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.

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