The iPod Touch isn’t a gadget that’s accustomed to being upstaged. It is, after all, the best portable media player on the planet. But at the launch of its second generation, all the flashbulbs and attention was showered on its cheeky little brother, the iPod Nano 4G.
This was mostly justified: the iPod Touch 2G is such a comparatively minor upgrade, seasoned owners of its predecessor might be hard pressed to tell the difference. But changes have been made: it’s slimmer, cheaper and now has built-in Nike+ support. The question is whether this is enough to fend off rivals like the ambitious Archos 5g.
The new Touch has three main physical changes: a curved back panel, built-in speaker and a new volume switch on the left hand side. While the new curves make little difference to its pocketability, the stainless steel now frames the front of the device like the iPhone, improving the looks just enough to make current Touch owners if not green with envy, then at least a light shade of lime.
The volume buttons and speaker, on the other hand, are a mixed blessing. The addition of the former is really an admission of a design flaw on the original Touch, which gave you the irksome option of either unlocking the device or double tapping the main button to change the volume.
There’s no doubt the new rocker switch is an improvement, but it works even when the Touch is locked so is occasionally prone to accidental presses in the pocket. The tinny speaker, meanwhile, is surely just asking for abuse from grime-loving schoolkids on your bus to work.
Though it won’t impress sofa-lovers, the biggest change to the Touch is Nike+ functionality. The receiver – which normally plugs into the base of the iPod Nano – is now built into the Touch, meaning you only need to buy the Nike+ sensor to track runs. There’s also a pre-loaded Nike+ app, which sits on your homescreen.
But there are a couple of disappointments. Firstly, while the app brings a jazzy new graphical interface, the workout options and functionality are identical to what’s available on the Nano. Considering the Touch has a glorious 480x320 touchscreen and Wi-Fi, it would have been great to see features like graphs, integration with Google Maps and wireless syncing with your Nike+ account. This will surely come with a new, almost certainly paid for, app in Apple’s store.
And, secondly, the new sensor-only Nike+ pack for the Touch 2g costs £14, which is pretty extortionate considering the original pack was only £19. But, these moans aside, the new Nike+ feature is as slick as ever and is a generous extra toy considering the Touch’s price has gone down.
Tweaked sound and vision
But what of the Touch’s staples – video and music? There have, surprisingly, been minor changes here too. Like the iPhone 3G, the display now has a yellowy tint and can, when compared to original Touch, look a little lacklustre. You can, though, adjust the brightness, and it does add a little warmth to movies.
The sound quality has also been marginally improved – the Touch 2G sounds crisper, cleaner but just as rhythmic as its older brother.
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There’s also extra value courtesy of new features from iTunes 8, most notably the new ‘Genius’ playlist feature. Once activated via your iTunes account, this automatically creates playlists of similar songs from your library. Occasionally, obscure choices will render it unable to create a mix, but in the main it works well and is a handy halfway house between the ‘random’ and ‘on the go’ playlist options.
Contrary to Jobsy’s remarks, the Touch 2G’s accelerometer and single button don’t make it a Sony PSP rival, but the ever-increasing number of varied games like Super Monkey Ball, Trism and Real Football 2009 add another string to the Touch’s already impressive bow. While it hasn’t been reinvented, it remains the portable media player to beat.