iPod Touch: what’s great, and what’s not

Janice gave me an iPod Touch, 4th generation, for my birthday. Here’s my take on it, compared to a Palm T|X and a Nexus One.

I’m going to take a list of features that I claimed I wanted, and recast it in terms of the iPod Touch. Next, I’m going to describe what pleases me about the iPod Touch, followed by what is annoying.

  1. Quick access. For some reason, I can forgive this omission with the iPod Touch, while I couldn’t with the Nexus One. Maybe the Nexus One prepared me so that I wasn’t disappointed.
  2. Bluetooth Keyboard support. Excellent. My Palm Bluetooth keyboard (3245ww) works like a charm with iOS 4. No Android devices do, that I know of.  This is a “killer feature” for me. Taking notes on a touch screen is vastly inferior to using a real keyboard.
  3. CalenGoo Calendar. Apple’s default calendar isn’t too bad, but CalenGoo is vastly superior, and worth more than the $6.99 that the author charges for the application. CalenGoo includes local alarms (on iOS 4), and snooze buttons. It lets me integrate my Google tasks into my calendar. CalenGoo isn’t quite as good as DateBk5 for Palm, but it’s close.
  4. Configurable alarm snooze length. With CalenGoo, I can configure the snooze length. Hooray!
  5. Contacts. With iOS, I can configure it to sort by last name, then by first name — unlike Android. I find that I usually use the search feature to look up contacts.
  6. Copy-and-paste in email, etc. Copy and paste on iOS 4 is outstanding, and works in nearly every app including email and the web browser. Copy and paste is better than on Android, and far superior to Palm, where I was limited to, at most, copying two paragraphs of text.
  7. Camera with good auto focus. I don’t particularly care about the camera in the iPod Touch, but it does do a good job with auto-focus.
  8. Standard headphone jack that isn’t finicky. What a relief! The iPod Touch headphone jack works as expected when I connect it to a variety of headphone jacks (my stereo), whereas the Nexus One would go into random shuffle preview mode.
  9. Record audio to a standard, ubiquitous format such as wav, ogg vorbis or mp3. Nope. Oh well. That’s what my Sansa Clip is for, I suppose.
  10. Full backup and restore. iTunes reportedly backs up my device.
  11. FM radio receiver. Nope. Good thing I have a Sansa Clip.

Things I love about the iPod Touch:

  1. Cost effective. It’s more cost effective than iPhone and Android because there’s no expensive monthly plan.
  2. The Retina display is outstanding and pleasing to look at, far better and more crisp than either the Nexus One or the Palm TX.
  3. The Safari web browser works very well. The browser on my Palm TX barely hobbled along, and often, that was too much, and it would crash, rebooting the Palm. So I never used that feature. Android’s browser is also excellent. It’s based on the same code: WebKit.
  4. When apps crash, it doesn’t take down the entire OS like on Palm.
  5. Slim and small. It fits in my pocket much better than my Palm TX.
  6. The Note Pad app lets me email notes to others. It also syncs the notes to my Google email.
  7. Availability. Purchase it from any Wal Mart, Target, or other department store.
  8. Accessories. The local Wal Mart had dozens of protector cases, alarm clocks, stereos, and other gear designed for iPod Touch. Try finding accessories for an Android device. They’re going to be sparse, and available online only. In its heyday, Palm had a variety of accessories (not nearly as much), but Palm is history.

Apps I love:

  1. Pandora music. I love being able to pick a music genre, and have it play excellent music that I’m not familiar with. http://www.pandora.com/
  2. LDS Gospel Library.
  3. LDS Hymns and LDS Children’s Songbook.
  4. Dictionary.com free dictionary.
  5. CoderCalc RPN calculator with four lines of stack on the display. With a clumsy touch screen, I find it vital to know that what I entered was correct, and with the four lines of stack, the problem is solved. A calculator with real, physical keys still beats a touch screen calculator.
  6. Mint.com app to keep me up to date on my finances.
  7. AIM Free, for when I need to send free SMS messages. Yes, AIM supports SMS.
  8. Kindle. The Kindle reader includes the New Oxford American dictionary.  Simply tap on a word in a book, and a definition pops up.
  9. iBooks. iBooks also supports pop-up definitions of words.
  10. Google. This app launches various Google services online. Google has made its web apps customized to work very well on iPhone. The google email web app is better than the iOS email app.
  11. Password Manager. I’ve chosen MyKeePass, not because it’s the best, but because it allows me to manage, store, and retrieve my passwords on Linux, Windows and the iPod Touch. I also figured out how to translate my Palm GNU Keyring password database into a format that Linux keepassx could import.


  1. No standard menu button in apps. Both Palm and Android got it right.
  2. Apple’s email configuration wizard misled me to sync with Google Mail instead of Exchange. This meant that I didn’t get my Google Contacts synchronized to my iPod Touch until coworkers told me that Google supports an exchange connector. Instructions for setting it up are at http://www.google.com/mobile/sync/
  3. The music app didn’t show me a “seek in track” option. A friend helpfully showed me that by single-tapping on the (non-existent) album art, it would pop up a previously-hidden slider.
  4. No ogg vorbis support. I know this thing is billed as an iPod, but in my opinion, the Sansa Clip is a far better iPod. My music collection is in ogg vorbis format. The Clip supports vorbis, and it has an FM radio tuner, clips to my shirt, and is more convenient for outdoor activities.  For me, the iPod Touch is a Personal Digital Assistant, not an iPod. On the other hand, the Sansa Clip doesn’t have Pandora.
  5. Tethered to iTunes. When first unpackaged, it won’t do anything without first being connected to iTunes on Windows or Mac. I’m not sure whether Linux gtkpod would do the trick or not.
  6. Touch screen interfaces are inferior to stylus interfaces. The stylus on Palm was far more precise for selecting text, tapping on hyperlinks in Plucker e-books, etc. On the other hand, with a fat-finger interface, there’s no stylus to misplace. I love pinch-and-zoom.
  7. No way to send contacts to other devices via bluetooth. Palm had peer-to-peer networking down ten or more years ago, first with InfraRed, and then with Bluetooth. I suppose that in an always-connected iPhone world, people email things to each other. I’m not always connected.

I’ve never owned an Apple device until now. They’ve created an excellent device with the iPod Touch. It’s not perfect, but it’s adequate to replace my Palm TX as a personal digital assistant, and in many ways, it’s far superior.

“In 1976, the basic computational power of a $200 iPod would have cost one billion dollars, while the full set of capabilities would have been impossible at any price, much less in a shirt pocket.”  — Erik Brynjolfsson, Paul Hofmann, and John Jordan, Communications of the ACM, May 2010, p 33.