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.
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
- 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.