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  • Apple iPod touch (2014)
    Apple iPod touch (2014) Frontier
    Frontier on Saturday, July 5, 2014
    reviews [0]
    Technology [328]
    Apple's quiet update to the iPod touch stems the tide of media player irrelevance in a world dominated by easily accessible smartphones. The added rear-facing camera and $30 discount are neither new nor game changing—this is mostly a recalibration. The $199 iPod touch is still primarily a supplementary device and gateway into the vast selection of iOS apps, but its appeal is now wider than ever. With high-quality Android smartphones going for less than $200, you can enjoy both ecosystems for less than the price of an unlocked iPhone alone. The latest iPod touch is at once the extended last gasp of a dying breed and a potential pathway towards ecosystem agnosticism. With few direct competitors, it also easily retains our Editors' Choice award for portable media players.
    Design and iSight Camera
    Nearly every aspect of the new iPod touch remains unchanged from the fifth-gen release in 2012, so take a look at our iPod touch (2012) review for a full rundown on the design, features, and performance. It's still an excellent music and video player, complete with bundled Apple EarPods, that can access the millions of apps in the iOS store. It's essentially a smartphone without the phone. For this review, I'll focus on the differences and the iPod's place in the evolving landscape of mobile devices.

    Once reserved for the more expensive $299 model, the new entry-level iPod touch is available in the full range of bright anodized finishes. The dimensions haven't changed at all (4.86 by 2.31 by 0.24 inches), and there's now only a 3.1 ounce version, versus the old 3.04-ounce entry-level model. Really, though, those fractions of an ounce are pittance compared with the added utility of a rear-facing camera.
    Speaking of which, the 5-megapixel, rear-facing camera is another feature that trickles down from the $299 model to the new $199 iPod touch. The sensor and lens haven't changed, and while the software is new, the results are largely indistinguishable. It's a serviceable camera that can produce some nice shots in bright lighting, but lacks the crispness and accuracy you get from higher-end smartphones. In low light, images start to look grainy and focus is routinely soft. The camera was simply nice to have when it required a more costly outlay, but now that it's standard on the entry-level model, there's little to complain about.

    In a battery rundown test, which looped a video with screen brightness set to max and Wi-Fi on, the iPod touch lasted for 4 hours, 43 minutes. That's about on par with the 5 hours we saw with the 2012 iPod touch, but still a bit short for our taste.

    The Apple iPod touch remains the de facto choice for portable touch-screen media players—there simply is no alternative that can match the touch on finish and features. But that's only when viewed through the narrow lens of the media player market. Affordable tablets like the Nexus 7 and smartphones like the Motorola Moto G easily outclass the iPod touch, but they're both missing the one ingredient that makes the touch worthwhile: access to the iOS app store.

    As a current Android smartphone user (and former iPhone owner), I have lived sans iOS apps without issue for some time. But the fact is that some apps come to iOS first, and others stay exclusive indefinitely. If you want those apps, many of which are arguably worth investing in a whole new device for, the touch is your best bet. And with Android smartphones like the Moto G at $179 or the high-end OnePlus One at $299, you can enjoy both OS experiences for less than the price of an unlocked iPhone alone. The U.S. smartphone market isn't nearly over the subsidized model, but it's moving in that direction. Should unlocked and unsubsidized phones become the norm, the iPod touch will be that much more attractive. For now, it remains our favorite media player and a better value than ever before.
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