iPod touch (3G)

| In-Depth Review

On the outside, all three versions of the new 3d generation iPod touch (8GB, 32GB, and 64GB) look the same as the previous generation. But the new 32 and 64GB models are up to 50% faster and include OpenGL ES 2.0 support for smoother gaming, Voice Control to navigate your music by voice command, and Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic. And the 8GB version, while lacking those new features, does sport the lowest price tag so far for an iPod touch at just $199. 

iPod touch (3G)

Put another way (in the immortal words of Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing):

At just $199 the iPod touch is the most affordable gateway to Apple’s revolutionary App Store with more than 75,000 applications that you can wirelessly download right into your iPod touch. You get a great iPod, a great pocket computer with the industry’s best mobile web browser and a great game player, all in this super-thin beautiful enclosure.

You can't argue with that -- he has a point. It's a great mobile computer with a fantastic Web browser and mail app, a stellar handheld gaming machine, all combined with what is arguably the best iPod user interface for enjoying audio and video to date.

As an iPhone user I found the 64GB iPod touch I tested to be almost exactly like my iPhone, but without the phone. Like my iPhone, the new iPod touch is a great little computer for surfing the web, sending and receiving email, managing calendars and contacts, and keeping in touch with friends via Facebook and/or Twitter. And like the iPhone, all three models of the new iPod touch offer the tasty iPhone OS 3.1 software goodness that includes Cut, Copy and Paste; global Spotlight searching; and the sweet landscape keyboard for Mail, Notes and Safari. Plus all three models include Genius Mixes for music and Genius recommendations for apps that are based on apps you own.

My favorite new feature on the 32 and 64GB iPod touch is probably Voice Control. How cool is it to speak the words, "Play songs by the Beatles" and have your iPod touch do just that? Even more fun is saying, "play more songs like this" when a song you like is playing. That causes your iPod touch to do the "Genius" thing and play songs that are similar to the current tune. Finally, the accuracy of Voice Control (on both iPod touch and iPhone) is real good, especially considering that it doesn't require advance preparation or voice training. It nails about 85% of my voice commands (or more)  the first time I say them, which rocks. I love it on my iPhone and now I love it on the new iPod touch. 

I had the opportunity to compare the new 64GB iPod touch with a second generation 16GB iPod touch. There was no way for me to accurately time test or record frame rates but subjectively I would say most of the games I tested launched faster on the new iPod touch. How much faster? Well, I don't think it was twice as fast, but the best I could tell they did start up 25-33% faster than on the 2nd generation iPod touch. As for game play, it seemed that video-intensive games such as Snail Mail, Flight Stunts, and Space Ace ran a little more smoothly on the new iPod touch. And most other games felt snappier and more responsive. The bottom line is that if you are an avid gamer you'll probably be happier with the faster 32 or 64GB models than the less expensive 8GB model. 

Last but not least, here's a quick summary of new or improved features available on all three models: 

  • Ability to purchase Movies, TV shows, and audiobooks from the iTunes Store 
  • Voice Memos using Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic or external mic accessory 
  • Stereo audio over Bluetooth 
  • Peer-to-peer gaming 
  • Shake to shuffle 
  • Parental controls

plus:

  • Universal Access features like VoiceOver and Zoom (on 32GB and 64GB models only)

My only real complaint is the same one I have had for every iPod I've reviewed since time immemorial -- the included earphones are uncomfortable and mediocre sounding. If I had one other gripe it would be the lack of a camera or video camera. While I do understand that Apple made this choice to keep iPod touch prices within reason, I'd have loved this product even more (and I love it a lot) had it come with a camera or video cam.

The Bottom Line

If you can't, for whatever reason, have an iPhone, the new iPod touch is the next-best thing. It can run most of the apps in the iTunes App Store, is a superb music and video player, and is now faster (32 and 64GB models) and cheaper (8GB model) than ever before.

Product: iPod touch (3G)

Company: Apple, Inc.

List Price: US$199-$399

Pros:

New lower price (8GB), overall speed (32 and 64GB), numerous new and/or improved features (all three models).

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

Comments

xmattingly

In-depth review? Unfortunately, this is only partially informative, and should have been more focused on features that matter to users of MP3 players, as opposed to a perceived lack of tacked-on features.

Apple mysteriously dropped FireWire charging last year in favor of USB charging (even though the 2007 models had FW charging pins in the dock connector). This year, they have taken the extra step to strip out audio transmission through the same port. Why Apple chose to do this, in light of the scads of 3rd party iPod devices on the market that support FW charging & audio through the dock, is completely beyond me. All the product reviews of the new iPods that I’ve seen have completely failed to address this critical shortcoming, as well.

What this means to the Average Joe Consumer is that if you want to use your new iPod in - say - your car stereo, expect to shell out at least another $25-30 for a male to male headphone jack (you’d better hope your stereo has one on its face by the way), and a FW charging adapter.

Being able to use an iPod in the fashion for which it was originally designed matters to me a great deal more than a camera add-on that never came to be.

Bob LeVitus

Ummm. The iPod touch has NEVER been capable of charging via FireWire. All three generations have been USB-only. The FireWire vs. USB issue was notable when it occurred but that was several years ago, before the iPod touch was even introduced.

david

i have a ipod touch 1g 8 gig. i also happened to have a fw cable from the first ipod photo , and a fire wire charger from a 1st generation ipod. i use a combination of both to charge the ipod touch 1g.
so you are wrong , no big deal but that model at least does support firewire charging .

david

i think apple went to fw because to run usb and fw bulks up the device. with support for pc’s majority of which don’t have fw maintaining both would have been unwieldy and expensive.
unfortunately this fact forced apple to abandon support for fw , which is definitely superior technology.
apple lost the battle but won the war.

Bob LeVitus

The cable included with all three generations of iPod touch was USB. The first generation may have allowed charging via older FireWire cables but it didn’t come with one.

For what it’s worth I think the FW-to-USB switch happened for a couple of reasons. The first is that FireWire costs more than USB 2. The second (and probably more important to Apple) is that most PCs don’t have FireWire onboard.

xmattingly

Ummm. The iPod touch has NEVER been capable of charging via FireWire. All three generations have been USB-only. The FireWire vs. USB issue was notable when it occurred but that was several years ago, before the iPod touch was even introduced.

The port on the syncing cable may have always been dock to USB, but the charging circuitry was in fact FireWire in the 2007 model. Whether or not a device will charge via FW has less to do with the connection and more to do with the voltage output from its dock pins.

Last year’s model did not support FW charging, but still played audio out of that port. And for the 2009 model, you can’t use the dock for either charging or playing audio. Now, my only caveat for this claim is that I’ve only tried this on one device (my car stereo), but since it’s only last year’s model I think it’s fair to assume that a good majority of 3rd party devices on the market aren’t going to work as you would expect.

Of course, we all know that Apple made the switch from FW to USB connectivity a long time ago, to appeal to a wider audience. As for Apple making the switch to USB charging: it’s very likely a manufacture cost savings issue for them (read: cheapskate/higher margins). No one can argue that Apple made the switch to make a more compact cable, since it’s the same size in all three generations. Either way, I have not heard any substantiative reason from anyone in tech media, nor has anyone doing product reviews addressed the change. Pretty much everyone is complaining about the lack of a coulda-been/woulda-been camera add-on, though - which personally, I could care less about. smile

In any event, as a product reviewer it pays to do your research.

http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/firewire-to-usb-converter
http://pinouts.ru/Devices/ipod_pinout.shtml

Zarko

xmattingly—  “25-30” for an aux cable? you have to be kidding me. Go to radio shack and get one for less than $10—a whole lot cheaper than any options I’ve ever seen that use the dock connector.

xmattingly

?25-30? for an aux cable? you have to be kidding me. Go to radio shack and get one for less than $10?a whole lot cheaper than any options I?ve ever seen that use the dock connector.

I wasn’t referring to an auxiliary cable—rather a charging adapter. I would assume that you’re referring to wall outlet chargers; those can be had pretty cheaply. If you want to charge your newer iPod while it’s connected to peripherals, you’re going to need something that works with the dock connection. I bought mine off eBay for $20; I did actually pick up a male-to-male headphone jack from RadioShack for $5 or $6.

Mark

This year, they have taken the extra step to strip out audio transmission through the same port.

Does this mean I may not be able to use an ipod Touch with my speakers which have a dock connector, or my iTrip?  I was thinking of upgrading my ipod 5G to a touch but use it quite a lot with these peripherals.

Bob LeVitus

Does this mean I may not be able to use an ipod Touch with my speakers which have a dock connector, or my iTrip??

Depends upon how old they are. If they’re old(er), they may not work properly if at all. Some older speakers will work for audio and video but not recharge your iPod touch. Scosche makes a little $30 device called the PassPORT (see my 5-star review here: <http://www.ipodobserver.com/ipo/review/Scosche_passPORT>) that enables older speakers and other dock-connector devices to charge newer devices they otherwise wouldn’t be able to charge.

The only way to know for sure is to try a new iPod touch with your speakers and iTrip.

Hope that helps.

JJFlemming

Was really disappointed with the whole camera situation on the ipod touch! I was planning on getting one for my girlfriend at Christmas and she would have loved the camera on it, she doesn’t seem too fond of the ipod nano either, might get a free ipod touch engraving from apple to see that could sway her likeness towards the ipod touch with no camera

C J

Thanks for the review on the iPod Touch 3G. I am a longtime user of Windows Mobile and just about ready to make the leap to Apple iPod Touch. Believe it or not, I have very interest in its mp3/music features. I am an on-the-road Sales guy and email, contacts, appointments, tasks and web browsing is my thing and reason for wanting to switch. Yes, I know an iPhone is the way to go, but my employer refused to make the leap to voice+data cell phone plans - I want it, but no one else does.

I am still lugging around a cell phone and a Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC running Windows Mobile 2003 2nd Edition and it has served me well - thank you.

Again, thanks for the review.
CJ

iwuvshortstack

I LOVE it. I haven’t quite figured out the voice-control yet but it sounds very simple.

The no camera thing is a bummer. But I’m loving it. =)

Log-in to comment