iPod Touch: The Last Review

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Photo courtesy of Apple

Whenever a new product comes out there’s a massive rush by the media to get the first review up. Which makes sense, because we-the-media are like that, but it’s also kinda lame, because everybody knows you have to live with a gadget for a while to truly grok its tiny electronic soul. That’s why I imagine a series of reviews called “The Last Review,” which would appear weeks or months after a gadget comes out, instead of 7 seconds after it’s announced. This will never happen, because it’s commercially unviable, but it would be kinda cool. That’s why I’m doing it on my blog. Because I’m cool like that.

I’ve been using an iPod Touch for a couple of weeks now, and I’m pretty chuffed about it. The shock of how thin it is still hasn’t gone away — it’s Hershey-bar thin, barely thicker than the port for the headphone jack, which suggests that unless they switch to a non-standard port, Apple has gone just about as thin as they can go. The bezel around the Touch’s edge is not re-curved, the way the iPhone’s is, which makes it seem even thinner — it’s got a sharp edge to it.

All the major functions perform fully as advertised. The mini-iTunes store is a lovely touch, though I don’t find myself using it much. It almost feels like a symbolic gesture, pointing toward some ecstatic future when iPods will be wholly emancipated from servitude to the PC mothership. Browsing and photo management are gorgeous and indistinguishable from the iPhone experience. Ditto video and audio playback. I don’t see the “cover flow” interface as a game-changer, exactly, but I’m sure getting used to it. Is the click wheel done for? I wonder if this time next year they’re even going to be manufacturing non-touch iPods anymore.

(Point of order: I watched the Wes Anderson short Hotel Chevalier on my Touch, and in some shots the always-compelling Jason Schwartzman appears to actually be shorter than Natalie Portman. Is that possible? I’ve met her, and she is tiny, which would mean that Schwartzman is, like, nano.)

The iPod Touch is, unquestionably, the best iPod ever made, which means it’s the best portable digital media player ever made. It’s not everybody’s iPod, because of the size, but if you’re going to watch video you wouldn’t want it a pixel smaller. And I’ve gone running w/ it, and didn’t find that it interrupted my cheetah-like stride. (Cheetah in question is wounded and about to be culled from the pack.)

And now that I’ve said that, I can do my quibbles. I’ll try to be constructive with my feedback.

Quibble #234454 (they’re coded for easy reference): I miss the hardware volume buttons from the iPhone. Boo hoo.

Quibble #667934 (quibbles numbered non-sequentially): Why aren’t there more apps? No email, no Google Maps app, not even a basic text editor (even tho there’s keyboard functionality in the browser). You look at all that velvety black space on the Touch’s desktop (touchtop? podtop? palmtop?), and it’s like an aching void in your own blackened soul, howling to be filled with happy colorful icons. I talked about this w/ an Apple exec, who explained that their guiding principle with the iPod Touch was that it’s an iPod, not a phone, so it’s about consuming media, not creating or broadcasting. Which seems fair enough, from their point of view. But from the user’s point of view, more is more! I feel like there’s untapped capacity in my iPod Touch.

Quibble #908432: For fellow Touch users interested in playing at home, here’s an interface quibble. Play an audio track, then turn the iPod sideways, so that the display flips (sometimes a bit sluggishly) to landscape view. You get a different version of the audio playback interface, with no volume control and no progress. Why? Why should I have to flip it back to vertical to change the volume, or jump around w/in a track?