My first week with the new iPod touch.

My iPod touch finally arrived and it has now been a week, so I’ve had a chance to take it through the paces. I really believe this is the best iPod Apple has ever made.

Pros: good video quality, ability to post video directly to YouTube, multi-tasking and other IOS 4 improvements, good battery life and performance with A4 processor, FaceTime video calling, accessibility features in the entire iPod touch lineup, no phone contract with ATT&T.

Cons: lackluster still camera, so thin sometimes you have to struggle to use the volume buttons on the side of the device.

Of course there are all the features we who have owned an iPhone or a previous version of the iPod touch have gotten used to, but three new features set this device apart: FaceTime, high resolution video + still cameras, and the addition of the A4 processor (the same type used for the iPad).

The addition of the two cameras, which has made possible FaceTime video calling over WiFi,  was one of the big things that made me want to get the new iPod touch. However, I found it kind of difficult to connect with others using FaceTime. This should be less of a problem as FaceTime becomes more established throughout the Apple ecosystem (there is a rumor it could come to iChat soon, which would really increase the number of people you could connect with). When I was able to connect with someone, FaceTime worked great. The video quality using the front facing camera was pretty good. While there were times when the video got jerky and froze, as with any video app this was probably  due to the speed of the Internet connection at both ends of the call. Overall, I was pretty happy with FaceTime and cant’ wait until I have more people using it.

Of the two cameras, the video camera is the better one. While I do not have an iPhone 4 to compare the iPod touch to, I do have a Kodak zi8 that takes pretty good 720p video and 5 MP still images. There are plenty of  side to side comparisons posted online if you want to see a head to head battle of the two iDevices, but in my opinion the difference between the two is not that great, especially if you just plan to post video to YouTube where it is going to be compressed with a loss of quality anyway. The video camera on the iPod touch does not have a zoom, which is a big thing the iPhone 4 (and the Kodak camera) has going for it (even if it is only a digital zoom). The low light performance of the iPod touch is also somewhat weak. For taking video in well lit conditions (such as vacation footage shot outdoors) this camera will do the trick. It also has the advantage of being able to post the video directly to YouTube (or MobileMe), rather than having to wait to transfer the video to a computer first, then uploading to YouTube. This feature alone makes the iPod touch a worthwhile portable video camera.

The still camera will do if you really don’t want to miss a shot, but it is not really an adequate still camera at less than 1MP resolution. Just like the video camera it really struggles with low light conditions, where the pictures get so grainy they are sometimes unusable. Again, outdoors things do get a little better, and the fact that you can now use a bunch of the same photo apps available for the iPhone helps (my favorites are Photogene, Best Camera, and Camera Bag). As long as you remember its limitations, the iPod touch still camera will do fine for Facebook, where the feeling of the moment and getting the shot is often more important than its quality.

The addition of the A4 processor makes this iPod touch a great portable gaming device, but it’s not something that will blow you away, unless you’re like me and you have been suffering with an older iPhone with a hacked OS. Given my point of comparison, I was very impressed with how well this new device handles games. The new iPod also has pretty good battery life, which is more important to me than an incremental bump in processing speed and performance. However, with the A4 processor, the new iPod touch does a great job of handling multi-tasking. Opening and closing apps also happens pretty fast, and it is nice to be able to listen to music on Pandora while checking email and texting. This will make you use your older iPhone or other iDevice much less once you get used to it.

Last and not least, one of the big reasons for getting this iPod for me is that it finally includes VoiceOver and other assistive features even at the base model, which is the 8GB model I ordered. Apple should be applauded for including these technologies throughout their entire iPod lineup, rather than limiting its availability in the higher capacity (and more expensive) models. While most people will not need these features (or even know they are included), as an educator I am pleased to see them made available to everyone who purchases the new iPod touch. This will go a long way toward making the iPod touch a viable educational tool I can use in the classroom to support all students.

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