Last week Apple announced a complete overhaul of its iPod lineup including a new Shuffle, a new Nano (with multitouch screen) and a new iPod Touch. While the nano looks cool, it’s pricey and honestly I haven’t been interested in a dedicated MP3 player in about a decade.

The new iPod Touch however piqued my curiousity. With many of the same specs as the iPhone 4, I wondered if the new Touch might be a neat way to get most of the functionality of the 4 without the albatross of a contract AT&T hangs around your neck.

It turns out there’s a lot more than a cellular radio that separates the new iPod Touch from the iPhone 4.

iPod Touch, The Fourth

The new Touch comes with a pair of typical Apple earbuds (the ones without a mic or remote!) and a dock cable (no wall power adapter) in a fancy new plastic case:

Apple hasn’t given the new iPod Touch the full iPhone 4 styling treatment. You get a glass front but a smudgefactory chrome back:

This is after less than a day of use

The entire device is ridiculously thin, it makes the iPhone 4 feel like a brick. It’s comfortable to hold in your hand and honestly the size I wish all smartphones were.

The buttons are also cheaper than what you get on the 4. The new iPod Touch has individual rubber volume up/down buttons on the left side and a low profile power/lock at the top.

There’s a 1/8” output jack at the bottom of the iPod Touch, but the opening is tapered so you actually leave a bit of your headphone connector exposed when it’s plugged in:

It’s not the most elegant (or engineering friendly) design, but it does work.

There’s an external speaker at the bottom of the iPod Touch, but it’s not quite as loud/bassy as what you get with the iPhone 4. It’s enough to listen to music in a relatively quiet room but you’re much better off with headphones.

To give you an idea, I measured sound pressure 5” above the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch while playing a Kanye West track (Power):

External Speaker Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPod Touch (2010)
Sound Pressure - Higher is Better 90 dB(A) 78 dB(A)

The 4’s external speaker weighed in at 90dB(A) compared to 78dB(A) on the new iPod touch. This is very important for our FaceTime discussion later.

The new iPod Touch is available in 3 flavors: 8GB, 32GB and 64GB. The features are the same across all models.

iPod Touch Pricing
  8GB 32GB 64GB
Apple iPod Touch (2010) $229 $299 $399

Internally, the new iPod Touch uses Apple’s A4 SoC. The A4 is an ARM Cortex A8 based SoC with integrated PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. The Cortex A8 in the SoC runs somewhere in the 700 - 900MHz range and appears to be the same CPU speed as the iPhone 4. The GPU also appears unchanged. I ran a few sanity tests to confirm:

Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPod Touch (2010) Performance
  Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPod Touch (2010)
Geekbench 380 378
Sunspider 0.9 10666.8 ms 10693.2 ms
Rightware BrowserMark 30915 32106
Linpack 34.5 MFLOPs 33.9 MFLOPs
3D Benchmark App 47.7 fps 46.9 fps

If you’re wondering why I didn’t run Epic’s amazing Citadel demo, it’s because of the next major difference between the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch: memory size.

The A4 in the iPod Touch appears to be a lower clocked version of what you get in the iPad, it only has 256MB of memory compared to the 4’s 512MB. Currently Epic’s Citadel demo treats the iPod Touch as an iPhone 4 and crashes before getting into the demo as a result. Epic should have an update out soon that fixes the problem by lowering texture quality to fit within the memory limits of the iPod Touch.

The reduction in memory size simply means you won’t be able to have as many apps open as you would on an iPhone 4. iOS does a relatively good job of memory management so you’ll only see this surface while multitasking with a lot of apps. When it does surface you’ll simply try to switch to an application and note that it has to reload from scratch rather than just picking up where you left off.

This is purely a profit play on Apple’s part. The iPhone 4 is much more expensive, especially taking into account AT&T’s contract, and as a result you get more hardware despite relatively similar up front costs.

The Retina Display
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  • coldpower27 - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    I agree to some extent, though it is refreshing to see a review not praise the iPod touch as the second coming again.

    It's the previous generation that is for sure, but not without limitations..

    Using CDN pricing.

    iPod Touch 32GB - $319
    Weak Camera (960x720)
    Lower RAM (256MB)
    no Phone
    Earbuds w/Mic Sold Seperately

    iPhone 4 32GB - $779 (Unlocked)
    Better Contrast, Better Blacks
    Better Viewing Angles
    -RAM 512MB
    -Protective Hardened Glass Back
    -Has Phoning Capabilities
    5.0 MP w/HDR
    HD Video Recording
    Earbuds w/Mic Included
    Phoning Capabilities
    -MUCH more expensive

    Though each is intended for different markets, at least Apple gives us a choice...
  • Watwatwat - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link


    the other issue i have was about the microphone. Sure it only works in quiet environments, on the other hand, its inadvertently a good thing. The last thing we need are more people barking at their phones in public places...add children shouting at ipod touches face time and its just obnoxiousness. i can understand them not including it, its just not something i see myself using much at all in reality.
  • yjagota - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    ...but the question is, is this device enough to switch from the old iPod to this new one? I think there isn't too much difference from the last generation so there is hardly any incentive for upgrading. I am giving this one a miss!
  • coldpower27 - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Depends on which Gen your coming from.

    iPod Touch Gen 1 (Definitely)
    iPod Touch Gen 2 (Good Upgrade)
    iPod Touch Gen 3 (Not so much..)
  • Affectionate-Bed-980 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Would this then negate the need to rely on the rear mic?

    I do have my own better earbuds (Ultimate Ears with the .vi cord which has a built in mic), so I would probably use that for Facetime. If this means I can just set my iPod on my desk or not worry about that terribly positioned mic, then I will be satisfied.

    Remember the price bump isn't that bad. We're back to the 2nd gen iPod touch price (introduced at 8gb for $229), but let's not forget the iPod Touch 3rd Gen 8gb, while priced cheaper at $199, was really a marked down 2nd gen iPod. While this new iPod is at the same price point as we saw 2 years ago, we get a far faster processor that is 1 generation ahead, double the RAM, a better display, Facetime, and near-iPhone features with two cameras now.

    I think it's sufficient to say that this price bump was necessary. If anything the dropping price of the Touch was hurting the Nano. And now with the Nano losing its camera that it previously gained, I can see why Apple needs to maintain this differentiation between the two lines and keep some sort of price disparity. After all, the iPod Touch is the "elite" device.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Correct, the apple earbuds + mic works fine on the new iPod Touch.

    The pricing makes sense in Apple's stack, but it feels too expensive for what you're getting :)

    Take care,
  • Calin - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I think it's wrong to compare its price versus the iPhone subsidised with a contract. If you compare it with the "no strings attached" price for the iPhone, it's looking much better (even though it might still not look good enough)
  • crimson117 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    If you're going to be limited to wifi, and you're going to be carrying around a phone plus some device, then why not just use a netbook? Other than facetime there are many better apps for a PC than for an iPod Touch. The only reason iPhone has killer apps is because they are usable on the road where you only have a cellular connection.
  • Sanada - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    I personally carry a cell phone plus an itouch. Addtionally carrying a laptop/netbook is much less portable and comfortable than carrying an itouch. Itouch is just convenient to get the most basic tasks done since it's small and goes into a pocket.
  • futurepastnow - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Can an external mic be used for audio during video recording?

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