Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review of IPod touch 8G (2nd Generation)

Over the years I have owned a number of MP3 music players. I started WAY back with the Rio, a device that attracted a lot of attention from record labels and related lawsuits, and which ultimately died. After a while I broke down and joined the Apple bandwagon, when I realized that you didn't need to just purchase songs encoded in their format and you could upload your own songs in MP3 format. I currently own an iPod shuffle that I use when I work out (a great buy at $49) and an older 60GB that can hold my entire music collection. Note how SMALL it is in your hand, and it is very thin (thinner than an IPhone).

I was recently browsing at Radio Shack near where I work looking for headphones when an enthusiastic sales person asked me if I had seen the new IPod touch and what type of IPod I owned. I said I didn't know anything about it and he basically said that it was awesome, replaced his old IPod, and let him surf the web and send emails for free at any Starbucks location, as well as watch movies downloaded from iTunes. "It is like an iPhone with no monthly fees" he said or something like that. At $229 I couldn't resist a new gadget and bought it.

Surfing the Web - the IPod Touch uses the Safari browser and works like the IPhone browser. It allows you to "drill in" to web pages by pushing your fingers together and "pinching". This expands the portion of the web page you actually want to read on the screen. You can also turn the device sideways to read, such as I did on the "most important video" seen above. The browser works well - you can use bookmarks to save pages, and search easily. On a wi-fi network, it loads very quickly and is able to play embedded video in most categories (such as Apple Quick time format), but not all.

Playing Music and Videos - I bought an 8GB version... this is too small to fit my whole music collection and now that I see how cool this is I likely need to upgrade to a version with larger memory - but it plays music very well and let's you go through your catalog in the cool way with your fingers like you see on the IPhone TV commercials. It also plays movies and videos in a crystal clear screen that jumps out at you.

Email - one reason that I bought the device is that it lets you download, read, and write email on the device. I was able to instantly set up my gmail and yahoo accounts. It took a little more work to set up my personal email but was able to do it after reading through instructions particular to my online POP3 account.

No Keyboard - there is no keyboard. When you need a keyboard one pops up on the screen. I am still getting used to it - I wouldn't necessarily want to type an epic on it, but it works. If you are having trouble with a particular key you can just slide along your finger until the key looks "larger" and then select it... sometimes I have to do this with my fat thumb on the corner letters like the "M". Having no keyboard is a bit of a trade off, but it lets the movies and browser be far larger when compared with what you get on a blackberry, for instance. If you are heavily typing all the time (like a corporate email system) I would not get this type of device, but it is great for personal email and the like.

Wireless Access (FREE) - when you are at home once you set up your wireless access point and password the device automatically finds it and utilizes it. If you set up other points (I set up a friends' house) it also finds that, too, without having to reset the password or connection. This is the way to really use the device - it is fantastic that you just click on it and you can see weather or something like that IMMEDIATELY rather than waiting 60 seconds for your PC to boot up (longer if you have Vista) and then waiting for the security software to kick in before your browser starts.

Starbucks Wireless - If you have a prepaid card with Starbucks and use it at least once a month then you can have wireless access for free at any Starbucks location with AT&T wireless access for up to 2 hours a day. I bought a Starbucks gold card for 15 bucks (because that gives me 10% off the basic coffee I drink, Pike's Place Roast) and put some money on it and registered through their site, which passed me off to the AT&T site, where I registered again. After that, I went into Starbucks and was able to log in and get my email there and surf for free. Note that many Starbucks sites have T Mobile as well as AT&T but T Mobile is a (paid) service while the AT&T is free. I will probably do a separate post on how to set this up because it is a little bit technical but I am telling you, once you get through a few steps, it is free from then on at any Starbucks offering AT&T connectivity. You don't need to pay for the Starbucks gold card like I do - just any old Starbucks prepaid card will work (I am told).

Larger Version and Accessories - The 36GB version is $376 on Amazon and if you buy it online it is tax free (that saves you $38 here in Chicago). I also need to buy a cover for it so it doesn't get the screen scratched and likely a power charging station so I don't have to have my PC on to recharge the device (it comes with a USB charger out of the box). After I buy some accessories I will review them, as well.

GPS - The ITouch does NOT have GPS built in. However, it approximates the same thing based on the physical location of your wireless that it is connected to. If you have this device, get on wi fi anywhere (a friend's house, a Starbucks) and then hit "location" (it is like a target icon) and then your ITouch knows where you are and will map out nearby restaurants, bars, gas stations, or anything else. This service is AMAZING and so are the Google maps... you can drill down right into your location and map anything that you can find to get directions.

Weather / Stocks - there are a couple of applications built in that let you track weather or stocks with one click - you just need to set your preferences or city. There are a whole bunch of custom applications you can download, too, but these are built in to the device. In the morning you can turn it on and have it up and see weather in about 20 seconds while doing something else like getting dressed and it works flawlessly (and makes your PC or laptop seem aggravating).

Downloading Applications - there are a TON of free applications that you can download that let you play games, read newspapers offine, and many other things. I will start to download them and post on the ones I like and the ones I don't. The applications are categorized as "free" or "paid" and you can just pay for them via your iTunes account (don't need a credit card, it is very low hassle). If you don't like them, just uninstall the applications.

Battery - the battery does seem to die pretty quickly in my unit. I am looking for a charger on the wall and I will just plug it in overnight rather than on my PC (although I will need to synch it to get my music). I will try to monitor this and get a better feel for how it works and what is draining it.

No Monthly Fee - once you buy this device, there are NO monthly fees. It is expensive to get a device for email and then pay every month. This is a free way to get at least the email, GPS-like features, and web browsing. I highly recommend buying it for that reason alone.

More to Come... I will be posting more as I work with this device because I view it as truly revolutionary. Set up an "IPod Touch" category for this blog as a result, if you are interested.


Carl from Chicago said...

well I can't see the video format blogger uses on my itouch for starters

Gerry from Valpo said...

Another Mac convert. Welcome!

Dan from Madison said...

Looks cool, that is certainly the most important video ever.

Carl from Chicago said...

Gerry - love that iTouch but I only convert to MAC when they get near the PC price point :)