Apple iPod touch (2012)
Thin, light, bright, powerful: this is Apple’s best ever iPod
- Thin, light, well-built
- Excellent screen and good camera
- Fast processing and great battery life
- Lightning port complicates backward compatibility
- No volume control on bundled EarPods
Apple’s newest iPod touch joins components from the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S, cobbling them together in a body that’s incredibly thin and light. New earphones and a new dock connector are both good and bad, but the overall package is an excellent one.
Overtaking the fourth generation iPod touch from 2011, the new portable media player has a larger screen, a thinner body, more powerful internal components, has some notable design changes, and comes bundled with Apple’s new Lightning mini-connector and EarPods headphones.
Apple iPod touch (2012): Design and features
The new iPod inherits the exact same screen that is the centrepiece of the iPhone 5: it’s a 4-inch, 326dpi, 1136x640pixel IPS LCD ‘retina’ panel that’s longer, not wider, than the previous model’s 3.5-inch screen.
It’s the best screen we’ve seen on any non-smartphone, and is just as crisp, contrasty, bright and detailed as any smartphone on the market — the main differentiator of the myriad Android products is their larger outright screen size. There’s no brightness sensor, so the touch won’t automatically alter its brightness to suit viewing conditions.
There’s a 720p-capable FaceTime HD camera on the top centre of the iPod touch’s white-faced front, and a slightly recessed home button down on the lower bezel. The button has a good feel to it, but it has a rubber surround, making it less durable than the iPhone 5’s metal bracket.
The back casing of the iPod touch is built of thin, but very sturdy, anodized aluminium. You can buy the new touch in six colours, with matte finishes with gloss on the Apple logo: grey, pink, yellow, blue, (PRODUCT) RED, and Batmanesque black. The side volume control buttons have been redesigned to suit the new look.
There’s a little circle on the lower rear left corner of the iPod touch which, when pressed, pops out to accept the bundled iPod touch loop. The loop is a leatherette lanyard with a sliding lock — it’s a smart design evolution for an even-thinner, even-slicker device than the rest of the already-easy-to-drop touchscreen iPhone and iPod family.
The camera on the back of the iPod touch sticks out a millimetre or two from the rest of the casing, with a metal ring and glass front element. We’re not altogether sure how sturdy this will be — the metal ring should do a good job of protecting it from impacts, though.
We have to make special mention about just how thin and light the iPod touch is. It’s 88 grams. It’s 6.1mm thick. For a device that can browse the Internet through Wi-Fi, with Bluetooth, with a 40-hour battery, with 32GB or 64GB of flash memory, with more power than a desktop computer from ten years ago, this is amazing. It’s about as thin and as light and as perfectly as we could ever want a portable touchscreen computer to be.
Apple iPod touch: Performance
The iPod touch has always been a perfectly adequate portable media player since its inception, and the tradition continues with the 2012 model. It goes without saying that the touch is able to play music at minimum to maximum volume without any distortion, using any of the myriad audio services available — from the good ol’ fashioned Music app and music transferred from a computer using iTunes, to Rdio and Spotify and any other streaming service.
All the internal componentry is of a high standard, and the user experience is near-infinitely customisable thanks to the iPod touch’s reliance on Apple’s operating system. You can download almost any app that is available on iPhone, and the massive library of the App Store means that the touch is able to be more than just a music player. iOS 6 isn’t perfect, though, with a Maps app that is nowhere near as capable as the oft-missed Google counterpart from the previous iOS.
Siri makes its debut on the new iPod touch, so you can ask your PMP where the nearest movie theatre is, or what the weather’s like, as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. The lack of an always-on 3G connection does become somewhat of an impediment in this case, as does the lack of an integrated GPS for the Maps app — the only sensors the touch has inside are a three-axis gyroscope and accelerometer for supported apps and games.
We ran the iPod touch through the battery of GeekBench tests and came up with a result of 621 — roughly on par with the performance of the iPhone 4S that the new touch shares its processor and major components with. In practice the iPod touch is more than fast enough for regular Web browsing, music playback or video viewing, and it’s noticeably more responsive than the iPhone 4 we compared it to directly (362 in GeekBench).
The most telling point of the iPod touch’s performance is its incredibly capable battery. We had the touch playing music through the bundled EarPods with Wi-Fi off at just over half volume for around 36 hours — this is very close to Apple’s quoted 40 hours. While we didn’t completely drain the battery in our video test we did hit 20 per cent remaining after five hours of on-off YouTube streaming, which seems on par with the claims of eight hours continuous usage.
The camera of the iPod touch isn’t the step-up unit found in the iPhone 5, but it’s the 5-megapixel sensor and f/2.4 lens used in the iPhone 4S. In practice, it’s a big difference from the camera in the previous iPod touch and the iPhone 4, with better detail, better exposure metering and faster response times. Panoramic photos are also possible in iOS 6. Video at 1080p is available on the touch, although the image stabilisation isn’t great and shaking the camera introduces plenty of jittering.
The EarPod headphones that are bundled with the iPod touch are a noticeable improvement from Apple’s ubiquitous white earbuds that have been bundled with previous players and smartphones. They’re clearer, more detailed and sit more comfortably in the wearer’s ears, and don’t fall out as easily despite sitting loosely (they follow the shape of the ear canal rather than pressing against it like the previous buds’ round shape did). However, the EarPods bundled with the iPod touch don’t have an inline volume control, where the ones bundled with the iPhone 5 do — this is genuinely frustrating and we wish the ‘EarPods with Remote and Mic’, as they’re called, had been included in the box.
With the new iPhone and the new iPod touch comes a new dock connector: Lightning. After spending a weekend with it, we do like how small the connector is, and we do like how securely it sits compared to the old 30-pin plug. We don’t like having to buy an adapter or conversion cable to connect the iPod touch to existing audio docks or charging stations.
AirPlay works around this limitation if you’ve got a newer audio dock, but if you bought your accessories when the iPhone 3GS or 4 were new then you’re likely to be unlucky. You can also use an Apple TV to stream music, video, or mirror your iPod touch’s display to a larger screen — a perk of the updated processor.
Apple iPod touch: Conclusion
The new iPod touch is without doubt the best yet, and for its versatility, excellent design and specifications we think it’s far and away the best iPod full stop. We don’t love the Lightning connector, and we don’t love the lack of remote on the EarPods, but with these caveats we’re huge fans of this particular iPod.
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