertainment device. The iPod touch is an excellent alternative to the iPhone for people who aren’t able to sign up with AT&T or don’t want to sign up with AT&T. With the various 3G or 4G “cases” on the horizon for the iPod touch, it only makes sense that this device could become as big as the original iPod family. Furthermore, the iPod touch requires no commitment for service. As long as it has WiFi, it’ll be happy.

It’s also not powerful enough to have people second-guessing their computer usage. You can do quite a bit with an iPod touch, but the form factor is better for a mobile companion, rather than the device that runs your entire digital life. Even with the updates that will inevitably make it more iPhone-like, it still is best for quick-access ultraportable use.

What would be fantastic would be FaceTime capabilities for the iPod touch. Although there are rumors for a front-facing camera on the next iPod touch, there also were rumors of a rear-facing camera on the third-generation iPod touch. We’ll believe it when we see it—right now it’s on our wish-list.

I thought FaceTime was impressive, but I wouldn’t use it when I got my iPhone 4. After years of having Macs with iChat AV (and more AIM/GTalk friends than friends with iPhone 4s), I rarely used that capability. After a month of having my iPhone 4, I use it on an almost everyday basis with two of my friends. Like many, I’d love an iChat to FaceTime bridge, but I also would love to see more people get it.


Just about everything that can be written about the iPhone 4 has been, although mine has found so many new uses thanks to iOS 4 and the more iPad-like capabilities. Although there’s no iWork (yet?) for the iPhone, the iPad’s VGA adapter lets me run presentations that are exported into QuickTime movie format from my MacBook Pro. It’s not elegant, but carrying an adapter and my iPhone is better than carrying my fully loaded computer bag. Additionally, mixing in a Bluetooth keyboard gives me something to comfortably IM (when will AIM get a iOS 4 update?) or even edit content for this site.

Right now, the iPhone is leading the group, but then again, it is the newest. I suspect the iPod touch will become more like it, especially with it truly becoming a “pocket computer”.


The iPad is the odd duck in the lineup. It’s still stuck in iOS 3-Land, doesn’t quite match the iPhone (and eventually iPod touch?) in the industrial design department, and comes in two flavors. I suspect that the next iPad will be much like the current one, although maybe with a higher-resolution display (4x the pixels, not necessarily the same ppi as the iPhone 4). Once the current iPad gets iOS 4, it will be pretty much on par with the iPhone 4.

Here’s the frustrating thing—with the ease-of-use, simplicity, and low-cost of the iPad compared to full-blown computers, it really should be able to operate as a standalone device, not requiring a computer to set up. Thousands of people would buy these for their parents if that were the case. If this thing had FaceTime, it would be even better in the role of a “baby boomer computer”, especially if the person playing tech support was using an iPhone 4 or iPod touch.

The other approach is that the iPad could be a good ultraportable computer, essentially the real update to the PowerBook Duo (and making the MacBook Air look like a joke). An iPad and a Mac mini or iMac could make for an excellent combination of power and portability. Mix in a Bluetooth keyboard (or Keyboard Dock) and you do have a viable alternative to a laptop for heavy use. If I had to go computer shopping at this moment, an iPad and some sort of Apple desktop would be what replaces my 15″ MacBook Pro.

Kill The Mac!

Although the Mac isn’t going anywhere for the near future, I feel like we’re going to be getting devices powerful enough to be computer replacements in many instances. Think about this: what if you had your iPhone or iPod touch, could plug it into a larger screen, keyboard, and some sort of pointing device for working with documents, yet it could also operate in handheld mode? In some ways, it would be all the computer one would need. It may sound crazy, especially with the idea of bringing a pointing device back into the mix, but this type of device could be perfect for a number of applications. In some ways, Mac OS X just feels clunky in comparison to the purpose-built interface of iOS. Think about how it could be worked for various screen sizes and peripherals.

This concept may seem strange, but so did the idea of having a cell phone as your primary phone. Years later, people are ditching landline service and actually have phones more powerful than computers of just 10 years ago. Figure that one out. Obviously power users would still want a full-blown computer, but a convertible iOS device could make them think twice about lugging along a laptop.

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