This past spring I gifted myself a 32GB iPod Touch. For the most part, I’ve been quite happy with it and think it’s a good tool for travelers. It’s great fun to play games on, I can surf the web or check e-mail at a Wi-Fi hotspot, and I can make Skype calls with it using the earbuds with a mic that came with it. It’s also been great carrying around a currency converter, several Spanish language learning programs, various dictionaries, and a weather report all in one little device.
The Touch is basically a thinner, sleeker iPhone—but without a phone. That means once you buy it, you’re done. AT&T won’t be reaching in your pocket every month asking for more. When you are traveling around the world, you don’t have to worry about roaming charges, SIM cards, or being addicted to checking your messages every five minutes. You just need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot to do most of the things people do while being connected with an iPhone. To make a call, you need to use Skype. (Get a subscription and you can call home a lot for just a few bucks a month from anywhere.)
No phone means this device is a little less convenient, but I don’t consider the lack of a regular phone an issue. Phones come with monthly bills and demand your constant attention. I haven’t been bothered by the lack of a camera either. I can take better photos with a real camera anyway. (The 4th generation one out now adds a camera.) There are some other little annoyances that are caused by issues related to software and not the device: you can’t use a lot of services like Pandora and Netflix outside the U.S. The keyboard is harder to use than one on a Crackberry, but these days most travelers are carrying a laptop or netbook for real typing anyway.
So what’s that one thing that’s a big problem?
The battery life SUCKS! I don’t just mean it’s kind of bad. I mean it sucks like a [insert your favorite p%rn, bad TV, or airline reference here]. The power disappears faster than your moocher friend when the bar tab arrives. The battery runs down faster than an office worker after four double espressos have worn off.
If you carry an iPod Touch with you when you travel, be prepared to add one chore to your list that will need to be performed daily, probably even twice daily: looking for an outlet for recharging your battery. This being Apple, there’s no way to carry a spare. When the battery starts deteriorating, you can’t just buy a new one at a phone shop either. You must find an Apple store. Good luck with that outside of the U.S. and Europe.
In all fairness, the new 4th generation version has a battery with 15% more capacity. They say that handles 7 hours of video, but since I’ve never managed more than 4 hours with mine, even right out of the box, I doubt it. When I or my daughter is playing games, the battery life is akin to my laptop’s—about three hours. Put it this way: I still carry my regular iPod along with my iPod Touch because I still want to be able to listen to music at the tail end of a full day of planes and buses. I know with my Touch the batter will be dead halfway through a long flight, even with wireless turned off.
I’m currently living in a Mexican apartment with the same plugs and current as in the U.S., so I’m pretty happy with my Touch. If I were backpacking around the world though, I’d probably get tired of being an outlet slave. My Kindle will go for weeks, so I guess it would be fewer apps, more reading. Not necessarily a bad thing…
You’ll pay up for the upgrades in the 4th generation model. The newest iPod Touch 64GB model is selling between $400 and $500 (the price of a full-featured netbook with all the bells and whistles) and the 32GB Touch is around $300.
There are a bazillion reviews out there telling you what’s better about the new model, but here are the basics: the resolution is crisper, you get a camera on the front and back and can shoot video, and there’s now a mic. That mic may not be a good thing if you use Skype a lot though—you’ll be holding the device up to your mouth or using speaker phone instead of using the 3rd generation earbuds with a mic, which is much more natural for conversations.
If you don’t mind last year’s model and won’t use the camera much, you can get the older 64 MB model for about $70 less at Amazon and the price should drop more soon, based on Apple’s sale patterns. It’s still expensive, but there’s nothing else out there that’s like it.