iPod touch 5th Generation £249.99
24th Oct 2012 | 15:28
Bigger is better, if your thumb can take the strain
In an age where your phone can hold all the music you own you may be wondering why you might still need an iPod touch 5th Generation.
The answer is that the iPod touch is not just an iPod anymore. While Apple still sells the old fashioned iPod Classic and has just rebooted with the iPod nano 7th Generation, the iPod touch has taken over as the champion of the iPod brand – it's essentially a media player par excellence that has morphed into a handheld gaming console thanks to the sheer number of excellent, and very cheap, games available via the App Store.
It's this gaming and app angle that really gives the touch its raison d'être. If you can't afford the premium tariffs that the iPhone attracts and you still want to take advantage of the thousands apps that Apple's App Store holds then the iPod touch is your cheapest route to entry.
The latest iPod touch 5th Generation takes the best features of the iPhone 5, like the taller 640x1136 pixel, 4-inch screen and the iOS 6 software update with Siri, and adds a few little quirks of its own, like a choice of coloured backs (black, grey, pink, yellow, blue and a sixth Product Red) and a new strap called an 'iPod touch loop'.
Along the way the camera has been upgraded to an iSight camera with a built-in flash that's capable of 1080p video recording and the processor has been upped to a dual-core A5 chip, giving it twice the processing power of the previous single-core A4 chip. Both the screen size and the faster processor are important for gaming, but more of that later.
Memory configurations have been simplified. The new 5th gen is available only in 32GB and 64GB flavours.
Finally, the new iPod touch runs iOS 6, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system in all its glory, which means that both Panorama – a new mode for taking panoramic photos, and Siri, Apple's intelligent voice-activated personal assistant, are available here.
Note: neither of these two features work on a iPod touch 4th Generation running iOS 6.
The coloured new iPod touch 5th generation is a very different looking beast to the previous model, which had a metallic silver back with tapered edges. While the metallic back initially looked nice it was a magnet for smudges and fingerprints.
The aluminium back of the new touch is the only part that's coloured (the front is always white no matter what colour back you choose) and seems to be extremely fingerprint resistant – the only parts that attract smudges on the back are the small Apple logo and the word 'iPod', which are both made of glass.
There's a little rubberised pad at the top right of the back, which covers the Wi-Fi antenna, since the aluminium covering would impede signal reception.
The flat back on the 5th generation model has genuine advantages over the previous tapered-edge design – now the sleep/wake and volume buttons are on a flat edge your fingers can find them more easily and it's possible to change volume using just one hand when the touch is lying flat on a desktop.
LEFT TO RIGHT:iPod touch 4th Gen, 5th Gen, iPhone 5
The iPod loop strap (whose colour matches the back) feels like it's made of leather and snags onto a little button on the back of the touch that protrudes from the surface when pressed. It fits snugly enough and we didn't have problems with it becoming detached. It's a good idea if you're using your touch as a camera because it gives you that extra level of security against dropping it.
The new 5th Gen is a millimetre thinner than its predecessor, and 12mm taller. The larger screen means it can fit an extra line of icons on your Home screen and you can see more of web pages and apps that are designed to take advantage of the new screen size.
We found that we had to change the way we held the new iPod touch in portrait mode if we wanted to reach the top left corner with our thumb though. While so far we've been used to resting the iPod touch on our little finger, you now have to grip the sides with all four fingers if you want to get your thumb all the way to the top corner of the screen (which is where a lot of 'back' buttons are located in apps, like Mail for example).
It takes a little bit of getting used to but you can still use the touch with one hand, at least in theory. In practice we found ourselves resorting to using two hands more often than we used to relieve some discomfort on our thumb.
As with the iPhone 5, the touch's 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the bottom of the device (which is where it was in the last generation model, too) and the 30-pin Dock connector has been replaced by a new more versatile Lightning connector.
While the new smaller connector has enabled some great improvements in terms of the size and thickness of the device it means that all your existing iPod accessories won't work with your new device, unless you buy the £25 'Lightning to 30-pin adaptor'.
It also means that you'll initially only have one charging lead that will work with your new device. Like most iPod touch owners we found we'd acquired a few iPhone cables over the years and suddenly going back to only having one cable that worked was a shock to the system, and we had to keep remembering to take it around with us everywhere we went.
With the iPhone 5 you get a wall charging plug in the box with your Lightning to USB cable, but no such luck with the iPod touch 5th Generation, so just bear that in mind.
Inside the box you'll find some of the new Apple EarPods earphones – while still not comparable with noise-isolating in-ear solutions these new earbuds are still a huge improvement over the previous Apple earphones, with much better bass frequencies.
The iPod touch 5th Generation feels nippy to use, and this responsiveness is one of its big advantages over the many different flavours of Android devices. But it's the App Store that's the real differentiator – apps in iOS just seems to look a little bit better, and the quality and range of apps is fantastic.
For apps that aren't designed for the new larger 4-inch screen, Apple drops in black bars over the unused portions of the screen. In practice you hardly notice, and you have the added advantage that games that are properly formatted now look better than ever.
There are some useful built-in apps, like Calendar, Reminders and Notes but the iPod touch really comes into its own once you connect it up to a Wi-Fi connection.
In Apple's world everything is filtered through the iCloud, which is no bad thing. One Apple ID and password gives you access to everything from the App Store to Email, notifications, video chat using FaceTime and messages using iMessage.
With your free account you also get 5GB of storage space online and any photos you've taken are automatically uploaded once you're in range of a Wi-Fi connection thanks to PhotoStream. It's all terribly convenient and all terribly Apple. Of course, things don't run so smoothly if you want to step outside of Apple's walled garden, but when it all works this well why would you want to?
The new screen size has the 16:9 aspect ratio that widescreen videos use, which makes it perfect for viewing movies. The iTunes Store (available on the iPod touch) is conveniently stuffed full of HD movies to rent or buy. You can of course watch movies you've acquired from elsewhere on your iPod touch by connecting it to your computer and using iTunes to transfer the movies across.
Annoyingly, iTunes will only play certain video formats, but software for encoding movies in a format that iTunes will play is plentiful and free, but it's still an annoying hoop that Apple makes you jump through. It would be so much easier if Apple eased up on the restrictions on the file types that iTunes can handle.
Slip further under Apple's hypnotic spell and get yourself an Apple TV and it's a breeze to mirror your iPod touch's display on your HD TV for big-screen entertainment.
It's worth noting just how versatile an iPod touch is – there's so much you can do with it, from playing music and movies to FaceTime video chat (thanks to a second front facing 1.2 megapixel, 720p, camera).
The 4th gen had a poor 5 mega-pixel rear-facing camera capable of only 720p video recording and 960 x 720 still photos with no flash.
The new iPod touch features a much improved iSight camera – it's still 5 mega-pixels, but with a better 5 element lens capable of much better still shots and 1080p video recording and a flash.
Low light test:
iPod touch 4th Generation...
iPod touch 5th Generation...
iPod touch 4th Generation...
iPod touch 5th Generation...
iPod touch 4th Generation...
iPod touch 5th Generation...
As you can see from our tests, the iPod touch 5th Generation's camera performed a lot better than the 4th generation, but it's still slightly behind the 8-mega pixel iPhone camera. In terms of video it was hard to separate the iPod touch video quality from that of the iPhone 5, both at 1080p.
There's no doubt that Apple has done the right thing by upping the display to 4-inches, the new iPod touch still feels like a modern, desirable device, but the question remains, with so many other full and medium-sized tablets, including the new 7.9-inch iPad mini on the market, is a 4-inch device still relevant?
The new iPod touch colours are fun, the bigger 4-inch screen is a real improvement and the Retina display looks as gorgeous as ever. There's no compromise here – this is the exact same display that you get on an iPhone 5. We also prefer the flatter back to the device, and the new iSight camera is a huge improvement.
The camera is good enough to use as your primary camera and 1080p video recording is a great addition. The new strap is actually pretty handy to have as well. In terms of ease of use, iOS still has the edge over Android, especially once you start using the iCloud facilities.
We didn't like:
Using the new iPod touch one handed in portrait orientation can be hard on your thumb. The new Lightning connector looks better than the old 30-pin Dock Connector, and doesn't mind which way up you put your cable in, but it renders all your existing accessories useless, unless you buy the £25 adaptor.
And of course, you still have to use the bloated iTunes to transfer media across from your computer.
We'd say the iPod touch 5th Generation makes a pretty convincing argument for small form factor devices, especially for kids who might find larger devices cumbersome to hold. Even for adults, 7-inch and larger tablets are too big to pop into your pocket, so the touch has a purpose. It's small enough to take anywhere with you and discrete enough that you can use one without drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. It's safer than flashing a larger tablet about on the Tube, for example.
Of course, a price tag of £250 still makes the touch an expensive purchase, and puts it right up next to the iPad mini at £270, and given the choice we'd rather put the money towards an iPad mini.
So, assuming you have an aversion to an iPad mini, the question is can the touch compete with other handheld gaming devices?
Well, there are certainly enough serious gamers' games of the car racing/extreme sports/high-octane-blood-soaked-monster-mashing variety on the App Store to make the iPod touch valid as a gaming platform on its own, but the sheer volume of fun casual games and games for younger children that are available mean the iPod touch can appeal to a much younger demographic than the PlayStations of this world.
And once you're in 'Apple World' you can be sure that your little one won't get into too much trouble or view inappropriate content on the device – there are parental controls aplenty and troublesome features like in-app purchases can be turned off by the parent.
With its bigger screen and new iSight camera the iPod touch 5th Generation is certainly the best iPod touch ever, and a big step up; it's a much bigger jump from the iPod touch 4th Generation to this than it is from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5, for example. If only Apple hadn't just released the brand new iPad mini we'd be rushing to buy the new iPod touch. Now we're thinking it's looking a bit late to the party.