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Apple iPod Touch 16GB Review

Apple iPod Touch 16GB
MSRP $399.00
“The iPod touch is one of the hottest items of the year...”
  • Sexy design; impressive visual interface; built-in WiFi; Windows and Mac compatible
  • No expansion slot for additional memory; cannot wirelessly sync with iTunes


It’s no surprise that Apple has been on a screaming rampage of success with its gorgeous, high tech products these last few years. Every new release seems to cast a heavy shadow over its predecessor. This is certainly the case with the new iPod touch. The improvements over earlier designs – bigger, better LCD, touch screen controls, thinner frame, Wi-Fi access, etc. – are dramatic leaps forward, not only for the iPod itself but for future Apple products. The 16GB iPod touch, selling for $399 USD ($299 USD for the 8GB version), has all the signs of a permanent, monumental success. Read our review and check out our video to find out why you’ll want this multi-function media player in your arsenal of tech toys.

Features and Design

The most obvious point of attraction to the iPod touch is the stunning new design. Based on a cross-breed of the iPhone and the 3rd generation iPod nano, the iPod touch has a super thin body that measures only .31″ (8mm) thick; it’s much thinner than the iPhone. Overall dimensions are – 4.3″ x 2.4″ x .31″, or 110mm x 61.8mm x 8mm. The entire iPod touch weighs only 4.2 ounces.

The iPod touch, like the iPhone and the updated iMac, represents an official shift from Apple’s signature white plastic product designs to a new, stylish black, glass and metal configuration. Apple clearly has a knack for making already-gorgeous products even more striking and elegant.

The iPod touch has a seemingly huge 3.5″ color LCD screen that has “Multi-touch” technology built in. Multi-touch tech uses a thin membrane grid underneath the glass iPod screen. It’s like a super tight mesh net that covers every last square millimeter of the LCD. It’s sensitive to the tiny electric current in the human body, and when touched by any live part of the body, the multi-touch activates and sends an “I was just touched here, here and here” signal to the iPod touch interface software to respond by opening menus, zooming in on images, etc. Multi-touch does not work with typical PDA styli, pens, fingernails, teeth, etc. It needs skin contact to activate. Indeed, you can control the iPod touch with your fingers, nose, toes, your elbows or other parts we may not want to know about.

Apple iPod Touch
The Apple iPod Touch (notice the cover flow interface)

The iPod touch, thanks to its Multi-touch interface, has a full on-screen keyboard that can be used for typing in website addresses, updating contacts and calendar events, entering , wireless network passwords, Google searches, online forms, mobile blog posts, etc.

The iPod touch has an internal accelerometer – a tiny device that senses whether the iPod is being held vertically or horizontally, and flips the contents of the display accordingly. This makes watching widescreen movies and viewing horizontal (landscape) photographs much more functional and enjoyable.

The iPod touch also has an ambient light sensor, which can tell whether it’s bright or dark out and will adjust the screen brightness accordingly. This can be more comfortable on your eyes, plus it helps save battery life.

Speaking of battery life, the iPod touch sticks to tradition with its built-in rechargeable battery. Charging to 80% capacity takes about 1.5 hours, and a full charge (from dead) can take upwards of 3 hours. You should be able to get 22 hours of audio playback under ideal conditions, but our tests showed the time to vary between 19 and 21 hours. Granted, we crank the volume way up and we keep the screen lit most of the time. Video playback should last 5 hours and has been confirmed by us during several tests while flying the friendly skies. Using non-Apple headphones can dramatically affect the battery drain. Our Bose Tri-Port headphones typically suck battery power 20% to 30% faster due to the sheer size of the drivers.

Of course, the iPod touch plays music – upwards of 3500 songs on the 16GB version. Compatible audio formats are AAC (up to 320kbps), MP3 (also up to 320kbps), variable bit rate MP3, WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless and audio-book formats, Audible 2, 3 and 4.

It also plays video: movies, TV shows, video podcasts or music videos. It doesn’t matter if the video content is standard size (4:3) or widescreen (16:9), the iPod touch will play both. In fact, you can even direct the iPod touch to play video full screen (often cropping the left and right edges to utilize every last pixel of the LCD) or zoom out just slightly to play a true letterbox/widescreen version of the video with no cropped edges. According to Apple, you should be able to get upwards of 20 hours worth of video content on the 16GB iPod touch. Of course, this will vary greatly due to different bit rates of video files, but it’s a safe estimate.

Video content can be downloaded from the iTunes store or created on your computer. It doesn’t matter where the content comes from, so long as it’s in a compatible format such as H.264 and MPEG-4 videos in .m4v, .mov and .mp4. If you have video content that you’d like to move to the iPod touch but it’s in the wrong format, there are plenty of video conversion applications available for free or for a fee online. On the Mac side, one great application is called “VisualHub“. The Elgato turbo.264 video processor will also convert video content to iPod touch compatible size and format.

The iPod touch also has built-in 802.11b/g wireless. This allows you to connect to any secure or unsecure wireless network (so long as it’s using the ubiquitous 802.11b or g protocol) to access websites, YouTube and the iTunes store. When viewing websites online, the software in the iPod touch converts full-sized websites for the 3.5″ LCD screen. And even though images and text are being scaled down, they look awesome and are almost always fully functional. You can even save favorite websites to your bookmarks folder o the iPod touch.

Like earlier iPods, the touch can display full-color photos. What’s new, however is the convergence of the accelerometer and the Multi-touch screen to allow for on-the-fly rotation of images from portrait to landscape mode (vertical to horizontal), flipping through photos with the swiping motion of your finger, and the amazing ability to zoom into your images using two fingers in an inward pinch motion. Zoom back out by using an outward un-pinch movement. Our video clip shows this ‘pinch’ feature. Apple estimates that 20,000 photos can be stored on the 16GB flash drive.

The iPod touch has a new feature that iPod users had been demanding for years. It’s the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, where users can log in (once connected to any Wi-Fi network), preview songs and make direct purchases that will immediately download to the iPod touch. Songs purchased through the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store will then sync with your computer the next time the iPod touch is connected by the sync cable. Related to the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is the Starbucks Music feature. If you’re in a Starbucks coffee shop and hear a cool song playing over their sound system, whip out your iPod touch, press the “iTunes” button and the Starbucks music page will open up. You can then select the song you want to buy (songs currently playing in the store will be at the top of the list and will be marked with a text tag that says “Now Playing”) and press the song to buy it. This Starbucks music feature is a sort of portal or “front” for the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Granted, it’s only currently available in a few select cities, but will gain ground in 2008.

Apple iPod Touch
The main menu on the iPod Touch

Audio quality is an iPod standard. The iPod touch sounds as good as or better than earlier iPods. Frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz, which covers nearly the entire range of human hearing – from the lowest booming bass to the sharpest highs. The Apple headphones also handle 20Hz to 20kHz, so final output is potentially amazing. Weak links in this setup include low bit rate audio encoding and earbuds that don’t fit perfectly in one’s ears.

In the Box

When you buy the 16GB iPod touch, you’ll also get Apple’s latest earbud headphones, a slimmer syncing/charging cable, a touch-sized dock adapter for iPod speaker systems, a stand, a polishing cloth and a simplified user manual.

Apple iPod Touch
The bottom of the touch allows it to work with iPod speaker systems

Setup and Use

The iPod touch is easy to set up, even though it has a slightly more complex feature set and more virtual buttons and settings to learn. Remove the iPod touch and accessories from the packaging and connect the iPod to your computer via the included USB charging/sync cable. If you have a wall charger for your iPod (wall chargers for earlier iPod models will work fine), plug it in to the wall and let it charge up. Eventually, however, you’ll need to connect the iPod touch to your computer so you can set it all up, connect it to iTunes and get music and videos transferred over. Make sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed. The latest software is required to properly communicate with the touch.

The first time you connect the iPod touch to your computer, you may be prompted to automatically format the iPod to work with your PC or Mac system. Follow those instructions, including language setup, and within a few moments your iPod touch will be fully set up and ready for music. You can register your new iPod with Apple if you want. It’s a good idea to register – Apple will have your contact info tied to the iPod serial number to help in a “lost & found” scenario.

Apple iPod Touch
Use the included cable to connect the Touch to your PC

Once the iPod touch is set up within iTunes, you can load it up with music in several ways: a) let iTunes automatically sync your music & video library with the iPod touch, 2) manually drag & drop music from your library onto the the touch, 3) get online with the iPod touch’s Wi-Fi access and buy songs from the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, or 4) check out music at your local Starbucks and buy from their playlists.

To take advantage of non-music media features of the iPod touch, click on the iPod touch icon under “Devices” in iTunes. You’ll see summary data for your touch, along with several tabbed options like Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Photos and Info.

If you have any photos on your computer, you can sync them with the iPod touch by clicking on the Photos tab and telling iTunes which photos to synchronize. This will give you scaled-down versions of each photo on the iPod touch. They’ll look gorgeous, and the iTunes software does all the work resizing them for best display and memory management.

If you have any photos on your computer, you can sync them with the iPod touch by clicking on the Photos tab and telling iTunes which photos to synchronize. This will give you scaled-down versions of each photo on the iPod touch. They’ll look gorgeous, and the iTunes software does all the work resizing them for best display and memory management.

Calendars and Contacts can also be synchronized, making your iPod touch a sort of mobile appointment book and address book. It isn’t quite as full-fuctioned as a regular PDA, but it’s darn close and getting closer with every update Apple makes to the software.

After syncing your iPod touch with all the content you want on it, disconnect it from your computer (Mac users click “eject”) and turn it on if it’s gone into sleep mode. On the main screen, you’ll see the time and date, a background image and the “slide to unlock” command on the screen. Slide your finger over the right-facing arrow and the iPod will unlock, displaying the main screen.

The main screen where all of the iPod functions begin. Press the “music” button with your finger and the screen will quickly switch to the alphabetical list of songs or artists on your iPod. Use your finger to scroll up or down the list of artists. When you find an artist you want to listen to, tap the name with your finger and a list of albums opens up. Tap the album you want and a list of songs appears. Tap a song and voila – it starts to play.

You’ll notice that when a song is playing, the album art will fill up more than 70% of the screen. Music and volume controls fill the remaining space. All these controls are managed by your touch. They will respond to the touch of any body part except for toe nails, fingernails or teeth. It’s unlikely that anyone would try using those parts, but it’s worth mentioning.

For a neat trick, rotate the iPod horizontally. Watch how the album art rotates with the screen. This new screen is called Cover Flow – you can scroll left and right through all the albums on your iPod touch, viewing the album art for each. If you don’t have album art for your music, you’ll see a generic grey icon with a musical note on it. To get album art for your music, go into iTunes and click on the “Advanced” menu. Select the “Get Album Art” option and iTunes will o its best to match cover art to your music. Album art is automatic for any music purchased directly from iTunes.

How do you get back to the main menu? Click the only button on the front of your iPod – the little sunken button with the rounded square on it. This is a universal “home screen” button.


Once done with music, try scrolling through the video section of your iPod. Scroll through available videos in the same way you scroll through songs: with your finger, top to bottom and back up. Touch to play, touch to pause, etc. Touch a playing video to get a volume control. the “done” button in video mode will take you out of the playing video and back to the video library. Again, to get back to the main screen, click the recessed button on the iPod touch.

How’s video quality? In a word: excellent. The 3.5″ LCD screen renders videos with remarkable clarity. Colors are properly saturated and rich, grayscale images are accurate and there’s little to no drag or pixilation on properly encoded videos. Lower quality videos will be easy to spot – artifacting is evident – but the iPod touch does a good job of making even the worst videos look acceptable.

How hard is it to set up wireless access on the iPod touch? How about 1 minute or less? Click the Safari web browser button. The iPod touch will instantly scan for available networks. If there’s a network available without password encryption (no lock icon), you can touch that network and get online instantly. If you have a locked network to connect with, you’ll need to enter a password on the touch-style keyboard. It’s really easy. Once any needed password is entered, the iPod will remember the password and instantly connect to the internet – most likely Use the same on-screen keyboard to enter website addresses. You can view websites holding the iPod vertically, or see larger text and images by holding the iPod touch horizontally. With the internal accelerometer, the iPod screen will flip horizontal for you as soon as you rotate it 90 degrees. It’ll rotate left or right, whichever you prefer.

Apple iPod Touch
Browse the web with ease using the built-in WiFi radio

From the main menu, click the YouTube button to connect directly to the YouTube video website. See featured videos, most-viewed videos, etc. You’ll need headphones plugged in to listen to all this content.

Click the Settings icon to change screen brightness, EQ settings for your music, options for photo slideshows, video playback, volume limits, etc.

Saving Battery Life

Two extra hints for saving battery life: 1) when listening to music, turn the screen off by pressing the little black button on the very top of the iPod touch. The screen will turn off completely, but your music will continue to play. To turn the screen back on without interrupting your music, tap the black button then slide the green “slide to unlock” button on screen. The iPod touch will return to the album art of the song you’re currently listening to. 2) When traveling, you can turn the iPod touch off – really off – by pressing and holding the same black button for about 5 seconds. A red “slide to power off” button will appear on the screen. Slide the button to the right and the iPod will turn off 100%, saving battery life.

To resolve difficulties or confusions with your iPod touch, visit an Apple store or go to to find answers to your questions. In general, the iPod touch is very stable and incredibly easy to use.

Where You May Find Disappointment

With all the positive aspects of the iPod touch, folks are likely to fall in love and forget any downsides. We should at least be unbiased and mention the little pitfalls with the first generation iPod touch. There is no memory card slot to add extra gigs of storage. You can’t use the iPod touch as an external flash drive without hacking. The iPod touch cannot wirelessly sync with iTunes. (The 2nd generation Microsoft Zune can do this, which should cause considerable embarrassment to Apple.) A very minor annoyance is the placement of the audio jack on the bottom of the iPod touch. This forces users to invert their iPods when placing them in pockets, on treadmills, in cup holders in cars, etc. Apple should really put the audio jack back on the top of the iPod touch, right where it belongs.


Aside from a couple minor limitations, the 16GB iPod touch is truly amazing. It’s one of those products that probably has competitors in frantic states of insomnia, burning right through their R&D budgets trying to keep up. The iPod touch is gorgeous – thinner than most media players, features a whopping 3.5″ LCD screen, holds a lot of content and is terribly easy to use. Sound quality is awesome and output covers the full range of normal human hearing, from 20Hz to 20kHz. Movies, TV shows and other video content looks fantastic. The touch screen is exciting to use and the overall product makes a very positive impression.

The iPod touch is one of the hottest items of the year and will be a key element to many holiday shopping lists. If you’re considering a new multifunction media player this year – whether for yourself or for a loved one – the iPod touch gets the strongest of recommendations.


• Excellent audio quality
• Sexy design
• Visual interface far, far ahead of competition
• Beautiful & crisp 3.5″ LCD screen
• Multi-touch touch-screen technology
• Built-in Wi-Fi for web browsing and music purchasing
• Greatly improved battery life
• Calendar and Contacts
• Cover Flow for interactive album art
• Windows and Mac compatible


• No expansion slot for additional memory
• No flash drive function
• No wireless syncing with iTunes

Editors' Recommendations

Jason Tomczak
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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