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Most Fun iPod?

November 18, 2008
By Dave Hecei

Back in September, Apple held a small press conference introducing a whole new lineup of iPods. While the iPod Nano stole the show, Apple also showed a new second-generation iPod Touch with added features, like buttons for volume control, and a firmware upgrade. Since the Touch can run most of the Apps available on the iPhone App Store, you can think of the Touch as a handheld computer and an iPod. It also makes an amazing handheld gaming machine.

Yes, the Touch is a computer. It runs a version of the OS X operating system. It has a fairly large, and sharp, 3.5-inch multi-touch display that shows 480 by 320 pixels. Some of the software included with the Touch ranges from Apple Mail, iCal, to a full version of the Safari web browser (one big thing missing is Adobe Flash). The Internet can be accessed via wireless networking, or WiFi.

The iPhone App Store has only been online since July and it already contains over 4000 applications. The App Store is really driving iPhone sales up, and almost all of these can run on the Touch. There are plenty of Apps to choose from. Some of the categories are Books, Business, Education, Entertainment, Finance, Games (Paid and Free), etc. Of course, some of the most popular Apps for the Touch are games, and for a good reason. The Touch makes a great gaming platform, maybe even better than any other handheld out there (like Sony's PSP, or Nintendo's DS).

What makes the Touch a great gaming machine? First is the screen. It's fairly large and very sharp with a fast refresh rate. Next is the interface. Because the Touch has a built-in accelerometer it can sense movement. Just a few of the amazing games available on the Touch, and iPhone, are: Flight Simulator X, Super Monkey Ball, Crash Bandicoot Nitro Cart 3D, Moto Chaser, and Tap Tap Revenge (think Guitar Hero). One of the biggest reasons the Touch is a great gaming machine is OS X.

There are some great Internet Apps available. Anyone who uses services like Twitter, AOL Instant Message, My Space, and Facebook, can now use them on a Touch. There is an App called Fring, which allows you to access Skype, Ebay's chat and voice over Internet service. Another useful App is called Loopt, which combines your social networking friends and mapping software.

The Touch is also one of the best iPods, especially for watching video. While all current iPods, except for the shuffle, can play back videos, the larger screen of the Touch makes viewing a pleasure. When watching videos, just rotate the Touch for widescreen viewing. While the screens on the Nano and Classic are nice, the Touch's 3.5-inch screen seems massive in comparison.

The multi-touch interface is amazing and simple to use. The very first iPod had the wheel and revolutionized MP3 music players. Multi-Touch is yet another leap forward. Flipping through your iTunes library becomes second nature after using the Touch for a few minutes. Using a single finger, you can swipe up and down the menus and song lists. Turning the Touch on its side brings you automatically into Album view. Now you can swipe left or right through album covers. When you find the one you want to listen to just tap the screen to open it.

Another great use of the Multi-Touch interface is with your iPhoto library. You can move photos from iPhoto to your Touch turning it into a digital photo album. Photos can easily be flipped through using a single finger. If the photo is horizontal, just turn the Touch on its side and it will fill the frame. Rotate it back to vertical for vertical shots. By using two fingers (thumb and forefinger), you can use a pinch motion to zoom in and out of a photo. You can even create different slide shows and, with the proper cables, connect the Touch to a TV or even a video projector to watch them on a big screen.

While the App Store is new, the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) has been around for a while. The iTMS has had some videos available for a while, you can also rent or buy movies. Unlike a pay per view service on your cable or dish, you don't have to watch it right away. You have 30 days to start the movie. Once started you have 24 hours to finish it. Of course you can also buy movies and TV shows to watch at any time.

Combining all these capabilities in such an elegantly designed device is an Apple trademark. The new Touch is one of the best iPods yet and is great for music, video, Internet, and now Apps. The Touch is available with 8, 16, or 32 gigabytes of storage starting at $229. Apple calls the new Touch 'the funnest iPod yet'. While your high school English teacher may cringe at that statement, Apple just might be right.



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