Apple iPod touch review

Price when reviewed

Naming a more fervently-anticipated consumer product than the iPhone is head-scratching work. It was no surprise, when it landed, to see queues of people camped outside US Apple stores, and videos of people simply opening the box appearing online. In the UK, you’ll be waiting until November before you can buy one. But the iPod touch is here now; set to be available from the 28th September, and similar enough to the iPhone to represent a legitimate reason not to splash out at all on Apple’s mobile handset.

The similarities are striking. Both touch and iPhone have 3.5in, 480 x 320 touchscreens, coated with glass for protection and an increase in apparent contrast. Both run a touchscreen version of OS X, and offer applications including Apple’s Safari web browser, one for watching YouTube videos, plus calendar and contact features. Both units use flash memory for storage – while the iPhone is currently only available with 8GB, the touch is available with either 8GB or 16GB of storage.

The biggest disappointment is the screen. It’s dimmer than the iPhone’s, and our unit had some serious contrast problems. Dark areas of the screen fade to total black far too quickly, which means if you’re looking at a photo that isn’t all vibrant colour, darker details are lost entirely. It’s also a noticeable problem when watching films: we found ourselves constantly adjusting the viewing angle of the screen to keep the action visible. It’s possible that Apple will revise the screen specification before long, but for now the poor contrast detracts from an otherwise superb user experience.

Smooth operator

The operating system is stunning. You’ll never wish for a stylus, and there’s enough power within the iPod’s slim 8mm frame to keep applications springing into life virtually instantly. It’s beautifully animated -everything spins, fades or slides into view, which not only lets you know precisely how you got to the window you’re at, but also gives a tiny shiver of excitement at the completion of little tasks: not something often said about opening a browser window.

All the data-centric applications of the iPhone are gone. There’s no Google Maps application, and while works, you can’t drag the maps around with your fingers. Fortunately, the browsing experience is superb. Pages are rendered quickly, and zooming in or out is easy. Simply touch the screen with two fingers and move one finger away from the other. It’s quite incredibly intuitive, even on large pages. The only times we encountered problems was on pages with lots of Flash (some work, some don’t), and displayed a few odd bugs. It’s also worth noting that YouTube is the only online video site that works properly, and only then via an entirely separate application.

Keep in touch

The only way to access email with the touch is via Safari, as the email client of the iPhone is gone. Fortunately, Apple’s midas touch extends to touchscreen keyboards, and the touch has one of the finest models we’ve yet to see. Touch a key and the letter you’ve pressed pops up, allowing you to drag your finger left or right if you’ve made a mistake. There’s also some clever technology behind it: type “hell” for instance, and the iPod will assume you’re going for “hello”, and increases the area around the “o” key, so even if you do make a small mistake, you’ll probably end up with the correct result.

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