The New iPod Touch Will Further Obliterate The Point-And-Shoot Market

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It’s easy to forget that the iPod touch didn’t even include a camera until 2010. While such a key feature has been standard on the iPhone since its initial unveiling in 2007, Apple apparently didn’t think it was one of the must-have features of the touch. That changes this year.

With the new iPod touch (the fifth generation, for those keeping score at home), which was unveiled a few weeks ago and just started shipping this week, the camera is one of the hallmark features. In fact, it may end up being its most important feature.

I know what you’re thinking: but it’s not even as good as the camera on the iPhone 4S, let alone that iPhone 5. In megapixel terms, that’s true. But it doesn’t matter. It’s a good camera. A really good camera. And for millions of users, it will be good enough to be their only camera.

When I sat down to think about my angle in writing about the iPod touch, at first, I was a little stumped. It’s a fantastic device, don’t get me wrong. But I’m an iPhone guy. I don’t really have a need for an iPod touch in my life since the two are so similar. It would be overkill.

But many people (most, even) aren’t iPhone people. There are huge swaths of the market that are never going to own an iPhone. There are kids with parents who think they’re too young for a phone. There are people with Android phones (yes, I’m admitting this). There are people with Windows Phones. And BlackBerrys. And yes, there are even still a ton of people with feature phones.

And there are a lot of people who want access to the App Store as well as iTunes and all its tidings. Some choose an iPad for this, but plenty choose the iPod touch (and some, of course, choose both). There’s clearly a large market for the iPod touch as it’s the only version of the device that Apple now regularly singles out as the version that is doing well in an age of continual iPod decline.

Anyway, I quickly realized my angle for writing about this particular version of the iPod touch was staring me in the face: the loop. — the wrist strap that comes with the new iPod touch.

There are a few features that the iPhone has which the iPod touch does not (cellular connectivity being the biggest). But the loop is a feature reserved only for the touch. And I think that’s telling.

Clearly, Apple’s thinking here was to take a page from the point-and-shoot camera book. Every single point-and-shoot I’ve ever owned has had a wrist strap. Apple being Apple, rethought how it should work. There is no indented area that you try to fish a cord through. Instead, there’s a metal button you push and up pops a metal latch to which you can easily attach the loop.

This is not something they just tacked onto the iPod touch. They designed the entire iPod touch with this feature in mind. And again, that must speak to Apple’s thoughts about the evolving role of the iPod touch in the world: as a point-and-shoot camera.

In terms of megapixels, the camera found on the new iPod touch matches the one found on the iPhone 4. It’s a 5 megapixel shooter. Again, that may seem slightly lame when the 4S and the 5 come with 8 megapixel cameras, but it’s easy to forget just how good the iPhone 4 camera was when it was first released — even though that was only two years ago!

And this iPod touch camera is actually better thanks to other improvements to these small camera internals made over time, as well as the updates to the camera software since then.

Smartphones have been eating point-and-shoot cameras’ lunch for a while now. You’ve probably seen the Flickr chart. The domination of the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4 as the top overall cameras (yes, out of all cameras, period) used to take the pictures on the service has only been slowed by the release of the iPhone 5, which will undoubtedly soon top the list itself.

No point-and-shoot even makes the top 5 on that list. It’s all smartphones (and let’s be honest, just iPhones) and DSLRs.

Still, lots of people continue to buy point-and-shoots. Hell, I’m one of them. I own a Canon S95 which replaced my Canon S90 before that. I basically never use it anymore. It’s all iPhone, all the time now. Those cameras were several hundreds of dollars ultimately not well spent.

But again, not everyone has an iPhone. So for many people, a point-and-shoot still makes sense. Enter the new iPod touch. If the iPhone badly damaged the point-and-shoot market, the iPod touch is going to obliterate it.

Yes, yes, yes. I hear you. The point-and-shoots like the Canon S series cameras are better overall cameras than the iPod touch. No question. But it just doesn’t matter anymore. While the new iPhone 5 camera is fantastic, it’s also still not quite as a good as a good point-and-shoot. And yet, the results are in: point-and-shoots lose.

The point-and-shoot is in a bad spot. People serious about photography opt for DSLRs, which continue to come down in price. The rest of us now mainly go with smartphones for everyday photography. There was still a sliver of people still looking for that point-and-shoot. But those people should and will now look at the iPod touch.

Being a camera isn’t enough anymore. Not in an age of apps. Why spent $300 on a point-and-shoot camera when you can spend $300 on an iPod touch with a solid camera and thousands of great camera apps? Still not sold? What if I throw in a gaming machine, a web browser, a messaging device, a music player, a movie player, etc, etc, etc.

Previously, the camera on the iPod touch was a joke. It was meant to shoot video and the still pictures (sub-1 megapixel — yes, really) were a complete after-thought. And yet, there were still more pictures taken and shared with that device than any of the Samsung Galaxy phones, for example.

Now, this is the first touch where Apple is taking the camera seriously. It’s going to rocket up the Flickr list. And it won’t be to the detriment of smartphones.

As for the rest of the device, it’s great. As I allude to above, some people will buy it just as a gaming device. Some will buy it just as a media player. Some will buy it just for apps. It’s a true jack-of-all trades device without having to worry about carrier contracts.

It’s getting close enough performance-wise to the iPhone where I would consider buying one if they simply added cellular connectivity. Imagine an iPod touch that had built-in LTE and the option to get the same no-contract deals from the carriers. That’s what I really want.

It’s would be the iPhone minus the phone. When you think about it that way, it’s sort of ridiculous that we’re all paying the carriers upwards of a hundred dollars a month for years on end to have the ability to talk to someone over their digital lines in the sky. All we really want is the data, but you can’t get that yet without the phone. (Except on devices like the iPad — presumably because the carriers know you’re not going to walk around using Skype on your iPad to talk to people. Though I’ve seen plenty of people actually do this. Seriously.)

Of course, if Apple did try to add an LTE antenna into this iPod touch, other compromises would have to be made — namely in design and battery life. And those are two of the best features of this device.

Because it can only connect to the internet via WiFi, the iPod touch’s battery seems to last forever. It’s not quite iPad-good, but this thing is a fraction of the size of the iPad. It blows the iPhone battery away despite the device being thinner than even the iPhone 5. Again, a benefit of not including a cellular (and GPS) antenna.

Another striking feature of the new touch is the design. Unlike the iPhone which features a two-tone back that’s a combination of aluminum and glass, the iPod touch has an all-aluminum back (save a small black plastic oval in the upper right for WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.). In my opinion, this looks nicer than the iPhone 5.

And instead of having flat edges that split the front and back of the device, the iPod touch is unibody aluminum all the way to the front plate. This feels like the way Apple would want to design the iPhone if only all those pesky antennas didn’t matter.

The iPhone 5 feels great in your hand — the iPod touch feels even better. The rounded aluminum contours harken back to the original iPhone. But this device is so much thinner and lighter.

The other benefit of this unibody experience is the ability to offer the device in different colors. I’m testing the yellow one, but it also comes in slate, silver, pink, blue, and (product) red. And yes, the loop matches the color you choose.

It’s interesting that all of the iPod touches feature a white front face except the slate version, which features a black front face. This also gives the iPod touch a more playful quality than its iPhone brethren as you can clearly see the accent of the color you chose along the outer rim of the device. For example, on this yellow iPod touch, I see a rim of shiny, polished yellow when I look at the device. I’ve heard aspects of iPhone 5 design described as “jewlery-like”, this is even more so.

In my iPhone 5 review, the first thing I noted was how insanely light the device was. Remarkably, the iPod touch is even lighter — 88 grams compared to the iPhone 5’s 112 grams. But it’s the thinness that’s the even more noticeable difference. The iPhone 5 is incredibly thin. The iPod touch is now absurdly thin. When John Gruber noted the other day that the only thing stopping them from making it thinner still is the size of the headphone jack, he’s actually not kidding. Maybe they could shave an extra micron or two. Maybe. (It’s so thin that the camera actually protrudes out a bit — about the same height as the popped-out loop latch.)

My only real gripe about the iPod touch may be the price. Given everything you’re getting, I don’t think $299 (for 32 GB of storage) and $399 (for 64 GB of storage) is outrageous — especially in an age where the aforementioned point-and-shoots are still around the same price. But it would be nice to see a $199 price too. Yes, I know you can get the older model of the touch for $199, but I’d have a hard time recommending it. The new version is too major of an upgrade in every way.

I can’t believe I just wrote this entire review and didn’t even mention the beautiful new 4-inch retina display, which matches the display found on the new iPhone 5. Well, I just did. All the new apps being tailored for the iPhone 5 screen look and work beautifully here as well. HD movies look great. And, of course, pictures.

In January 2007, when Steve Jobs took the stage to unveil the iPhone, he set it up this way:

Today we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough internet communications device.

So, three things. A widescreen iPod with touch controls. A revolutionary mobile phone. And a breakthrough internet communications device. An iPod. A phone. And an internet communicator. An iPod. A phone. Are you getting it?

These are not three separate devices. This is one device.

This new iPod touch could be set up the same way — with a slight tweak. A widescreen iPod with touch controls. A breakthrough internet communicator. A powerful portable gaming machine. And a great point-and-shoot camera. These are not four separate devices. This is one device.