Apple iPod touch (late 2011)

The iPod touch continues to be a lightweight but serious alternative to the iPhone

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Apple iPod touch
  • Apple iPod touch
  • Apple iPod touch
  • Apple iPod touch

Pros

  • Susceptible to scratches
  • No Siri

Cons

  • iOS 5 improvements are great
  • Best screen of any portable media player

Bottom Line

We’re smitten with the latest version of the iPod touch on almost every level. Additions such as Photostream and the editable playlists really enhance the player’s usability while iCloud addresses some of the ‘tied to iTunes’ concerns we’ve raised in the past. If you’re happy to forgo the delights of the Siri talking assistant, the touch is an irresistible buy.

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The iPod touch is now even slimmer, at 7.2mm, comes with iOS5 and supports iCloud — a neat way of accessing your music and Photostream from anywhere via the web. The iMessage feature now lets you send secure messages over Wi-Fi too.

Not everything that will run on the iPhone 4 and 4S (which have superior video processors) will do so on the iPod touch, but most items, including GarageBand, will. Don’t expect the more graphics-intensive iMovie with its real-time video capture and splicing. Similarly, you don’t get the Siri voice-recognition app on the iPod touch version of iOS5 (as you do for the iPhone 4S). The 960x640pixel widescreen is ideal for gaming. With your Apple ID you can log in, create a gaming alias and do battle with friends. The Games Centre allows you to play online with friends and to issue friend requests based on who’s in your contacts list. When a friend accepts your request , you get a triumphant ‘do-do-do-doo-do-doo’.

Music is, of course, still central to the iPod touch. Album art is displayed by default. Fingertip control of the volume — Apple has sensibly stuck with a large blob on a slider for this — and playlist creation is a breeze. You can delete items from a playlist as well as editing them, making it easy to lose the filler tracks on an album, for example.

The usual white ‘earbud’ earphones are included in the package, but you’ll want a better pair in order to enjoy the impressive audio that the touch can produce. We had to try very hard to introduce any note of distortion; it may be just 7mm thick, but the iPod touch can withstand being turned up to the max without noticeable vibrations or other aural discomfort.

There’s a new Newsstand icon where subscriptions to magazines and newspapers live. Click on the Newsstand icon on your iPod and browse the list of magazine titles available. Note that while there are many titles listed as ‘free’, most actually initiate a paid-for rolling subscription.

Contacts, reminders and email have been subtly improved, while Notes tapped out on other iOS devices are automatically synched to your email account once iCloud is set up. FaceTime works by calling a contact from your phone menu. When they pick up, a video call is initiated and the touch’s camera trains itself on you.

The touch’s camera is noticeably faster than before. You can’t quite take shots in burst mode, but we got suitable sharp shots of a highly detailed greyscale image that we quickly zoomed in and out of. Colour reproduction tends to saturate elements, but is well-balanced.

Photos, video and other visuals all look absolutely great on the iPod touch’s screen, of course: it has the sharpest pixel pitch of any portable entertainment device. Items in the Photo menu now become part of your Photostream. Non-Mac users will still have the import images manually once the iPod touch shows up in Windows as a portable device.

Essentially, then, the iPod touch continues to be a lightweight but serious alternative to the iPhone. It weighs 102g compared with the 138g of the iPhone 3GS or the 141g of the iPhone 4 and is even more wafer-thin than the previous iPod touch player. A by-product of this, however, seems to be an increased susceptibility to scratches.

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