Apple today unveiled its newest iPod Touch, in effect a Wi-Fi version of the iPhone. Like the iPhone 4, the newest iPod touch features iOS 4.1 and A4 processor, the same high-resolution touch display, FaceTime video chat, and high definition video recording.
The newest iPod touch is somewhat visually different from the newest phone, which looks like it was sliced from a plastic block: sharply flat and flat-sided, with a steel band that incorporates the now notorious iPhone 4 antenna. (See "Antenna guru: 'Get a bumper and learn the Vulcan iPhone Pinch'")
By contrast the iPod touch's sides slope back underneath. The overall dimensions are the same for both devices: 4.5 inches high by 2.3 inches wide. The touch is thinner, at 0.28 inches compared to 0.37 inches for iPhone 4, and lighter, at 3.56 ounces compared to 4.8 ounces.
Much of those differences are due to the one thing really missing in the iPod touch: a cellular radio. It relies on Wi-Fi for network connectivity. For the new device, as with iPhone 4, Wi-Fi has been upgraded to a single-stream 802.11n radio that runs only on the 2.4GHz band (most 802.11n chips in a laptop, for example, could run on either 2.4 or 5 GHz). Throughput can vary dramatically depending on other clients in the area and the kind of applications being run, but with an 802.11n access point, the new touch could see 25M to 27Mbps in ideal conditions.
Also part of the new touch is a 3-axis gyroscope and Apple's Game Center.
The new touch is one of several new mobile devices announced today: a new iPod shuffle MP3 music player, at $49; a new iPod nano, a music and movie player with video camera, now with a multi-touch display, starting at $140; and the iPod classic music player, now with 160GB of storage for $249.
The touch has been a successful companion to the iPhone: users can get most of the the same functions and features, except for cellular voice calls and wide-area wireless connectivity.
The new "Retina" display from Apple will make iPod touch browsing and applications even more appealing: the display is 960 x 640 pixels, four times bigger than the previous model. The much higher pixel density makes text, photos, and video appear sharper.
Apple's FaceTime video calling was introduced with the iPhone 4. It currently works only over Wi-Fi, and only with another iOS4 client. It makes use of front facing camera (one of two on both handhelds).
Apple's Game Center is getting new attention as an online gaming community. It's not part of both the new phone and new touch. Through game center, users can challenge and play other gamers, track and post their scores. Apple's App Store in the touch offers more than 65,000 game and entertainment titles among the 250,000 apps, according to the Apple.
The new iPod touch is available next week in two models: with 8GB of memory for $229; with 32GB for $299; and with 64GB for $399, through the online Apple Store, Apple retail stores or authorized resellers.
Existing iPod touch users can update to iOS4.1 free starting Sept. 8 to enjoy many of the new features.
IPod touch requires one of the following: a Mac with a USB 2.0 port, Mac OS X v10.5.8 or later, and iTunes 10 or later; or a Windows PC with a USB 2.0 port, running Windows Vista, Windows XP Home or Professional (with Service Pack 3) or later, and iTunes 10 or later.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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