Sunday, 14 March 2010

Joining the 21st Century..

After years of being, what felt like the last person on Earth, without an iPod I finally joined the Apple family.

As for many of the Apple products, they always seem to draw in a large and popularist crowd. When the first few generation of iPods came out every fashion conscious person at work seemed to be jumping on these things, and very keen to show everyone how good these things were. As nice as it was I just didn't feel like being part of their movement (having fell foul of the mp3 vs minidisc war).

A few years later, the ipod touch is here and this time, the device is actually worth it on merit alone, particularly given the wi-fi internet connectivity.

But things aren't all good. As with all iPods, getting music on and off the device is a pain: Itunes is a must and required for activation and initialisation of the device. The iPod's arrange music in its own structure which gives no inidication of the actual underlying music file - there have been free Linux/Windows tools (such as EphPod) that can be used to extract the files back off whilst understanding what file relates to what. However, these tools rely on the iPod providing a mass-storage device interface - this is a function that is not available on the iPod Touch with the native Apple OS: jailbroken devices do provide this functionality.

Instead, iPod Touch (and iPhone) users have to use other tools such as Share Pod (free donate-ware) which will recognise the Touch and IPhone as long as iTunes 9.x (or greater) is installed. These tools provide a view of the music as it exists on the iPod Touch (and not as the strange iTunes folder heirarchy) and are able to copy data from the Apple device to local disk and are also usable with the classic iPod devices.

One other thing which annoys me about Apple (and a lot of other manufacturers) is that they tend to release devices that are branded as one thing but in fact are quite different at the hardware level. This is no different for the iPod Touch 3G (3rd generation) - these devices were announced in 3 formats: 8GB, 32GB and 64GB. However the hardware for the 8GB version is exactly the same as the iPod Touch 2G, the only difference being the upgrade to the firmware (an upgrade that 2G users need to buy off iTunes!!). The real touch 3G units have a faster processor and more memory and this is evident when switching between multiple pages with the web browser.

Support for music formats is fairly limited as it has always been: mp3, wmv or AAC. No FLAC/Vorbis support.

But aside from these annoyances, the device works as advertised. The music experience is pleasant, even reportedly being acceptable for some audiophiles given better headphones, web browsing experience is good (ignoring the lack of flash based sites) but its the apps that elevates iPod Touch from being just another portable music player. Ebay, facebook and twitter apps are all there and work well.

OK you're needing to be somwhere with wifi to get the most of the non-browsing part of the iPod Touch but given that I personally use this at home/someone elses home where a home wi-fi network is available this isn't a great concern. Even outdoors we will continue for find more and more free wi-fi hotspots (malls, trains and airports) and I can only image that there will be further expansion of wi-fi.

But what about compared to the iPhone or iPad. Well, part of the draw of this was definitely the portablity of a wi-fi enabled browser: The IPhone is essentiall the same device, plus phone functionality and a little more bulk - besides I'd be the type of person that would just never be able to use the phone since I would have drained the battery listening to music and using the mobile data network to connect to the web etc. The iPad just fails on the portability aspect. Carry an iPad in your jacket pocket and onto a plane/to work? I'd like the jacket that will do that.

Overal, I like the device and I do think that if the iPod Touch (3G) was available earlier then I would have been part of the Steve Jobs monolithic family a little earlier. Still, I won't be a new fanboy so at least you can think of these thoughts as being at least objective.

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