iPod touch: Who is it best for and why?

The iPod touch doesn't always get the attention or consideration it deserves. Some of that is simply a reflection of its current status — it hasn't seen a significant update since it was released alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012. Sure, it has the a 4-inch Retina display like the current iPhones, and the same 5mp iSight camera as the iPad line, but it's using the Apple A5 processor in time when even the Apple A7 may soon be surpassed. Yet, as Apple told us so brilliantly in 2011, technology alone is not enough. It's experience, not specs that matter to most people. And if anyone is the least bit price sensitive, if anyone wants something pocketable but doesn't want the phone bits, then the iPod touch remains one of the best options. So, now that Apple's added case colors and a camera to the 16GB model at $199, and dropped the price of the 32GB and 64GB models to $249 and $299 respectively, how do you know if the iPod touch is for you or yours?

The kid's coolest friend

Both my 5-year old and 8-year old god children have iPod touches. They love them. They don't need data plans. They don't need phones (there's FaceTime for that!). They take photos and videos. They make trailers in iMovie. They practice their French and Italian in Duolingo. They learn about science and math and geography and everything else the App Store has to teach them. They play the very occasional game, watch the very occasional video.

The 5-year old can read and write remarkably well now but before he could, he used Siri to both hear and dictate iMessages. With it, he could communicate with his parents — and his godfather! — as an equal digital citizen. (Siri in general is great for him. He thanks Siri for helping him out and chats with Siri as I imagine he would a robot pal.)

Technology isn't something new or strange to either of them or to any child. It's something that, for them, has always existed. iOS is as natural a tool as a stick and dirt, a pen and paper, a keyboard and display. More natural even, thanks to direct manipulation.

For a kid, and for anyone who doesn't need a phone or want anything as big as a tablet, the iPod touch is the perfect device. Even more perfect now, thanks to the price.

The traveling companion

iPod touches are incredibly easy to take with you. They slip into almost any pocket and can easily fit into almost any pack. They have excellent battery life and don't require high powered chargers. While the iSight camera isn't as good as the iPhone's, the video camera is 1080p so when you're not watching TV or movies in the back seat of the car or during the long hours on the plane, you can can make your own from the most important moments of your trip.

There's no LTE option for the iPod touch but there is Wi-Fi for whenever you're at or on a hotspot (including an iPhone hotspot!), and there's Bluetooth LE and direct Wi-Fi. So, if you're out with the family, you can still AirDrop photos, contacts, or any information you need.

With Passbook your boarding passes, tickets, and gift cards, are all safely collected for you, all in one place. And any time you are online, you can quickly check mail, weather, maps, or anything else you have the chance to catch up on.

While the iPod touch is especially good for kids, for all the reasons mentioned previously, it's also good for adults. Even if you have an iPhone and are online all the time, travel and especially roaming are hard on batteries. Having an iPod touch is a great, light way to do a lot of the things you want to do and save your iPhone for the things only it can do.

The educational assistant

Schools have embraced the iPad but there's something to be said for the iPod touch as well. I have nothing against the iPad as a camera. The large screen makes for a great view finder. However, the iPad isn't as easy to carry around and manipulate as a point-and-shoot. The iPod touch is. Likewise, while the iSight camera isn't as good as the one on the iPhone, schools that don't need the added expense of the iPhone's technology and students that need telephones in the classroom can do almost anything they need to do with an iPod touch.

Equipping a school or club with iPod touches means giving them the smallest, lightest production studios imaginable. Whether they take and edit video or read or make books, the scope and quality of projects enabled by the relatively inexpensive iPod touch is simply unprecedented.

The home automator

My lightbulbs are powered by Hue. My speakers are powered by Sonos. I have the Remote app for my Apple TV and the Panasonic app for the actual set. I've ordered a sous vide machine that works with an iOS app. Thanks to the HomeKit announcements at WWDC, I can easily imagine a time when most of the sophisticated electronic devices in my house are connected and interconnected by iOS 8.

I have all those apps, and I expect will soon have more, on my iPhone. But I also have them on my iPod touch, which sits on the coffee table. I reach for it a lot. On such restricted duty, the battery lasts a long time, and because it only has one job, and always sits in the same place, I never have to wonder where it is or waste time looking for it.

It might seem like overkill, but if you price a fancy universal remote you'll see they're just as expensive as an entry-level iPod touch and not only aren't they anywhere nearly as capable, what passes for software on them is beyond rage inducing. (You can even get IR adaptors for your iPod touch if you're into full-on home theater control.)

The connected iPod

The iPod touch is the only iPod with Wi-Fi. While Apple may one day have smaller devices running iOS, for right now, the iPod touch is the thinnest, lightest, iOS machine there is. That means, unlike the iPods classic, nano, or shuffle, the touch can hook into iCloud. It can hook into iTunes Match and iTunes Radio. It can hook into Beats Music and Songza and Netflix and Marvel Unlimited. As long as you're on Wi-Fi or the service allows caching, the iPod touch can hook into pretty much any entertainment service on iTunes or the App Store.

It's an iPod that's not restricted to local content. It's an iPod you can fully interact with, and one you can use to connect to the vast world of video and audio all around you.

A 128GB option will no doubt be required before the last of the iPod classic stalwarts joins us in the modern iOS era, but for everyone else, for athletes to recent fitness converts, for audiophiles to people who simply want to listen to podcasts on their way to work, for everyone who wants an iPod, the iPod touch is the most capable one to get.

The developer's test subject

Every year at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) the story is the same. Apple announces a new version of iOS during the keynote, and almost every developer in the room whips out an iPod touch to install it on. That's because, like everyone else, developers depend on their iPhones. They need them to stay connected and otherwise handle their business. They can't afford to devote them to testing beta software. But at $199, they can easily afford a dedicated iPod touch to do just that.

Eventually, as release approaches, developers will have to — and will want to — test on every device their apps support, including iPhones and iPads. But for the first couple betas, the iPod touch is often where it's at.

Bottom line

These are only some of the uses for the iPod touch. While the iPod touch isn't for everyone — some will want the bigger screen and software of the iPad, others the always-on connectivity of the iPhone — it's not an option anyone should ignore out of hand. Sure, more people than ever before are moving quickly or directly to the iPhone or the iPad. Yet for many, for children and the classrooms, for travelers and for dedicated activities, the iPod touch remains not only the gateway iOS and App Store device, but the best iOS and App Store device period.

If you or someone you know is using an iPod touch, let me know how. If, given the new pricing, you're considering one, let me know that as well!

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.

  • I'll be picking one up when it is released. Good quality build and my window to the Apple ecosystem. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • Having left iOS last year, the iPod Touch will be my window as well at some point. Perhaps after a generation or two. Posted via iMore App
  • I still have my iPod Touch 4G and I'd really love to get a new one because I want to try both iOS 7 and, most importantly, iOS 8. My only problem with it is that it's marketed as a gaming device too but it doesn't have the vibration motor found on the iPhone and that's something I like for my games and certain apps.
  • Still rocking my old 80 GB iPod. Time for an upgrade?
  • I feel ya. I'm rocking my classic too. It's just nice to have sitting in my car. All my music in one place. 120 gb worth. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm still rocking an 80 gig classic also. I'm using it less and less however since I got an iPhone for the first time. It really is nice for car rides and other times where I'd rather conserve my phone battery. Sent from the iMore App
  • Very nice article Rene. Lots of great points made about value and experience for your $. Sent from the iMore App
  • +1 Sent from the iMore App
  • I have a 4th gen iPod touch. I gave it to my 4 year old to play when he broke his arm. He calls it "my phone". After his arm healed and he had use of both shins he dropped the iPod like a hot potato and wants my old iPad again. I feel like the iPad has made the iPod Touch much less valuable.
  • Honestly, I only want it because it can be a small universal remote and because I love the build of it. That is a great looking little gadget. I know that is shallow, but it's true. Sent from the iMore App
  • Still love using my iPod touch 5th generation for gym use. I do however, think its not as popular as it once was 4 years ago when it was at its peak.
  • My wife uses her iPod touch 4th gen for Audible. She's looking forward to upgrading, but had hoped for 128 gb.
  • Agree Sent from the iMore App
  • I actually just got a 64GB iPod Touch 5th gen only one week ago. I was surprised when I turned it on and it was running iOS 6.0.
    I have had each iPhone up until iPhone 5 (held off on the 5S), but decided to get an iPod Touch for my music and Audible. I already have my iPhone 5 64GB full of apps and podcasts, so wanted something for my music. My previous iPod was a click wheel 3rd Gen, still works it the battery isn't very good.
    I am also learning iOS programming, so using the Touch for development Betas also sounds like a good idea.
  • Refurbished 64 giggers are only $239.00!
  • Works well for a preenager that you're not ready to shell out money for a iPhone.
  • I always have an iPod touch since 2nd gen. This is my backup device if ever my phone goes out of battery. And this is the only apple device that I have. I'm a BlackBerry and Windows fan. I just want to have an iOS device to experience the apps. So far I don't have any complaint but would be happier if they introduce a new model with bigger screen, bigger storage and stereo speakers.
  • The iPod touch makes total sense for anyone who doesn't *need* an iPhone. I understand the iPhone for business use, but IMO, $80+/mo is kind of nuts for just personal use (let alone the expense of the phone itself). The iPod touch does just about everything I need, and I just have a cheapie pay-as-I-go cell phone for emergencies in my bag. When I'm in WiFi, I can just use VoIP if I need to call someone. But, I primarily use mine to listen to podcasts. I'm currently subscribed to 32 podcasts and listen to every episode on of all but a couple of them. The iPod touch is perfect for that, and allows me to easily jot some notes down when needed. I'm probably going to have to get an iPhone for business eventually, but outside of that, I think the iPod touch makes perfect sense. I'm kind of surprised to hear it isn't selling so well. People must have a lot more disposable income (to fund the telcos) than I thought.
  • People see gadgets for a low up front cost and go for it. Cost be damned. Sent from the iMore App
  • So basically, the iPad for education use, mac for work, iPhone for business and an iPod for what ? Music? Nah, very well not needed, except it's for free- this fall, the iPhone 5 will possibly lose another 40% of it's bulk, making it smaller. Sent from the iMore App
  • I would get an iPod Touch again to use for games, movies, music, Remote for Apple TV, etc. to save the battery on my iPhone.
  • Anyone notice that the new 16GB model is US only? I checked the UK and Canada Apple store and the 16 model is not listed. They just show the old one as "Currently Unavailable"
  • I am glad someone has recognized how versatile the iPod Touch is. This October will mark the fourth year I have not owned a phone. I have used the iPod along with the Line2 app which cost me $9.95/month. The savings has allowed me to purchase an iMac and several iPads over this time. Everything that Renee mentions in this article is what I use the iPod Touch for. I would cry if Apple ever decided to discontinue the device. For the money it is an incredible value.
  • I've got a 64GB latest gen iPod touch and I've been using it as my only cellphone for the past two months. Accomplished this using Google Voice, Skype, a Bluetooth headset, and a Walmart Straighttalk hotspot for when I can't find free WiFi. Doing so gives me cellphone service for just $15 a month, the cost of 1GB of data on the Walmart Straighttalk plan.
  • Ran a small business for three years with only my iPod touch. Included signatures and contract sign off. It also allowed me to afford my iPhone 5s. And my iPad Mini retina. Thanks iPod touch!
  • Look how cheap the NAND upgrades are. WOW just $50 increments. We shall see if the iPhone follow's suite (although i highly doubt it). This proves that $100 is a gross outrageous figure. Everyone defended it but now it's clear that apple does not pay that much for NAND upgrades in regards to bill of material cost. They use it as a vehicle to further increase margins which are already @ over 200% costs (closer to 300%)
  • I was pondering an iPod Touch purchase to replace my 5 year old daughter's ageing last-gen 8GB model. I was going to wait, but your timely article prompted me to order a 64GB in pink today. Thanks Rene! Sent from the iMore App
  • The Apple product page shows it comes with the map app -- is there a GPS in there or just WiFi location sensing?
  • I have the iPod Touch 4G and the 5G. Never regretted buying either of them. Since iPhones in their 32 GB and 64 GB are expensive, I keep most of the apps and other content like music and videos and other data on the iPod which has 32GB. This frees up my iPhone memory and if I need anything on one device from the other, the same data is available on the iPhone, iPod and the iPad using iCloud and Airdrop or even using Dropbox. All in all, a very good buy and I probably will get the next iPod too when its time. I usually upgrade the iPod every 4 years.
  • Looking forward to getting an iPod Classic instead after rocking a 32GB 4th gen iPod touch since 2010. I just want my entire library with me plus I can use it as some kind of portable hard drive.
  • My kids 7 and 10 both have iPod touch's and ALL their friends have them as well. It's a great product placement for apple. I hope they keep expanding this product line for all the reasons stated in this article and more Sent from the iMore App
  • I have an ipod touch that I use for music storage and sonos. I also use it for an alarm with a bose dock. It has the best alarm app. I have chime of singing bowls so it slowly wakes. For music storage for my sonos it is great.