iPod Touch 2019 review: Who still buys an iPod?

In 2015, there was a new Avengers and Star Wars movie and Apple released an updated iPod Touch. Four years later, there’s a new Avengers and Star Wars movie and Apple released an updated iPod Touch. But while it looks like history is repeating itself, and indeed both iPods look nearly identical, Apple’s seventh generation iPod Touch is twice as fast and can run iOS 13 because of its A10 Fusion processor — the same one found in its step-brother the iPhone 7.

But why did Apple update the processor on a four-year old iPod? And who still uses an iPod in the golden age of the iPhone? During my time with the device, I sought to answer these questions and see what it’s like to use an iPod in 2019.

Despite really enjoying the petite device (it truly is, dare I say, a “cute” gadget), I probably wouldn’t buy one. It’s not that the iPod Touch isn’t good, it’s just that it has a narrower appeal than, say, the iPhone XS.

But there are several situations where the new iPod makes perfect sense, like as a kid’s mobile gaming system (especially once Apple Arcade is out) or for hospitals to track medical records and translate different languages or in retail and food service as a mobile register.

If you do decide to grab one, I’d recommend the 32GB model for $199 which puts 4,000 songs in your pocket (after you figure iOS takes up 10-12GB of space). That price makes it the most affordable iOS device you can buy new from Apple. If you go for a pricier option, grab an iPhone 7 instead for just a bit more – dancing silhouettes not included.


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iPod Touch 2019 review: A device out of its time



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Who still uses an iPod?

There are actually a number of businesses that use the iPod Touch in numerous ways. Pretty much every employee at an Apple Store has an iPod Touch inside a special bar code/credit card swipe case to ring up your items. Keeping the new iPod the exact same size as the previous one makes it easier for Apple employees to swap out devices without the need of replacing those special mobile register cases.

Apple did something similar when it updated the iPad Mini in March and the Mac Mini last year. These are three recent examples of Apple focusing on convenience and cost-savings for a product update.

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The new iPod Touch held by a nine-year old.


Angela Lang/CNET

Another target audience for a new iPod Touch is kids. Before hand-me-down iPhones and iPads were a thing, many parents gave their kids an iPod as a less expensive and less connected option.

This is going to be especially pertinent now that Apple introduced Apple Arcade in March. If you gave your kid a new iPod Touch for $199 and an Apple Arcade subscription (let’s say it’s $5 a month, but that’s just an educated guess since we still don’t know the pricing) you’d have a solid gaming experience with access to 100 games that is a lot cheaper than a $299 Nintendo Switch and a single flagship game that costs $50-60.

For younger kids, an iPod Touch seems like it would be easier to hold than the much larger Switch. It’s also worth mentioning that Apple Arcade games don’t include in-game purchases so your credit card is protected too. Phew.

iTunes is no more

Back in the day, using an iPod was all about playing music from iTunes. But earlier this week at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple announced that it will dismantle iTunes with the next MacOS release. It’s odd that Apple kept the iPod and not iTunes, though. They’re like peanut butter and jelly.

Really the loss of iTunes will only occur if your computer is running MacOS Catalina and even then Apple Music will become the conduit to your iPod Touch for any MP3 files you have amassed.

But I have a secret: I downloaded Spotify onto the iPod. Even though at first it felt wrong, it was actually a delight to use. The tiny iPod was more manageable to bring along on a workout or carry on the train than my iPhone XS Max. The iPod Touch lacks a cellular antenna, which meant I could only stream music when I was on WiFi. Other times I had to use Spotify Premium to download songs before a journey through a WiFi free zone.

It’s so small

Everyone who picked up my iPod Touch had the same reaction: “It’s so small!” And compared to the iPhone XS or XS Max, it’s downright tiny. The screen is four inches compared to the 5.8-inch iPhone XS. It also doesn’t have a notch, instead there are thick bezels with a big chin and forehead, aka: the classic iPhone aesthetic before the iPhone X era.

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The 2019 iPod Touch rests on top of the much larger iPhone XS Max.


Angela Lang/CNET

The first time I held the new iPod I recall whispering to myself: “I miss this.” There’s something so refreshing and perhaps even nostalgic about a small display on such a thin device. And even though the iPod Touch is thinner than every iPhone Apple currently sells, it still somehow manages to have a headphone jack.

On the back is a single 8-megapixel camera. It’s basically the one from the iPhone 6, but with a slightly slower aperture. To the far right of the camera is a black oval that covers a hole for the iPod’s antennas. Since the iPhone 4, Apple has incorporated antennas into the sides of the device — remember “Don’t hold it like that”? The body of the iPod is even thinner because the antennas are kept inside the iPod.

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The 2019 iPod Touch has a similar camera to what is found on the iPhone 6.


Angela Lang/CNET

Finally, on the bottom is a lighting connector and that aforementioned headphone jack. By the way, the iPod Touch comes with earpods that have a headphone jack connector.

New A10 processor brings AR to the iPod

Apple states that the new iPod is 2X faster than the 2015 iteration. I tested the iPod with Geekbench 4 and 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited. The results backed Apple’s claim.

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multi-core

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

The new processor brings AR functionality to the iPod for the first time and allows it to run iOS 13 when it’s released this fall. I tried several AR games like Ghostbusters World and sites like Apple’s own AR Mac Pro website. Graphics were smooth and responsive, but anytime I used AR, the iPod quickly warmed up.

In day-to-day use, the iPod felt like my old iPhone 7. It handled loading websites, opening apps and editing photos easily. 

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Here’s a photo of Karl the Fog rolling in over San Francisco taken with the new iPod Touch.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Where the iPod shows its age

Photos from the iPod Touch are pretty middle of the road so don’t expect much. Images are decent but suffered more easily from noise and looked more muddled than what you can get from the current lineup of iPhones. Selfies are especially bad unless you’re in ample enough light. Lastly, battery life is short. The iPod has a tiny little battery compared to most phones these days and it would last about half a day when I used it heavily on WiFi.

The iPod lacks wireless charging, GPS and IP-rated water resistance.

The iPod is a device out of its time

Overall, it’s weird trying to use the iPod Touch like my iPhone XS Max. While the smaller screen made my iPod more useful, I rarely used it when I was bored to aimlessly scroll on Instagram or watch YouTube videos. In fact, when I used the iPod at home my activities were more purposeful instead of the distracted meandering I normally do on my iPhone. I can’t guarantee that substituting your iPhone with an iPod Touch will make you less obsessed with being on your phone.

Despite its niche target audience, the iPod Touch is still a solid device, but I’d recommend really thinking about how you’d use it before you buy one.

$174

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2019-06-08 12:00:10 – Source: cnet.com