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With its front- and back-firing cameras, improved Retina display, A4 processor and new OS, the new Apple iPod touch is like a futuristic science-fiction gadget that traveled back in time to the year 2010. It's got all of the desirable improvements found on the iPhone 4, without the commitment of a contract or the annoyance of a telephone.
Well, sort of. Your friends and family could potentially interrupt you with an impromptu live video chat.
The iPod touch used to be described as an iPhone without a phone, but thanks to the new FaceTime feature, that description doesn't really fit anymore. You can now have video chats with other 4th-generation iPod touch and iPhone 4 users; however, both parties need to be on a WiFi network for it to work. It's like that videophone scene in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, just a bit more advanced because this device fits in the palm of your hand.
The announcement of the new iPod touch continues what's become somewhat of a tradition at Apple: to abruptly discontinue one of the most popular products in the world. The "old" iPod touch was the most popular portable video game device, vastly outselling competing Sony and Nintendo products combined. Such a business move may seem foolish, but the more foolish move would be to not advance their products with the latest technology.
The new 3.5" Retina display on the iPod touch has four times as many pixels as the previous model. It's the same display people have been raving about on the new iPhone 4. An improved display will enhance everything that you do on the device. The color on all of the 250,000 available apps will really pop on the new display, the movies and TV shows that you watch will look much better, the HD video that you capture and stills that you take will look fantastic.
Still photography is a popular topic over here at B&H, and it's worth noting that the new operating system in the iPod touch adds some additional photo-oriented power. With Apple's iOS 4.1 operating system, the back camera on the iPod touch will be capable of taking 960 x 720 High Dynamic Range photographs. This is a feature we're used to seeing on professional and consumer cameras, but it's a bit unexpected to find it in a portable entertainment device.
When you take an HDR photo, three stills are taken in rapid succession. One shot is overexposed, one is underexposed, and the third is a normal exposure. The three images are combined into one and complex algorithms piece together the image so you get the best looking picture possible. The only complaint I ever heard from people who owned earlier versions of the iPod touch was that it didn't have a camera. Well, those days are over. Now it's got two cameras and HDR technology to boot.
Shooting high-definition video is also a popular subject around B&H. Like the iPhone 4, the new iPod touch enables you to shoot 720p video at 30 frames per second with audio. You can easily edit the video with onboard editing functions, or download the $4.99 iMovie app from the App Store if you want even more control over the final product. If you're connected to a WiFi network, you can upload your videos easily to YouTube and Facebook and share them with the universe at large.
And speaking of apps, you can also download the free iBook app which transforms the iPod touch into a mini eReader. As somewhat of an Apple fan, I was kind of hoping Steve Jobs would unveil a new nano version of the iPad. The new iPod touch pretty much fits that bill. It just has a different name.
These products were designed to be your constant companions. If you're going out for a run, you can utilize the Nike+iPod functionality in the new iPod touch. Just pop the separately available Nike+iPod sensor into your sneaker, and it will wirelessly communicate your time, distance, and calories burned with a robotic voice over your music. You can unwind after your workout with some fun video games, and the new GameCenter in iOS4.1 will let you share the fun. You can play games with old buddies anywhere on the planet, and compete against new friends.
Like all iPods, the new 4th generation iPod touch is compatible with Mac and PC computers. It comes with ear buds with a built-in microphone (to record voice memos and to have a more private FaceTime chat with Uncle Fred). This also makes it compatible with the new IK Multimedia iRig, which enables you to plug an electric guitar into your iPod touch and rock out with virtual amplifiers and effects (check out our review of the iRig in this B&H InDepth post).
You have your choice of an 8GB model, a 32GB model and a beefy 64GB model. Perhaps it's time you got one of these gadgets that seem to have fallen out of the screen from a science fiction movie. You'll have so much fun, you'll forget that you're playing with the world's most popular portable music device.