iPod Touch โ€“ to buy or not to buy? - Macenstein

iPod Touch – to buy or not to buy?

Faithful Macenstein reader Dan writes us:

iPod Touch – to buy or not to buy? That is the question.

A quick sidenote of appreciation: In the last two weeks Macenstein has gone from virtually unknown to me, to the second (of about 30) sites I check on arriving at the office (but don’t tell my manager). My new apartment is still without connectivity, so I look forward to your take on the news (and news-filler) in my favourite subject! So, y’know, thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Wow! Dan learned the “kiss our arse” lesson quick!

Back to the question. I’ve decided that O2 just isn’t good enough to warrant the 18 months of expenditure on an iPhone, especially with the completely substandard internet connectivity, compared to the fact I currently have 3G coverage almost 100% of the time – it would be a strange step backwards.

I decided to purchase an iPod Touch, but I’m waiting for a bit longer to A – see how things pan out, and B – get broadband and another paycheque. Obviously I was most pleased to see the successful jailbreak this week, and Engadget’s reports of Mail and Google Maps being ported across. But now I’m worried – if I wait too long, am I going to miss the 1.1.1 boat and end up with 1.1.2?

I’m putting myself in your hands and at the whim of your experience and knowledge of the Apple psyche, which I’m still yet to fully understand. Do I grab an iPod Touch as soon as commercially possible – ready to ship in 7-10 days from the UK Apple Store and likely to take daily visits to all of my high street retailers – or wait for stability improvements or even an update from Apple?



Ok Dan, well here’s our take on this (and remember, this is just our opinion, and we’ve been nothing but wrong about the iPod touch in the past). We say, go ahead and buy that iPod touch as soon as you’re fiscally ready. Here’s why.

We think Apple views the iPod touch as a “gateway drug” for potential iPhone users that are either locked into long-term contracts and cannot buy an iPhone yet, or, like you Dan, are unhappy with the current choice of iPhone carrier in their country (*cough* AT&T). As far as a straight music player goes, the more tactile iPod classic is a much better choice (and value) for listening to music and occasional video watching than either the iPod touch or the iPhone. What makes the iPod touch alluring is that it is a “hacker’s iPod”, running OS X.

Apple received quite a bit of backlash from both the geek community and the press over the recent “iBricking” iPhone update, but they would receive twice as much should they do it to the iPod touch. The iPhone puts Apple in a unique position in that it has obligations to the mobile carriers to which it has sold the exclusive rights to carry the iPhone. Apple pretty much had to re-lock/disable the iPhone with the first firmware update to prove to these carriers that it would do its part to keep the iPhone on their networks in exchange for huge gobs of money. Even if future updates do not brick the iPhone, the fear of Jobs has been put into the hearts of many iPhone users, and most will not attempt to unlock their iPhone again in the near future. Plus, the somewhat more innocuous adding of applications to the iPhone, while temporarily disabled by the iPhone update, was seemingly a side effect of the update, not its main purpose.

The iPod touch, however, is a different animal entirely. The potential for hacking the iPod touch is pretty much its main selling point as far as we can tell. For all the press and attention the unlocking and jail breaking of the iPhone receives on tech sites, the reality is there is only a very small subsection of iPhone owners who actually do any real hacking (and that subsection has likely gotten subbier with the latest scare). However, it has been our experience that nearly half (or more) of iPod touch owners we’ve spoken to recently seem to share your excitement for the recent iPod touch jailbreak. In fact, we’re just a couple days into the jailbreak, and already we’ve seen tremendous responses from touch users who now giddily have Mail and Google Maps running on their iPod touch (despite its relative uselessness being tethered to Wi-Fi). In short, while the iPhone requires Apple keep it on a short leash, there is no reason why Apple would spend time fighting hackers of the iPod touch (unless of course they manage to somehow add VoIP to the touch, which seems extremely unlikely).

In fact, Apple’s only argument for keeping 3rd party apps off the iPhone รขโ‚ฌโ€œ namely, Steve claimed for “security reasons” they didn’t want apps that could bring down AT&T’s network loaded onto iPhones รขโ‚ฌโ€œ doesn’t apply at all to the iPod touch. Apple pretty much has to let 3rd parties develop apps for the iPod touch without direct interference, or risk being called on it and labeled “evil” by the tech press.


So Dan, we feel your fears of waiting too long and buying an iPod touch with newer firmware which prevents hacking are largely unfounded. About 2 weeks after Apple locked out apps on the iPhone, it is now unlocked again. If Apple continues to play the locking game, the hacking community will play the unlocking game. We see no reason to put off a purchase for fear of tougher locking measures. You will likely never have to wait more than 2 weeks to get back any extra functionality you lost in an update, and odds are you can wait those 2 weeks before applying any new Apple-issued firmware. Apple does not brick the iPhone for users who are merely tinkering with adding applications, and there is no reason they would do so for the iPod touch. We think you are safe

As a final soothing thought, remember this: Never underestimate the importance of good looks when it comes to Apple. Right now the iPod touch’s main menu screen looks ridiculous with its gaping black holes, and with the new iTunes Wi-Fi store icon the iPhone’s menu looks like a 6 year-old’s mouth waiting for missing teeth to grow in. Apple will eventually be filling those spaces up on both devices with either free or $4.99 apps from the iTunes store. Odds are the best apps that hackers add will be ripped off by Apple and added to both devices before Christmas.

3 Responses to “iPod Touch – to buy or not to buy?”
  1. I am an iPod touch owner and I really like mine. One complaint – WiFi reception is not great, about equal to that of my PowerBook. Definitely less then a MacBook or iBook, but I have no experience with the iPhone.

  2. Yong Hwee says:

    For me it’s an easy decision as the iPhone isn’t officially released in Asia.

  3. Dan says:

    Thank you, Doctor for that fantastic response. I’m pleased to announce that I am now the proud owner of seemingly one of the few iPod Touches in the country.

    I was surprised to find one in a single weekend, with all the outlets quoting two weeks before they expected a delivery. On the off-chance I tried the bog-standard high street electronics retailer (UK friends – it was Currys Digital) and managed to snap one up! The sales rep said they’d had their first batch of 60 the day before, and had sold 15 on Saturday, despite all the sales material still displaying “Coming Soon”. He let me know that “Apple don’t tell us anything,” which sounded about right. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seems strange for that store to receive some instead of the Premium Reseller literally up the street.

    The other unexpected thing was the lack of software and manual in the box – luckily I’d downloaded the newest iTunes at work, but it was odd to find internet connectivity as one of the minimum requirements to even activate the device. Hopefully I’ll be out of the dark ages and back online soon.

    Thanks again! Dan

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