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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  • trip1ex - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Don't get where the too expensive analysis comes from. It comes across as off the cuff rather than some research/tested conclusion.

    It comes out of nowhere.

    The iPhone 4 is a $600+ device. Apple surely had to cut corners in order to get to the $229 pricepoint. Remember last gen the $229 pricepoint didn't even equate to a then-current gen Touch. And so cut corners they did. You seem to know this and yet.....

    .... it feels too expensive? IT sounds like the marketing of cellphone companies is working on you. Hey this new smartphone is only $200.

    Anyway if it is too expensive then show us (outside of the normal Apple profit margin that is.)
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Are there any similar devices that give you similar capacity right off the bat without further add-ons?

    Like Touch Screen 3" or higher PMP?

    Creative Zen X-FI 2 32GB?
    Cowon S9 32GB
    Microsoft Zune HD 32GB
    Sony Walkman X Series 32GB
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    So what device offers the same functionality as the iPod Touch with the same level of capacity?

    vs the iPod Touch 32GB (4G)

    Microsoft Zune HD 32GB
    Cowon S9 32GB
    Creative Zen X-Fi 2 32GB
    Sony Walkman X Series 32GB
    Samsung P3 32GB

    There aren't that many options I think in this class of device.
    Reply
  • quickbunnie - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Agreed.

    Apple always gave me the impression that they didn't cut corners - instead they increased the price. This device feels like it cut corners.

    My breaking point was the screen. Resolution is nice, but I can't handle the horrid contrast ratio. Especially after using a few OLED phones.

    I also was hoping for an "industrial" design a la iphone 4.

    I actually went ahead and bought an iPhone 4 with no contract ($699). They gave me an unactivated microSIM card. I was able to use most of the iPhone without any activation whatsoever, but to use facetime I had to activate the SIM. I did so as a prepaid gophone SIM for free (albeit I had to use a different IMEI, and my balance was $0), and this opened up facetime options. I keep it on airplane mode to save batteries - it seems that to use facetime a SIM must be installed, even though its not used (taking the sim out disables facetime).

    This is a very expensive option. For me, I wanted an upgraded iPod and a new camera. I don't have a camera, so using one with GPS for geotagging and HD video recording options with a decent quality sensor made up the price difference. Had I already had a camera, I would not have paid this much for it.
    Reply
  • quickbunnie - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Oh, and something to note: WiFI and bluetooth are both still accessible while in airplane mode. Reply
  • reticulate - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    This is an interesting point - I'm not sure if it reflects the wider consumer environment, but Apple effectively upsold you the iPhone 4 by making the Touch not quite good enough for what you want.

    Don't think of it as 'cut corners' as much as a very specifically engineered part of the lineup.
    Reply
  • reticulate - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    From this review and others I've seen about the interwebs, it's becoming clear Apple designed this to be within a very specific profit margin envelope. You can tell by the lower quality screen, case manufacture and somewhat reduced internal specs that this was designed very carefully to replicate some of the halo qualities of the iPhone while costing a whole bunch less to manufacture. It cleverly prevents cannibalising iPhone sales while also being the most desirable iPod in the lineup by virtue of the iOS ecosystem.

    Not that this isn't par for the course with Apple these days. Say what you want about them, but they sure know how to make a profit.
    Reply
  • reticulate - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Re-reading this I should point out I'm not a fanboy, but I do get what they're trying to do here. It's way cheaper for them to make while having enough iPhone-like qualities to sell a ton. Consumers will eat this up, and if they're first-timers on iOS might end up buying an iPhone down the track. Those of us who want an iPhone 4-like device will end up buying an iPhone 4, so either way Apple wins.

    Clever and infuriating, but mostly clever.
    Reply
  • truk007 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    You've helped me make my decision not to buy the 4th gen iPod. I was hoping for a little better video and still photo quality, as well as GPS.

    I guess I'll have to wait for the 5th gen. I guess this also means the next gen iPads will be sporting a camera as well. That would be nice.
    Reply
  • Mike1111 - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Well, my problem with all this disappointment is that the iPod touch is still by far the best PMP with near smartphone-like qualities out there. And I think that the new iPod touch is a clear improvement over the last generation. So I can understand why most of the review scores are so high. If there's nothing better out there and it's actually a pretty good device then it has to get almost automatically a 8 or 9 out of 10.

    But it's just not as close to the iPhone 4 as many people (IMHO unrealistically) have hoped. It just wouldn't make sense for Apple to basically sell a GSM-less iPhone 4 for $299 instead of $699. There's simply no reason to. The new iPod touch is still attractive enough as it is and the small competition that is out there may be cheaper but is worse in almost every other area.

    I also think that much of the frustration about the device is US specific. People really want an iPhone 4 but hate AT&T and they had high hopes that the new iPod touch would get them (almost) there. In other countries where you can get the iPhone 4 on a every carrier and also contract- and netlock-free, people are just not that emotionally invested in the new iPod touch as their "savior".

    One last thing: Anand, are you sure that ALL new iPod touches have only 256MB RAM? Because the 8GB version was always "special" in some way and I haven't seen a teardown or analysis of a 32GB or 64GB version yet.
    Reply

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