When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

As Apple iPhone fans who don't want to sign up for a new phone, we were hoping the Apple iPod touch would be the perfect compromise. Based on its specs (Wi-Fi, mobile Safari, the multitouch interface, and twice the Apple iPhone's storage capacity at 16GB), it sure looks like it would be. But after testing the 16GB iPod touch we've encountered a number of hardware and software issues and it looks like Apple still has some work to do.

Don't get us wrong, the Apple iPod touch is an amazing piece of technology. Mobile Safari is the best portable web browser around, Cover Flow works great on a device with limited storage capacity, and the new Apple iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is extremely slick for a first generation product. But we've run into a screen anomaly that makes dark movies scenes difficult to watch, software bugs that halt music playback when browsing pages in Safari, and an issue that harms sound quality on many in-ear headphones.

If Apple can work out most of those kinks, it will have produced the first portable video player we'd actually want to own. Until it does, wed recommend taking a wait-and-see approach with the Apple iPod touch.

Read PC Advisor's exclusive in-depth review of the Apple iPhone here

The iPhone slims down

Run down a list of the Apple iPhone's features, and you'll find that almost everything has made it over to the Apple iPod touch. The Apple iPod touch is available in both 8GB and 16GB capacities (unlike the Apple iPhone, which is only 8GB in the UK). It's substantially thinner than Apple's iPhone, but it's got the same 802.11b/g wireless support. It also features a 3.5in multitouch screen with 480x320-pixel resolution. The single button on the Apple iPod touch's face brings up the main menu, and a small button on top turns the device on and off.

The only missing bits of hardware from the Apple iPod touch are the phone (plus the mic and speakers that go with it), the camera, and the physical volume buttons and locking switch on the side. The non-standard headset jack that prevents you from plugging most headphones directly into the Apple iPhone is gone as well - your normal headphones will fit just fine.

The Apple iPod touch works just like the Apple iPhone, too. We've spent plenty of time dissecting how that device works, so we won't dig deeply into it here. The tap, scroll, and pinch gestures that make the Apple iPhone a joy to use work just as well on the Apple iPod touch.

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

Music highs (and one low)

The Apple iPod touch's beautiful interface and large, attractive screen help make it easily the most fun media player the PC Advisor Test Centre has ever seen. Cover Flow, Apple's unique iPod touch-based interface for flipping through the albums on your player, performs much better on the touch than on the Apple iPod nano or the Apple iPod classic. Album art loads efficiently enough that it's nearly impossible to outrun the player and end up with the dreaded gray placeholder graphics while the Apple iPod touch catches up.

The Apple iPod touch seems more attractive as a mobile video player and web browser, but its limited capacity forced us to come up with some new ways to listen to music - after a while we were having a blast adapting to the smaller confines and the Apple iPod touch's interface. We've loaded our test unit with a library-wide best of playlist, along with some classic discs and the past 20 or so albums we've ripped. One favourite new trick: we'll put the best of playlist on shuffle and let that play until we hear something we haven't heard in a while. When we do, a quick tap of the album's track listing lets us go back and listen to that disc.

Apple's new iTunes Wi-Fi Music store works great as well. Its search function updates while you type, helping you drill down to the correct artist, album or song title with a minimum of typing. Provided you have an Apple iTunes Music Store account, you can purchase songs directly from the device using the Apple iPod touch's Wi-Fi connection. (This feature is now available to Apple iPhone users as well.) Tracks download as quickly as your internet connection can manage, and are immediately playable. The next time you sync the Apple iPod touch, those songs will be downloaded to your PC's music library.

Much like the Apple iPhone, the Apple iPod touch sounds similar to a last-generation Apple iPod nano. That's not bad for a flash-based MP3 player, but there's a critical difference between the sound of the Apple iPod touch and any of the Apple iPod nanos we've tested. As noted in our first look, the Apple iPod touch doesn't play so well with many high-end in-ear headphones we've tested. The problem goes away if we use an attenuator (a tiny adaptor that shipped with my Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pros), but we'd prefer not to have to plug an adaptor into the player if at all possible.

The dark-scene video blues

As we mentioned, we'd really like to use the Apple iPod touch primarily as a portable video player. One of our favourite features of the Apple iPhone is playing videos on its gorgeous 3.5in screen. With the Apple iPod touch supporting up to 640-by-480-resolution videos in both H.264 and Mpeg4 compression, we were all set to load up some movies from the Apple iTunes store and start watching.

Unfortunately the 16GB unit we picked up has a display problem that makes many dark scenes almost unwatchable. Video looks reversed out in dark areas, creating a very distracting negative effect. Several other users have reported the same problem on Apple's forums, so we're not alone, but other posters have mentioned that their displays work just fine. Perhaps this defect is confined to a small portion of Apple's initial iPod touch shipment and those of us experiencing the problem will be able to get replacements.

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

Safari, applications and some rough edges

Thankfully those display woes don't distract from viewing most web pages in Safari, which remains the best mobile web browser we've ever seen. For the most part, it works great on the Apple iPod touch, except when you try to multitask.

If you start up some music on the Apple iPod touch and tap your way over to Safari for some Wi-Fi-enabled web surfing, you may encounter problems. If we opened up a complex page or a second tab, the Apple iPod touch would often stop playing music, forcing us to go out to the main screen, tap over into music, and start it up again. We've also experienced the occasional crash after loading up three or more pages. We'd bet that these problems will be fixed in a future firmware update, but until they are they're two more reasons the Apple iPod touch feels a little rushed to market.

Not all of the Apple iPhone's applications made it to the Apple iPod touch. We can begin to see the rationale for omitting the Mail and Google Maps applications - both would work better with the Apple iPhone's always-on data connection - but why leave off the Notes application or the Weather and Stock widgets? The implementation of the Calendar application is also a bit confusing: while you can sync events from your PC's calendar, you can't edit them on the Apple iPod touch or add events.

Overall grade: incomplete

We'll keep on updating and adding to this review, in particular with results from our objective audio and battery life tests. (Apple rates the iPod touch as good for 22 hours of audio playback and 5 hours of video). We also hope that by the time we update, Apple will have responded to our questions about the Safari and screen issues we experienced.

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

Part 2: PC Advisor's first look - 13/09/07

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, I called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch - introduced by Apple this week as part of its overhauled music player line - is the iPhone that's really an iPod. After all, the touchscreen iPod shares much of the interface and design of the iPhone.

The iPod touch won't ship until later in September. So like everyone else who attended this week's press event, I left the Moscone Center without one of these new iPods in hand. However, I spent enough quality time twirling, tapping and pressing my way around each iPod's interface in Apple's demo area. Here are some first impressions.

APPLE IPOD CLASSIC: FIRST LOOK

The iPod touch is so similar to the iPhone that I could easily regurgitate any past iPhone article, using global search and replace to substitute iPod touch for iPhone. Rather than do so, let me direct your attention to our definitive review of the Apple iPhone.

Just how similar is the iPod touch to the iPhone? At first glance it could be mistaken for Apple's phone. At 109x61x8mm, it's a little shorter and a bit thinner than the iPhone, but its form is very similar.

3RD-GENERATION APPLE IPOD NANO: DEFINITIVE REVIEW

Closer inspection reveals that it lacks the small slit at the top of the device where iPhone users place their ear for listening to phone calls. The sides are black rather than brushed aluminum, there are no physical volume buttons, and the top lacks a headphone port. (That port is on the bottom of the iPhone touch.) Naturally, there's also no SIM slot, though the iPod touch includes an On/Off button.

Flip the iPod over and you see no camera like you would on the iPhone but the upper-left corner is black, hinting at the Wi-Fi circuitry inside. The bottom of the device sports the traditional 30-pin dock connector port and, as I mentioned, the headphone port, which, thankfully unlike the iPhone's same-named port, is not recessed. There's no speaker or microphone on the iPod touch.

In terms of the iPhone's iPod functionality, the iPod touch is identical. Tap Music and you'll see the same options as you do on an iPhone - with Playlists, Artists, Songs, Videos, and More buttons at the bottom of the screen. (The More button includes these other classification entries: Albums, Audiobooks, Compilations, Composers, Genres and Podcasts).

As with the iPhone, turn the iPod touch on its side and you can browse your music in Cover Flow view by flicking your finger to move through your collection of albums. Tap an album cover and the cover flips around to reveal the contents of the album. Tap a track name to play it. The touchscreen is exactly as responsive as an iPhone's.

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

Video playback works much the same way as on an iPhone, but Apple has included a couple of Settings options not currently found on the iPhone. Go to the iPod touch's Settings application, tap video and you'll see Start Playing (you choose between starting from the beginning or resuming from where the video was last played on the iPod or within iTunes) and Closed Captioning (On/Off) options and Widescreen and TV Signal TV Out options. (Widescreen is an On/Off toggle and TV Signal lets you select NTSC or PAL.)

Applications

The iPod touch also carries many of the same applications as the iPhone. You'll find Safari, YouTube, Calendar, Clock, and Calculator. Each of these works just as it does on the iPhone - Safari operates in both portrait and landscape mode and all the flick and pinch motions work just as they do on the iPhone - with the exception that any connection to a phone or email application has been severed. For example, if you go into a contact's Info screen, you can look at that contact's phone number or email address but, unlike with the iPhone, tapping these bits of text won't initiate a phone call or create an email.

(Okay, there's one apparent addition to the iPod touch's version of Safari. In Safari Settings I found a Develop option. Tap it and you find the option to turn on or off a Debug Console, which supposedly helps you resolve web page errors. This doesn't look like it's designed for users so it's quite possible it will disappear in the shipping version of the iPod touch.)

With the iPhone touch, Apple has created a separate Contacts application rather than placing it inside the (in this case, non-existent) Phone area. Tap Contacts, and it, too, works just as it does on the iPhone. Here you can add and edit contact information as well as assign photos you've stored on the iPod to a contact.

The iPod touch lacks all of the iPhone's communication features so you won't find the Phone, Text, Stocks, Maps and Weather applications. Because Safari is included, communication isn't completely out. For example, through Safari, you'll be able to operate webmail and, I assume, use web-based instant messaging clients that have been developed for the iPhone.

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

Applications

The iPod touch includes the same Apple earbuds as Apple's other iPods. Some were hoping that it would include some kind of remote control, as the iPhone's headset does. Regrettably, it appears that you can operate an undocked iPod touch only by tapping and flicking its screen.

The Camera application is missing because the iPod touch lacks a camera. And, inexplicably, there's no Notes application, even though other display-bearing iPods support syncing notes to the iPod and the iPod touch includes a keyboard that you could use to compose notes.

Unlike an iPhone, which is currently licensed to be sold in the US only, the iPod touch will be sold worldwide later in September. Because it will be an international device, it must support other languages and keyboard layouts. Within a Keyboard Setting, you'll find an International Keyboards button that allows you to select a keyboard layout for the country in which you reside. In this same Keyboard Setting you find a new shortcut option that I hope to see on the iPhone. Instead of having to switch to the numeric keyboard to insert a period, you can now simply double-tap the keyboard's space bar to insert the period and a following space.

The grand new feature of the iPod touch is its ability to purchase and download music directly from Apple via the forthcoming iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Just tap the iTunes icon in the bottom right corner of the iPod touch and, via Wi-Fi, you're at the store. Once there you can tap the Featured, Top Tens or Search buttons at the bottom of the screen. (This area also includes a Downloads button.)

Featured includes three areas, available via buttons at the top of the screen - New Releases, What's Hot, and Genres. These work much as they do in the same-named areas of the iTunes Store's home page. Tap New Releases, and you see a list of the week's coolest additions. What's Hot includes popular titles. And tap Genres, and you'll see a list of available genres. Tap a genre, and you'll see a list of recordings - new classical releases, for example - for that genre.

Tap Top Tens, and you'll find top songs and albums within particular genres available from the store.

When writing about the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone this summer, we called it "the iPod that's really a phone". You could say that the iPod touch is the iPhone that's really an iPod. See also: Second-gen iPod touch review and 32GB iPod touch review.

Search

Search is very iPhone-like. Tap this button and a Search field appears. Apple's iPod Touch Guided Tour mentions only that you can search by Artist. While playing with the iPod in Apple's demonstration area we were able to download individual songs to the demo units. It wasn't clear if you could search by anything other than artist. What was clear is that this is a music-only feature. You can't purchase and download videos with the iPhone touch.

Tap any track and a 30-second preview plays. To purchase a track, tap the price and then tap Buy Now. You'll be asked for your iTunes ID password, and your music begins to download. An icon on the Downloads button blinks, letting you know that music is downloading. Once the tune is downloaded, you can play it on the iPod. When you next sync your iPod, the tracks you've purchased will be downloaded from the iPod to your computer.

The iPod touch will also eventually display a Starbucks button. When you're in range of a supported Starbucks outlet, this button appears. With it, you'll be able to preview and purchase tracks recently played at that particular Starbucks. You'll also be able to purchase other Starbucks-branded tracks.

While the iPod nano and iPod classic iPods are unlikely to reveal greater secrets, there's probably more to learn about the iPod touch. Assuming that it's running OS X as is the iPhone, will it be as hackable as the iPhone - will you, for example, be able to install an email client on it or copy the iPhone's Notes, Maps, Weather, and Stock applications to it? We'll know this, and more, when we have one in our hands for good.

Stay tuned for all this and more as we lay hands on the iPod touch in the coming weeks.

More:

Analysis: Is the iPod touch an iPhone killer?

Review: M&S iPod Suit

Review: The Sims Pool iPod game

As it happened - Apple's big iPod, iPhone & iTunes announcements

Blog: MP3 player hearing loss is poetic justice

Apple iPod touch 1G: Specs

  • Digital audio and video player
  • 8GB/16GB flash memory
  • 3.5in 480x320 widescreen display
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
  • web browsing
  • supports AAC, Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3, AIFF and WAV formats
  • 62x8x110mm
  • 120g
  • Digital audio and video player
  • 8GB/16GB flash memory
  • 3.5in 480x320 widescreen display
  • 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
  • web browsing
  • supports AAC, Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3, AIFF and WAV formats
  • 62x8x110mm
  • 120g

OUR VERDICT

The iPod touch is so similar to the iPhone that at first glance the two could be mistaken for one another. The real differences will become apparent in the future, but for the moment, this is a good-looking and intriguing product that will set tongues wagging in the gadget community. For now, then, the Apple iPod touch remains a bit of an enigma. It's a beautifully designed player that's incredibly fun to use. If Apple can resolve these initial quality control issues, we'd recommend it to anyone looking for a mobile video player, a portable web browser or a high-class way to cart around the highlights from your music library.

Find the best price