NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2010
A Computer in Your Pocket:
A Review of the iPod Touch

by Nancy De Marte,
SIG Chairperson, Sarasota PCUG, Florida

http://www.spcug.org
ndemate (at) Verizon.net (click to email author)

This article has been obtained from APCUG with the authorís permission for publication by APCUG member groups; all other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Decades ago, the technology community was predicting that someday computers would be integrated into our everyday life Ė in cars, phones, refrigerators. This idea seemed far-fetched to us conservative PC users. What we couldnít imagine was a device the size of a playing card that could perform almost all the functions of a desktop computer. But itís true. A few months ago I bought one of these magic items, an iPod Touch. The original iPod has been around since 2001 as a portable device produced by Apple and acting primarily as a media player with excellent tone quality. The iPod Touch, introduced in late 2007 as a non-phone version of the iPhone, is also a media player, but does much, much more. Besides listening to my favorite songs through headphones while at the gym, I have used my iPod Touch to surf the Internet, read my email from my Verizon and Yahoo accounts, check my stocks, store and view my digital photos, and play a variety of interesting and brain-boosting games, all without spending a penny beyond the purchase price of the iPod Touch.

How could I do all those activities on something which weighs only 4 ounces and has a 3.5 inch screen? First, letís look at what is required to make the iPod Touch perform: a Mac or PC with an XP SP2 or higher operating system and a 2.0 USB port, a free account with iTunes, and a Wi-Fi connection. The PC is needed to recharge the iPod, to download and install your iTunes application from http://www.iTunes.com, and to visit the comprehensive iTunes store, where you can download free and paid little applications (called ďappsĒ) for your iPod Touch.

The iPod Touch comes loaded with several basic applications, including the Safari web browser, Mail, a photo gallery, a notepad, calculator, stocks, and weather. But thatís only the beginning. At last check there were over 80,000 free applications available in various categories at iTunes, such as utilities, news, sports, and games. For a total of less than $5.00, I have downloaded several games, including the old Pac Man; media links such as the Weather Channel, MapQuest, and Shutterfly; podcasts, which are free video or audio recordings of public media broadcasts, and some unique items such as a piano which really plays on the built in speaker. For a small fee ($.99 - $20.00), you can purchase songs or albums, online books, TV show episodes, and movies to rent or own.

Each time you connect the iPod Touch to the computer, iTunes opens and automatically ďsyncsĒ your iPod Touch; that is, makes sure the same music and apps which are in your library are also on your device, including ones you have just purchased or downloaded. Since I have copied my favorite songs and albums from my own audio CDís to iTunes, they also get synced each time at zero cost.

The most amazing part of the iPod Touch is the ďtouch.Ē Except for a bar on top to turn on the iPod Touch and a button to open an application, all other tasks are performed by merely touching or dragging your finger across the screen. To see a thumbnail photo in full screen, just touch it. Turn the iPod Touch from vertical to horizontal to see a screen image horizontally. Enlarge the text in email or a web page by touching the screen with two fingers and gently drawing them apart to zoom in or together to zoom out. When you have finished reading an email message, just touch the recycle bin at the bottom of the screen and the message flows into the bin. The device also has an on screen keyboard to enter text or write an email. If you arenít a ďtexter,Ē as Iím not, using the keyboard took a little getting used to. But Iím improving each time.

To access the Internet with iPod Touch, you need a Wi-Fi (wireless) connection. In our home, we have a wireless network for our two computers. The iPod Touch senses this each time itís turned on. When we were on vacation in the mountains, I found a friendly general store and restaurant with a public wireless connection. Since I donít store personal information on this device, I was able to read my mail safely while sipping a cup of tea.

So what are the disadvantages of the iPod Touch? The downside for many people will be the initial cost. Recently the cost for a second generation iPod Touch with 8GB storage capacity like mine has come down because a third generation version is available. But even so, it costs around $200. However, once you own it and set it up, there are no more fees for Internet or any other function unless you choose to purchase music or applications. And with your own music and photos, plus free applications from the iTunes store, you can have a lot of enjoyment for just the purchase price.

There are more and more of these handheld devices on the market all the time. I chose not to purchase an iPhone because currently its phone functions require you to subscribe to the AT&T network. Since my family and many friends have Verizon as their cell phone carrier, I didnít want to switch. Someday soon, it appears that these restrictions surrounding cell phones will be lifted. Then I may look into an iPhone, which has all the capabilities of an iPod Touch and more. For now, though, Iím happy with my iPod Touch.

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