The iPod touch doesn't always get the attention 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. It has the 4-inch Retina display, 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 and Peter Coyote told us so brilliantly in 2011, technology alone is not enough. It's experience, not specs that matter. And if they're at all price sensitive, if they still want something pocketable but don't want phone features, 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, who are they best for and why?
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. 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 read 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.
The technology in general 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 mud, a pen and paper, a keyboard and display. More natural even, thanks to direct manipulation.
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 video in the back seat of the car or during the long hours on the plane, you can shoot and even edit all the most important moments from your trip.
There's no LTE option but there is Wi-Fi for whenever you're at or on a 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 important 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 might need.
It's especially good for kids for all the reasons mentioned previously. However, 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 (or iPad) is a great 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, it's not as easy to carry around and manipulate as a point-and-shoot. The iPod touch is. Likewise the iSight camera isn't as good as the one on the iPhone, but schools don't need the added expense of the iPhone's technology and students don't need telephones in the classroom.
Equipping a school or club with iPod touches means giving them the smaller, 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 beneficial in any educational setting.
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 has an iOS app. Thanks to the HomeKit announcements at WWDC, I can easily imagine a time when most 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. 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 lot, 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.
The connected iPod
The iPod touch is the only iPad 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 iTunes in the Cloud. It can hook into iTunes Match and iTunes Radio. It can hook into Beats Music and Songza and Netflix and Marvel Unlimited and, as long as you're on Wi-Fi or the service allows caching, any other form of online entertainment imaginable.
It's an iPod you don't simply have to listen to or watch. It's an iPod that you don't simply have to restrict yourself to your local content. The iPod touch is 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 anyone else, developers depend on their iPhones. They need them to take and make calls 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. And for many, multiple iPod touches are always around, each running a different version of iOS so developers can test against each and every one they support.
These are only some of the uses for the iPod touch. 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!