A few weeks ago I decided to do something rather out of character. I walked into an authorized Apple dealer. West World if you must know. And what did I do there?
Well, I bought myself an iPod Touch — If you don’t know what that is, it’s like an iPhone, but without the phone. Basically it’s an insanely flat 3.5″ touch screen interface on a portable web browser, calendar, photo viewer, contact list, and video player. Oh, and it apparently can play music too.
Out of the box, I’ve gotta say, I was pretty wow’d. It uses Safari, which isn’t a personal favorite, but it’s almost all the power of running a real desktop webbrowser in the palm of your hand (Which is quite unlike Palm’s “Web” (formerly Blazer) or Pocket Internet Explorer, neither of which you’d ever confuse with a desktop browser, although both can get the job done if the site isn’t too complex)
The interface is simple, moderately intuitive, although for a company that specializes in interfaces, there are some glaringly obvious shortcomings. One of the neatest features is the screen rotates to match the direction you’re holding the device. This is surprisingly handy since you’re sometimes wanting a long screen and sometimes wanting a wide screen when viewing the web, or photos. Unfortunately, those two are the only apps that actually rotate, the main menu does not, so if you’re jumping around (say you’re browsing and need to switch WiFi connections) you need to rotate the device in your hand. Not a big deal, but not a polished feel.
On the flip side, until a couple weeks ago it was rock solidly reliable. I’ve started running into a problem where Safari will close randomly, then a few days later it started rebooting immediately after pressing the power button, at least in some cases. Twice now it has reverted back to 1999 (which I guess is another feature, it appears to be Y2K compliant — Yay!)
Apple is surprisingly difficult to get in touch with, I’ll give $20 to anyone who can point me to where there is an email address (or even a *sigh* webform) to contact support to find out if I’m doing something wrong, or if the device needs warranty service. I’ve already reset to defaults using the interface, using iTunes, and by performing a recovery update to the latest firmware (which wipes the device entirely). I guess I’ll break down and phone Apple tomorrow and see where we go from here.
On the plus side, giving credit where it’s due, Apple has responded to consumer feedback, version 1.1.2 of the firmware allows you to not only enter and edit contacts, but calendar entries right on the device as well. I’d like to meet the moron that decided it would be a good idea to make the calendar read-only, but that’s another issue altogether.
Now if only Apple would add a few of the iPhone’s other apps. A tasks list, synchronized to my desktop, would be a nice start. Supporting Vista 64-bit wouldn’t be all that bad either (and this is another gripe, iTunes tells you to install iTunes 64-bit, but such a beast doesn’t exist — It’s probably just around the corner, but still, would be nice for software to not send you on a wild goose chase)
All in all though, as a portable web browser, it’s amazing. As a photo viewer, even my mom wants one. As a movie viewer, it’s locked down to Apple’s own format (My last device, a Creative Zen Vision:M, could play XviD, DivX, and a few other formats as well), but I’ve got a nice powerful desktop so I’m not that upset about having to reencode movies to take them with me to watch on the plane. As an iPod, well, I’m not so sure, I’ve really spent very little time actually listening to music, oddly enough, but it seems to do the job.
I’d give it one and a half thumbs up, and depending on how the warranty service goes, and the promised SDK, it might earn the rest of that second thumb.