About 90% of the press attention today is going to Apple’s new iPhones. And those are nice and all, but the more relevant gadget to e-book readers is actually the iPod Touch. As I’ve said a number of times before, mostly over on TeleRead, the iPod Touch has long had the potential to be the preferred pocketable for people who didn’t want to have to pay through the nose for phone service. Pair it with a prepaid MiFi for net access and you’re good to go whenever and wherever, with no need to fret about contracts or paying for minutes you never use. (And that’s how I use my old 1st-gen 8 gig even now.) With today’s model, it looks like it’s finally got the chance to live up to that potential.
The biggest new feature from an e-book lover’s point of view is the new 4” screen, same as the iPhone 5’s, which means it can fit a couple more lines of e-book text on the screen at one time (at least for reader apps that are adapted to take advantage of the new taller screen shape), and at retina resolution so it’s one of the clearest LCD screens ever, inch for inch. It’s also finally getting a real 5 megapixel camera, which can also take 1080P full motion video, and not that insult of a low-resolution camera the last iteration got. (That should be more than good enough for portable OCR.) It’ll have Siri, too, and the ability to stream 1080P video over AirPlay.
It’ll have a few sillier features, too, like the multiple colors and the wrist straps you can use not to drop it (while looking like a total dork). But perhaps the most impressive is that it’s only 6.1 millimeters thick, making it the thinnest iPod Touch ever. It really does put me in mind of one of those plastic-pane PADDs they used to use on Star Trek.
Possibly one of the even more useful things about this for e-book readers, though, is what it will mean in terms of the pricing on older refurbished models of iPod Touch. If you don’t care so much about the 4” screen or the 5 megapixel camera, you could get the 3.5” 2010 model with retina display pretty cheaply now.
The Apple web store lists a refurbished 64GB 2010 version for $279, or a refurb of the 64 GB 2009 version (no retina display) for $249. The 32GB is $209 for the 2010 or $179 for the 2009. You could even get an 8GB 2010 model for $149, which is not a bad price at all for a pocketable retina display that can hold hundreds of e-books for on-the-go reading, even if it does have a pretty lousy camera.
I’m not sure whether those prices are lower today than they were yesterday, since I didn’t check them then, or whether the prices will only drop further when the new generation actually goes on sale (it refers to the 2010 model as the “current” generation, which adds to the confusion), but either way they’ll undoubtedly fall even further in another few months.
In a way, I feel a bit bad about plugging Apple devices like this, given the company’s many examples of reprehensible behavior over the last few years. But for all that the company has been total jerks, it is still a lot closer to owning the handheld mini-tablet niche than it is to owning the larger tablet niche. A year and a half ago I went looking for a good Android equivalent to the iPod Touch and couldn’t find one.
The closest equivalent at the time seemed to be the Galaxy Player, and it looks like that device has been getting some decent reviews lately on Amazon, but it hasn’t had the time to build the reputation or get the polish of the iPod Touch. The Touch has had years of development, giving it plenty of time to work out the worst kinks and add great features. I use mine every day and love it, and am seriously drooling over the prospect of getting a newer one—either a last-generation refurb or the new super-thin thing. Because evil company or not, Apple sure does know how to make a handheld tablet worth drooling over.