The fourth-generation iPod touch is the latest version of Apple's handheld computer with added features, such as the speedy A4 processor, front and rear cameras, FaceTime video chat, iOS 4.1, and a high resolution Retina display.
It is currently available starting at $230 for a version with 8 GB of storage, $300 for the 32 GB version, and $400 for the 64 GB one.
BUILD & DESIGN
The new iPod touch is beautifully designed, as all Apple products are, with sleek lines and modern details. Unlike the iPhone 4, it isn't at all boxy. It is remarkably thin and light, with strongly tapered edges. If you use the device "naked" you may not even remember it's in your pocket -- it really is that small.
With smartphones, they sometimes seem quite light... and then you notice that the battery is still in the box, so you are immediately disappointed with a light phone that almost instantly becomes a heavy "brick" in your pocket.. That isn't the case here; the iPod touch is sealed so it comes fully assembled with the battery inside and it weighs just a few ounces.
The build quality is excellent, as you would expect from Apple. There is no creaking, bending, or flexing of any kind.
The new Retina display on the iPod touch is absolutely gorgeous. I haven't had the opportunity to see it side-by-side with a new iPhone 4 yet, so it's hard to make direct comparisons. I can say that it is vastly superior to my old iPod touch. It is extremely sharp and clear, and much more readable outside in bright sunlight.
My photos look better than ever before, and video does too -- amazingly sharp and clear. If you have an older iPod touch, you'll see a huge difference in the display -- the new Retina technology represents a great improvement.
This improvement isn't really all that surprising, considering the screen resolution has gone from 320x480 to 640x960, but the display size hasn't changed -- it's still 3.5 inches.
The iPod touch doesn't have a physical keyboard, instead relying on a virtual keyboard for text entry.
It works well, but of course I have long experience with the old iPod touch so there's nothing new for me here. I can say that typing is easier with the new model because it is fast enough to make the built-in word completion utility a pleasure to use instead of a pain.
It also lets you double tap on the shift key to enable Caps Lock, which I use all time time and am thankful to have. It's a little thing, but it isn't available on the original iPod Touch.
Other Buttons & Controls
The front of the device seems to be all screen, because it is all black. This differs from my original first-generation model, which has a display that appears lighter when it is off, like a calculator. The Home button is centered below the screen.
A low-res camera for use with the FaceTime video-conferencing app is centered over the top of the display, while the main image/video camera is on the top left corner of the the back of the device.
The power button is on the top right, the volume controls are on the upper left side of the device, and the headphone jack and charge/sync port are on the bottom edge.
The external speaker is just to the left of the charge/sync port. It works fairly well, with nice volume, but of course the sound isn't nearly as good as what you get listening with headphones. For games and sharing a new tune with your friends it's plenty good enough, but you won't want to use it all the time.
The new Apple Apple iPod touch is blazingly fast -- everything just works, and works quickly, as soon as you launch an app. This is a noticeable improvement over the earliest models in this series, which can be very slow, depending on the app.
This is also my first experience with the latest version of Apple operating system, and it's nice that iOS 4.1 is preloaded on the device so that there is no need to download and install it myself. As you can imagine for a hardware and software reviewer, I have a lot of apps. Folders are a great addition, and have really helped me organize the home screen of my device. Multitasking works well too, allowing me to jump from app to app with just a couple of taps.
Wi-Fi wireless networking works great, with excellent signal strength and none of the annoying "incorrect password" issues that show up almost daily on my previous iPod touch. My old touch often gives me errors when using it with my home network, requiring me to type in the password almost every day. Nothing like that occurs with the new model, and I'm quite pleased with its performance.
When it comes to Bluetooth, things went just as well. I had no trouble pairing it with my Apple Wireless Keyboard. It's ironic, considering that I used a Landware GoType and then a Stowaway Bluetooth folding keyboard with many of my Palm OS handheld over the years, but being able to use a wireless keyboard with the iPod touch turns it into a real (pocketable) productivity tool.
Many people buy an iPod touch just to have fun, but there's much more to it than that. It comes with Calendar, Contacts, and Notes built in, and you can sync with Outlook, an Exchange Server, or Google's online services if you like. You'll also find Calculator, Clock, and Voice Memo apps, along with Weather and Maps.
There's nothing particularly new or radically different here, but every single one of the included apps works exactly as you would expect, offering a great out of the box experience. It's ironic to state this, considering the fact that there truly is "an app for that" no matter your needs or interests, but the iPod Touch comes with such a well rounded suite of applications that you don't have to venture into the App Store for a good long while unless you have a specific niche need.
Face Time in particular is a real standout, and it works great. Since you don't have a phone number like you would with an iPhone, you initiate a call through the Contacts app. Just tap on the button at the bottom of a particular contact's details to start a Face Time call over WiFi, and the conversation starts as soon as the other party accepts. It works flawlessly, with no lag or stuttering, and it's a great way to keep up with friends and family when you're on the go.
Of course, the iPod touch has plenty to offer in the "Fun and Games" department. Photos, Videos, iPod, and YouTube are pre-installed with the device. And if you want to add more music, video, and apps, of course you'll find the iTunes Store and the App Store.
There are no games preloaded on this handheld, but there are plenty to download from the App Store, both free and paid.
The new Game Center makes gaming a much more social experience, with the ability to add friends, earn achievements, and play online with others. In many ways it is a true "game changer" and I can understand why Sony and Nintendo are concerned about the incursions Apple is making into their traditional dominance of handheld gaming. Game Center is located "front and center" on the first page of apps on my device, providing richer enjoyment of the games I've downloaded plus an easy way to jump in to the fun, since games can be launched from within the app.
The camera on the new iPod Touch was quite a disappointment for this photo bug. I was hoping to have something extremely capable, so that I would always have a camera in my pocket, especially considering the excellence of the camera on the iPhone 4. Unfortunately the camera on the fourth-generation iPod Touch is only 960 x 720, and of rather low quality. You can zoom in and out just a bit by pressing on the screen, which is nice, but that doesn't make up or the extremely poor resolution.
That low resolution camera is even more of a head scratcher when you learn that the new iPod Touch is capable of recording HD video in 720p, You could say that the video capture abilities are the complete opposite of the still camera, because videos do come out extremely well -- beautifully sharp and clear. My only small complaint regarding video is that the sound on my recordings came out rather low. That's not a major concern because it's easy enough to turn up the volume during playback.
If you're really serious about video, you'll be glad to know that extremely simple editing functions are included on the Touch, and you can also purchase the iMovie app from the App Store if you think of anything else.
There's an extra camera to talk about here, since the current iPod Touch has a front-facing camera, just above the display. When you're in the Camera app, a single tap on the screen allows you to switch from the back camera to the front, so you can use it for self portraits. Of course the primary function for that front-facing camera is FaceTime video conferencing, and as mentioned above it works very well for that purpose.
My final feelings on the camera functions of this device are mixed, which comes as no surprise. The still camera is rather underpowered, but will help you catch those shots you would otherwise have missed. Be especially careful with barcode scanning apps, because the camera resolution doesn't compare to the iPhone 4. The Sephora shopping app, for example, is unable to capture bar codes on the fourth-gen iPod Touch, and I had to type in the UPCs for each product. If a free lite version of the app you're considering is available, I would strongly suggest that you try before you buy, just to make sure that the app fulfills your needs. The video camera, on the other hand, is extremely good and I've really enjoyed having it with me all the time.
I've never had any problems with battery life on Apple products... until now. I use my iPad quite heavily, for example, and only have to plug it in once every several days. But It seems that there is some sort of glitch in the OS, because the fourth-gen iPod Touch can go completely dead overnight. I have a couple of apps set to update regularly, including Mail, so it could be that the device isn't going back to sleep as it should. I haven't seen it wake up unnecessarily during the day, however, and the battery meter hardly budges, which makes the overnight battery drain even more frustrating.
In any case, this is another disappointment because Apple hasn't acknowledged the problem and therefore hasn't issued a fix. I know this isn't just a defect in my unit, because plenty of folks are discussing it on the various discussion forums online. The only workarounds at the moment are either going into the Settings app and putting the iPod Touch into airplane mode each night (which allows the Touch to last several days before needing a charge, even with heavy use), or else making sure that it's plugged in each night. Neither one is all that difficult of course, though that's one more thing to remember each night if I don't want to face my morning commute with a dead iPod Touch.
I have used my fourth-generation iPod touch extremely heavily over the last month, and it's easy to conclude that it represents a significant upgrade from my first-gen model.
The new display is stunning, and even though there are some issues with the camera it's still great to have it in my pocket at all times. The external speaker is good quality though not terribly loud, but it's great to have one and makes playing games without headphones a lot more fun. Being able to use it with the Apple Wireless Keyboard means that the Touch can be much more than a simple entertainment device if you want it to be.
Whether or not the new features like the camera with video capture and the new Retina display make it a worthy upgrade from a second- or third-generation device is a more difficult question to answer at this point, and depends a great deal on your budget.
If you don't already have an iPod Touch and can't stand the thought of signing a contract with AT&T in order to get the iPhone, the new iPod Touch is a great all-around entertainment and productivity device. I find myself reaching for it constantly at the office, at home, and on the go, and the latest iPod Touch is likely to be on plenty of Christmas wish lists this year.