A bigger iPod touch: Engineered for even more funness?

In late June Apple rejiggered the iPod touch line, making a consistent feature set across the line, dropping the price and lowering the cost of additional storage capacity. It's probably enough to provoke some short-term sales increases of the iPod touch, but I'm more interested in what comes next. What I'd really like to see is a bigger iPod touch.

Now, we've heard a lot about a bigger iPhone. The rumor has been repeated often enough that many of us take for granted that it's on the way, though Apple hasn't actually said a word one way or the other.

The case for a bigger iPod touch

Assuming, for the moment, that the rumors are correct and that a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 is coming this fall, wouldn't it be great to see a 5.5-inch iPod touch, too?

I play a fair number of games on my iPhone 5S, and I find its 4 inch screen simply too small. As an active game interface, which most games require me to use, the 4-inch screen often gets in my way. Or rather, my fingers get in the way of whatever's going on on the screen. What's more, the screen's just too small to render a lot of game objects with enough detail for me to figure out what's going on.

Stepping up to the next largest device, the iPad mini, is just too big. I don't want a tablet — I just want a larger handheld.

I think there's a significant market for a larger iOS device whose main purpose isn't taking phone calls. If you need justification, look at Nintendo's sales of the 3DS XL - the larger-format version of its popular 3DS handheld game system. It's been out since the summer of 2012 and by the end of last year had sold over 15 million units.

By comparison, the smaller 3DS, which began shipping more than a year earlier in February 2011, has sold 43 million units to date. Obviously 3DS XL sales are a fraction of 3DS sales, but it's still a pretty significant fraction, and a good demonstration that given the choice, many gamers will opt for a larger device.

Gaming, of course, only scratches the surface of what a larger iPod touch could do - they're excellent media consumption devices, fine for messaging, surfing the web and other stuff. But games continue to rank as the number one category of apps in the App Store and they're unquestionably a huge draw for buyers of iOS devices.

iPod touches, in particular, appeal to families looking for systems for their kids without resorting to higher-priced iPhones and iPads.

Faster under the hood?

If Apple is working on a larger format iPod touch, I'd be willing to bet that it's going to have a much faster processor under the hood than the current model.

Today's iPod touch uses the A5 processor - the same processor that powers the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, Apple TV and iPad mini. It's in good company, but even at the time it debuted it was slower than its contemporary, the iPhone 5.

If Apple continues to keep the iPod touch a step behind the iPhone, my assumption is that Apple would stick an A7 processor inside of it, since that's last year's hardware. It makes sense to bring it to at least the A7, though, since Apple's focusing a lot of attention on Metal, new graphics technology that promises to speed up gaming graphics and computational work in iOS 8.

The Bottom Line

I've said in the past that I'd buy one if Apple makes a larger iPhone available. But a few weeks ago on The iMore Show podcast, Rene Ritchie asked me what I'd do if I could get a larger iPod touch instead.

I have to admit that the idea of a larger iPod touch actually appeals to me more than the idea of a larger iPhone. I've gotten quite used to having a small enough phone to slip in my pocket without noticing too much — jumping from 4 to 5 or 5.5 inches would be a pretty significant change. But a larger iPod touch isn't something I'd have in my pocket all the time.

How kids and others would handle it is a different story, though. That's a lot of device to carry around with you when you're 10 years old. But if they can manage their 3DS XL now, I'm sure they'd be able to handle a bigger iPod touch.

Are you looking forward to getting a bigger iPhone or iPod touch? Is games a big draw for you? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Peter Cohen