Forget the iPhone–The iPod Touch is Good Enough

Forget the iPhone–The iPod Touch is Good Enough
Back in June 2007, I couldn’t convince my wife that checking my email in grocery lines was worth $US1,320—the cost of an original iPhone and one year of the cheapest plan. These days, the trend-setting phone costs even more money over its life, and it’s more than a little restrictive and even a bit buggy. So I’m amazed at how little love the iPod touch gets. It’s a slimmer iPhone with almost all its features, it requires no contract, and when you can’t get a Wi-Fi signal, your plain, humble mobile phone can step up to take its place. Here’s why anyone considering the iPhone should opt for its oft-ignored sibling—the iPod touch—instead. Photo by sarchi.

While you won’t get every single one of the iPhone’s capabilities when you opt for an iPod touch, you’ll save a ton of money. Buying an iPod touch costs you $400 for unlimited use, not a guaranteed commitment of thousands of dollars over two years that the iPhone involves (more, if you have to pay a penalty to get out of your current mobile phone contract or actually want to use my data). Here’s how I get the most out of the iPod touch with a little mobile phone help.

The Apps Are Just as Good

The iPod touch doesn’t have speakers or a camera and you can’t speak into it, so it does mean a couple of apps in the iTunes store won’t work on the touch. The hummed-song-finder Midomi could win me a few cool-factor points at the bar, and the Talking Phrasebook would be a killer app if I suddenly found myself wandering the Champs-Élysées. But the vast majority of games, apps, and utilities in the App Store work just fine on my iPod touch without voice or speaker functions.

touch_screen.jpgI can draft ideas and entries for my WordPress blog and sync them later, or read the feeds I grabbed last time I was online through NetNewsWire

At the moment, there are about 1020 App Store applications for the iPhone, and roughly 970 of them, or 95 percent, work with the iPod touch. Developers, obviously, don’t consider speech and speaker functions crucial to good software, nor always-on net connections.

It’s a Universal Remote in a Wi-Fi-Enabled Home

ipod_controller.jpgIf your house is wired for Wi-Fi, the iPod touch isn’t a bad candidate for Ultimate Armchair Command Tool, one that doesn’t heat up your lap or tie up your phone. With the free Mocha VNC Lite app, I can change over episodes of “The Riches” on a TV-connected laptop without having to get up and fiddle about. I stream recommendations and you’ll-probably-also-like music from’s app while I’m washing dishes (Pandora would work as well). On nights before I have Lifehacker morning duties, me and Google Reader’s awesome iPhone interface can often be found together, semi-watching reruns or DVDs and perusing for posts. And, of course, we’ve already shown you the awesomeness that is Remote.

I’ve also got an old laptop serving as a web-serving, Samba-sharing, printer-serving, backup-enforcing server that can wake up from a net signal. After seeing the text prompt and SSH server in a jailbroken 2.0 iPhone/iPod touch, I’m already having command-line fantasies…

Wife: Oh, I wish I could show you the pictures from our trip! But they’re all at home …
Me: Wait, honey, let me just wake up our server (*tap-tap-tap*) and I’ll log in and pull them up …

Lesson learned

I’m not trying to say the iPhone isn’t a pretty cool phone. But always-on connectivity isn’t everything. As close readers of this site might have picked up on, we’re advocates of carving out time in your day to stay away from the web, email, and other potential time-drains. In other words, sometimes it’s just better to focus on unloading the produce.

That’s my take on the matter, anyway. Did you buy an iPod touch for similar reasons? Is always-on, full-web access the real reason you bought your iPhone? Do you not really see the need for either? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Kevin Purdy, associate editor at Lifehacker, named his iPod touch “PurdPod” because he ran out of clever names. His feature Open Sourcery appears weekly on Lifehacker.


  • When you said “when you can’t get a Wi-Fi signal, your plain, humble mobile phone can step up to take its place” were you implying that if i have a bluetooth enabled phone that can give me internet access for my MacBook it could do the same for the iPod Touch when I am not in wifi zones?

  • this is precisely why i bought a touch
    an iphone is way to expensive
    also using a program called freecall, your ipod touch can be a phone, though i use my normal cell phone mostly
    i love my ipod touch, i get almost all the awesomeness of an iphone, without paying an extra dime after buying it

  • These touches are fantastic as I’ve had mine for a week now and already have been controlling everything around the house to mixing a live band at a house party (using VNC) and my logic setup.
    If you want to be online everywhere with this device and you have a wifi enabled phone like my nokia N95 you just export your phones HSDPA data connection to your ipod touch using JoikuSpot Premium, this app for the phone creates a wifi hotspot that your ipod can use to get online. The free version of Joikuspot works for web browsing but the full version works with mail, messenger and and more i’m still sussing it out as we speak.

    My opinion of the iPhone is good to have only one simple device to do everything (phone, camera, internet, navigation and so on) but the iPhone 3G is laking in some areas.

    CAMERA 2mp – Needs to be 5+ with good flash and do Video
    HSDPA data connection 3.6mbps – Would be nice to have 7.2mbps
    VIDEO CHAT / VOIP – This would be nice to have in your pocket.

    So i’ll have to wait for future models to come out before i’m soldon the iPhone idea. But in the meantime I’m going to get a Samsung Omni i900 and keep the touch for the rest.

  • I have two problems with a phone that does everything (I’ve had a SE W950 for two years).

    a) the time I listen to music on it is in the train going somewhere. that drains the battery. but its exactly when i’m on a trip somewhere that i need my phone most critically.
    b) I seem to be too old(-fashioned) to learn to use a headset for telephoning – anyway I always end up with the phone stuck to my ear and somebody trying to make an appointment, but my calendar is in the phone. Which is great, becaus a calender that alerts me an hour before I have to be somewhere is a must.

    Since I use a Mac in the office, a portable version of an organizer that also runs on the mac looks very attractive (Things or something similar), and being able to write on the go with something very much smaller than a laptop is also cool.

    That’s why I’m thinking about an iPod touch near the end of 2009.

    An iPhone would also hike my cellphone bill from 15-20 EUR to 50 EUR a month, and I’d need an extra data package for when I’m out of the country (which is when having mobile internet would be coolest – but then there’s wifi).

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