It perhaps goes without saying, but there’s a reason that Apple is so dominant in the portable media player market. There’s a reason why Microsoft, no matter how much cash it pumps into its Zune project, is so far behind. And there’s a reason why the iPod is one of the most dominant technological products on the planet.
The second generation iPod Touch 16GB is, at its best, a fabulous piece of technology. From the clean, unassuming packaging through to the sheer simplicity of operation, it demonstrates at its core the thinking and execution by which Apple, on its day, can leave everyone else behind.
The face of the unit is devoted to a touchscreen interface, which is clean and easy to use. ‘Intuitive’ is a word frequently tossed around carelessly, but it fits the bill here, and Apple designs its interface to fit and work within the ample 3.5-inch screen perfectly.
That same screen proves to be surprisingly good for playing back video material. As any visitor to the iTunes store will be only too aware, Apple is increasingly encouraging users to buy television episodes and movies to watch on their iPods, and this reviewer was one of the queue of naysayers who suggested at one point that it wasn’t a natural way to view such content. This reviewer was subsequently surprised.
Little touches, too, such as changing the orientation of the display as you move the unit around, demonstrate the detail that Apple has injected into the device, and watching video content is both comfortable and better than you may expect.
The core function of playing back music is as simple and straightforward as ever, with the 16GB of storage space provided being ample for the collections of the vast majority of people. That will change, of course, should a few too many movies be downloaded onto the device, or an abundance of the games that are available for it. But it’s still going to take a long time to fill.
Aesthetically the iPod Touch is slim, simple and elegant, and if there’s a better designed rival on the market, we’re yet to see it.
Not everything about the unit is perfect. The built-in speaker is borderline useless, and then of course there’s the price. You expect a price premium when you buy an Apple product, and you duly get it here. If you’re not too bothered about video content, then a cheaper, classic iPod may be your best option, and it’s likely to be lighter on battery demands, too (the battery life of the iPod Touch is good, but we struggled to get the 36 hours or so that Apple claims). Furthermore, the supplied earphones, if you’re spending this amount of money on a digital media device, are ripe for an upgrade.
But the iPod Touch is nonetheless a market leading product from a market leading company. It’s simple to use, packed with features and, much to the frustration of the likes of Microsoft, is pretty much unrivalled. Expect that to stay the same for some time.