- High-quality RetinaDisplay screen
- Two cameras and FaceTime support
- Roomy storage up to 64GB
- Thinner and lighter than previous model
- Cameras are low-quality compared to iPhone 4
- 8GB model costs more than 16GB iPhone 4
- Poor-quality headphones
8GB - US$229
32GB - $299
64GB - $399
Thanks to the inclusion on the 4th generation iPod touch of many of the new features introduced with the iPhone 4, the new touch invites comparison with the iPhone. In some ways it’s not a flattering comparison - the iPhone’s cameras are better, for instance – but the choice for most people probably isn’t between the iPod touch and the iPhone, but between the iPod touch and another media player or mobile game device.
When viewed that way, the 4th generation iPod touch is, like its predecessors, a winner.
As with the iPhone 4, the most apparent and most extensive changes to the new touch are in its visuals.
It sports Apple’s multitouch, high-resolution Retina Display screen, which makes text and images extremely crisp. There’s no other device in the touch’s category (are there any other devices in that category?) that offers text this appealing and easy to read; you won’t see any pixels or rough curves/corners.
Like the iPhone 4, the touch has two cameras, one on the back, the other facing the user. Though this is the same set up as the iPhone, these are not the same cameras. The iPhone 4’s best camera takes 5-megapixel pictures, while the touch’s best camera clocks in at under 1 megapixel. The lower-quality cameras are the result of the touch’s tiny enclosure (a svelte 0.28 inches thick) – to take higher-quality images, the device would have to be thicker.
The touch’s cameras lack zoom and flash, but, on the plus side, both can record video. The back camera records 720p HD video at 30 frames/second.
So, while it's nice to be able to snap photos with the touch, it probably won't convince you to throw away your digital camera.
With the two cameras, touch users can use Apple’s FaceTime video conferencing technology. As more devices gain support for FaceTime (expect to see it appear on the second-generation iPad; Apple has promised to make it available to other companies, too), it will become more useful.
The changes to the touch’s visual capabilities are welcome. Even though the cameras are limited, they add features that you’ll be hard pressed to find on other portable media/game players.
More Robust Guts
The improvements to the 4th generation touch don’t stop at the surface level. They extend to the guts of the device, too.
The touch runs on Apple’s A4 processor, the same speedy chip found in the iPhone 4 and iPad. As a result, it performs as well as the iPhone, based on testing the speed of both devices loading web pages and launching apps.
I three websites to test their speed. The iPhone 4 is listed first in these results:
- ESPN.com: 5 seconds vs. 4 seconds
- CNN.com: 4 seconds vs. 5 seconds
- Apple.com: 6 seconds vs. 6 seconds.
I also launched three apps on both devices, finding that Safari and the iPod app launched at the same rate, while the iPhone opened Seesmic, a Twitter/Facebook client, about a second faster.
So, despite some variation, both offer comparable speed.
They also pack about the same battery life: around 35 hours of continuous use. That’s a lot of entertainment the iPod touch can provide before needing another charge.
A Win and Some Losses
As we’ve seen, the 4th generation touch is in many ways similar to the iPhone 4 - and that it packs features and power other portable media players don’t offer.
In one area – capacity – the touch exceeds the iPhone. The touch offers up to 64GB of storage for storing music, movies, and apps, while the iPhone tops out at 32GB.
In other detail areas, though, the touch gets short shrift. For instance, the touch doesn’t include the AC adapter that comes with the iPhone (you’ll have to pay extra for that) and comes with inferior headphones that also lack the built-in remote control. While these aren’t major issues, it would be nice if the touch, with its premium price, also included premium perks.
The Bottom Line
The iPod touch has stood alone for many years. Though there have been other MP3 players or portable game devices, no other device has offered the touch’s combination of strong media features, top-notch Internet experience, and vast library of apps. With the 4th generation mode, the touch has widened its lead over the competition. If you’ve already got a mobile phone, or don’t want to pay the iPhone’s monthly fees, there’s no better option for pocket-sized mobile entertainment than the 4th generation iPod touch.