iPod touch (2009) review

For our iPhone 3GS hardware review, we joked it was the same as last year, end of story. Thanks to Apple, we're left with pretty much the same opening line here: the iPod touch G3 is the same as last year.

Except, of course, like the iPhone 3GS, that outward assessment doesn't tell the inner story at all, and while Apple marketing didn't see fit to call this the iPod touch S, that inner story is again all about speed.

Note: You'll see a lot of "like the iPhone 3GS here" because, frankly, it is and we reviewed that member of Apple's mobile platform family first. That also means we'll focus on what differences there are, and we'll also take a look at whether the iPod touch G3 is a good choice for those who want in on Apple's iPod and App Store ecosystem, but don't want an iPhone or smartphone contract. (Yes, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm, Android, and feature-phone users want an "App for That" too...)

On the Outs


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The shell is the same as last year's iPod touch. Indeed, the 8GB version IS last year's model. Regardless, they all share the insanely thin form factor, enhanced by the deep curves of the mirror-like chrome backing. For those who've never held one, it's noticeable slimmer, and not-quite-as-noticeably lighter than an iPhone 3GS. It's also smaller, roughly the height and width of an iPhone if you removed its silver bezel. The sleep and home buttons are of course in place, as are the volume rockers and external speaker(-ish) that snuck in during the second generation.


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Inner Beauty

The 32GB, and the 64GB model iPod touch G3 we're looking at here get all new guts this year, the same glorious guts the iPhone 3GS got. Almost.

Turns out the iPod touch G3 has a slightly newer version of the same Samsung Cortex A8 processor -- S5L8922X as opposed to the iPhone 3GS S5L8920X. Last year's iPhone touch 2G was clocked faster than last year's iPhone 3G, and it's possible this year's is clocked faster than the iPhone 3GS as well, but we haven't seen any hard evidence of that yet. Likewise, iPod touch G3 seems to have the same PowerVR SGX graphics core as the iPhone 3GS, but since Apple never, not ever, speaks about specs, we'll have to wait until all the tear down data is in.

We do know, however, that the iPod touch G3 has a newer Broadcom BCM4329 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip that could, potentially, be unlocked to run at 802.11n speeds. The iPhone 3GS doesn't have that chip, or that potential. Whether Apple ever does unlock it, however, is anyone's guess.


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Cut the Cameras, Kill the Mics

The biggest news following the release of the iPod touch G3 wasn't the speed, however, or any of the software functionality. It wasn't a feature at all. It was the lack of a widely rumored, universally anticipated feature -- a camera and mic with video recording and sharing capabilities.

We saw cases with cutouts for cameras. We saw prototypes with cameras. We even saw tear downs with holes for where the cameras could -- arguably should -- have been.

But the iPod touch G3 is here and the camera isn't. Apple doubtless stopped that signal.

We don't know for a fact why. Steve Jobs said it was to keep costs down and the focus on the App Store. Rumor said the cameras Apple planned to use were defective or otherwise didn't work out. Our guess is that an iPod nano G5-style VGA video-only camera was a deal-breaker for Apple when it came to their flagship iPod touch, and if Apple can't do something great, they tend not to do it at all.

Bottom line, maybe next year.

Home Sweet Home

iPod touch G3 Home Screen 3.1.1

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While the iPod touch shares Apple's multitouch-centric mobile OS X with the iPhone, it obviously doesn't include the phone part (or any of the telephony, which means no SMS/MMS or tethering either -- nothing that uses a cellular network), and -- as mentioned -- it doesn't have a camera. That means it doesn't include the Phone, Messages, and Camera apps, and that means the home screen is slightly different. Under the iPhone 3.1 OS (or 3.1.1 as it quickly prompts you to update) that means the default set includes, in order: Mail (not in dock), Calendar, Photos, Contacts (on the first page), YouTube, Stocks, Maps (without GPS), Weather, Voice Memos, Notes, Clock, Calculator, Settings, iTunes, Music (in dock instead of Phone), Videos (in dock in place of Mail), Safari, and App Store (in dock).



Yes, iPod isn't there, and Music and Videos are broken out, though both Music and Videos provide access to video podcasts. (Music supports landscape and portrait mode videos, Videos only landscape mode). A tad confusing, even if it does help fill out the home screen.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • There is absolutely no reason to get this.
  • I'd consider a used iphone 3G or 3GS before getting an ipod touch.
    Or basically pay 199 + 175 ETF and you got a 16gb ipod touch 3gs with video, mic, camera, gps, compass.
  • @Truth:
    There is if you don't want want or already have a cell phone and just want to listen to your music and play some games.
  • @cardfan: You forgot the thousand dollar a year dataplan.
  • @icebike What data plan? You cancel it.
  • @truth
    .....unless you want a new iPod......
  • $30 x 12 = $1000 $360
  • @ Truth - a tool as always...
    Enjoy your zOOn, troll.
  • Can we expect an iphone 64MB - 4GS any time soon? If not, why not.
  • so basically all it's got over the touch is memory? I'll stick with my 3g and get the new nano
  • Ugh. This sucks. My 32GB 2G iTouch has a broken screen (still works for some reason but huge spider-web crack in it)and I want to get a new one but I don't want to get one just in time for them to say "Oh hey! Now you can buy it with a camera and Mic."
  • It doesn't cost $360 per year you need to include calling service and a text MSG plan not just a data plan
  • @Claude
    64 megs?? No!!!
  • @ Truth: You forgot to ask me prior to making that blanket statement, because I did have a reason to upgrade. I've had my 8GB touch for a little over a year. I have Wi-Fi access at home, at McDonald's and at Barnes & Noble. What I wanted was 16GB, audio-in capability - and a camera. OK, I got 32GB. I can do without the camera and the extra 16 GB. You see, I downloaded the Skype app before I realized that I could not use it with the 8GB touch. But now, with upgraded noise-canceling earbuds with an in-line mic, I have a virtual iPhone. I am a retired geezer with two Motorola Razrs lying around, which were out of contract. My wife and I each pay $100 per year for our prepaid phone calls on T-Mobile, that's $8.50 per month. Add to that one Boingo world-wide mobile Wi-Fi bill of $7.95/month. Between Skype, T-Mobile, e-mail, iChat and (soon) Vonage, we have our communications covered at minimal cost.
  • @ cardfan it's more like $199 + $39.99 (voice) + $30.00 (data) + $36.00 (activation) x taxes (on average about 20%) + $175 -$5 (for the first month) If you cancel w/in 30 days you have to give the phone back. You're looking @ more like $540
  • @Mr E - he said "$1000 data plan". If you add the 200 MSG txt plan, it's $420, if you are a txting addict it's $540.
  • @PeterM11, hold on to your G2 and wait for the new one then. I had a cracked screen and it works, so use it. I'm getting the G3 because my G1 completely stopped working, and I love the iPod Touch.
    I'd say it's worth it just as a great gaming device. The new one has a better graphics card and a faster processor, so you can play some of the higher-end games that are for iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch G3.
  • @truth I agree. The touch is really just a device for people who can't afford the iPhone plan or don't want AT&T but want a kick at a multi-touch Apple device.
    I love my 3GS will use the iPhone always (not the touch). I'm pretty sure this goes for all iPhone users.
  • @claude We have seen an increase in memory that basically goes like this
    4, 8, 16, 32, 64,
    The reason the touch has 64 instead of 32 is because the touch can hold two 32 gig chips while the iPhone can only hold one. I'm pretty sure that by next year there will be a double chip 128 iPod and a 64 iPhone.
    At least that is what I am praying for.
  • I have a 16G Touch 2G really loaded up with apps and still have 12G left. The only thing I miss if I am not close to a hot spot, then unable to use some apps. I can live with that.
  • Personally, I see the iPhone's costs as being $30/month, so $360 per year and $720 over the two years. I don't count the voice plan or text message in this, because if I don't have an iPhone, I will have another cell phone and I will still be paying for a voice plan. And even though texting is much easier on the iPhone, I don't need more than 400 texts a month.
    Before I got my iPhone, I was quite skeptical about how useful 3G would be. I did not think it was worth the $30/month data plan, and I actually seriously considered alternatives like the Blackberry Bold that came with wi-fi. I thought that while I was on campus at my college, I would be connected to the wi-fi network most of the time. Well, all I can say is, it's definitely much easier to go from good to better, than from better to good. For the most part, I am connected via wi-fi when I am in any building, but while I am outdoors I am usually on 3G. It's not really essential to be connected while I'm walking outside, but in the event that I do leave campus, I will still be connected.
    I think the iPhone beats the Blackberry in terms of being constantly connected. By this, I mean the iPhone does a better job of being a "crackberry" than the Blackberry. Now before I get a whole flurry of flame, I want to say that I only mean this because the iPhone data plan is mandatory while you can cancel a Blackberry's data plan.
    For most people that already have a cell phone and are thinking about getting the iPod touch G3, I think that you should try to upgrade to an iPhone if it fits your budget. It's really convenient having one single device that does everything, instead of having a media device and a separate communications device. I only have so many pockets in my pants, and I need to put in keys, a phone, and a wallet. To add another media player in my pocket would be unpleasant.
    However, for those who are okay with carrying around a cell phone and a separate iPod touch, this new iPod touch is definitely worth getting. The App Store is really wonderful (much more than I initially thought), and you can get so many useful apps for free so that you expand the functionality of your iPod at no additional cost.
  • @Jimmy Lin - I like your cost analysis. You eliminate your current cell phone and replace it with an iphone and your incremental cost is the cost of the data plan - assuming your voice/text plan is essentially constant. I'd go one better. I have a cell number and a home business number. Because I can port my home business number to the iphone (at least I assume I can) I will replace my cell phone and home business phone with the single voice + data plan associated with the iphone. Even if I end up paying a bit more for the voice and data plans, I believe the convenience is well worth it. Friends and clients can all reach me on a single number that is with me all the time.
    One question that I do have, however, relates to the use of the iphone in a wi-fi area (on campus or at Starbucks, airport, etc...). Does the iphone automatically flip over to wi-fi usage to avoid G3 usage or do you have to go into the Skype application and tell it to use wi-fi? I'm curious as to how that all works.
  • I have a question and I know it might seem redundant, considering everything I have been reading. My question is can an IPHONE 3G S be used without the voice plan and the data plan? Can it be used like an IPOD Touch? I'm sorry if I am not making any sense here.
  • Claude: The iphone automatically switches to wifi if it can. You don't need to tell it to.
    Maria. If you remove the sim card from a 3Gs you get an ipod touch with a camera, gps and compass. It can be used without a voice/data plan but in a lot of countries you can't buy it without one.
  • does it cost money if u just play games or listen to music and can u turn the screen with the ipod touch
  • The article says no tethering. What exactly is meant by that? My cell phone and carrier allow me to tether my laptop (and in the past, a Windows Mobile PDA) via Bluetooth. Basically the phone provides a "dial-up-networking" service via Bluetooth which other computers can hook into for Internet access. Will the iPod touch do this? Or will it only access the internet through WiFi or a dock?
    Also, regarding Bluetooth, I understand the G2 iTouch was limited on which Bluetooth devices it would connect with. Is the G3 more open? Can I swap files with my laptop or connect my Plantronics Bluetooth headset for VOIPing?
  • I got a 8 gig ipod touch, and now my old reliable razor is breaking. I do not text and I do not care about the features of the Iphone, all i want is something to replace my 8 gig zune the i threw at the wall. I want games,vids,and music. Everyone is different, it just depends on your taste.
  • The I POD touch 8GB does not have the new fast processor like the 32GB and 64 GB. The 8GB has only 128 RAM memory and only 412 MHZ processor speed. The new 32GB and 64 GB touch have the new fast 600 MHZ processor speed and 256 RAM memory. Also you cannot stream movies or tv episodes from great sources like Blinkx remote. Cannot use Blinkx remote toolbar. Cannot use real player cannot use cake poker or poker starz or fulltilt poker. You must use Apple i tunes apps only.
  • some of us aren't interested in being constantly accessible by phone. email, Safari, ebooks, music and audio books aremore to our liking. and we aren't interested in signing our lives away to AT&T. the iPod Touch is very cool for those of us who are not and never will be phone fanatics.
  • Truth Says:
    September 16th, 2009 at 11:02 am
    There is absolutely no reason to get this.
    nonsense - it's great for retail operations (cafe's, coffee houses, book stores, etc.). couple it with some powered speakers (bose acoustimass for example) and easily manage ambient music with zero footprint. play mp3s, stream pandora or the like, etc... itouch can be kept at the register or other convenient location and easily controlled by manager or employees if needed.
  • The ITouch is interesting to see if a smartphone would be useful without buying an IPhone. I get my GPS with a dedicated device. And where I live and travel, AT&T voice coverage is poor and 3G coverage really sucks. So an IPhone is not a viable option.
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  • The iPod Touch is a dream come true for the medical community. There are hundreds of Apps that allow you to work faster and smarter and they are almost all available at the patient's bedside. This would have been fantastic when I was in medical school in the 80s!
  • @truth
    it's called jailbreaking lol then you pwn with cydia and rock app and my g1 won't reconize a mic which is gay
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