Apple has finally updated what many Apple fans thought was a forgotten device: the iPod. And the company gave the iPod Touch some significant upgrades, which make it just as powerful as the iPhone models that came before the current iPhone 6. As The Cheat Sheet reported recently, French website iGen revealed Apple’s plans to update the iPod lineup just a few days before Apple introduced “the best iPod Touch yet.”
While the company unveiled new colors for the whole iPod line, it updated the iPod Touch with the A8 chip, the M8 motion coprocessor, an 8MP camera, and an improved FaceTime camera “for even better selfies.” The specifications of Apple’s new iPod Touch actually beat all of the iPhones before the iPhone 6.
What the upgrades haven’t changed is the fact that the lack of cellular data connectivity on the WiFi-only iPod Touch makes it a niche product But Apple Insider’s Neil Hughes notes that the upgraded hardware makes the iPod Touch “a formidable and highly affordable opponent to the company’s mid-range iPhone 5s,” which makes it a newly attractive choice for some types of consumers.
The new iPod Touch is actually more powerful than the iPhone 5s, which just a year ago was Apple’s flagship iPhone. The iPod Touch features the 64-bit A8 processor that supports Metal-optimized games, and the M8 motion coprocessor that’s capable of step-tracking, starting at just $199. The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, starts at $549 without a contract for the same 16GB of internal memory, and is equipped with the older, slower A7 processor and the less-capable M7 motion coprocessor.
Both the new iPod Touch and the iPhone 5s feature the same four-inch Retina display with a 1,136-by-640 pixel resolution, but the iPod Touch is significantly thinner and lighter than the iPhone 5s. However, as always, thinness comes at a cost, and the iPhone 5s has a greater advertised battery life than the iPod Touch.
The iPod Touch has been updated to support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which brings it in line with the iPhone 6 and beats the iPhone 5s, which supports 802.11n. The iPod Touch also supports Bluetooth 4.1, which makes it the first Apple product to support the specification. However, the updated iPod lacks GPS, and while location data is available while on WiFi, that’s not necessarily reliable for users on the go. Similarly, the iPhone 5s has a dedicated high speed LTE chip. When paired with a mobile data plan, the iPhone can access the Internet from anywhere that there’s cellular signal, while the iPod Touch relies on WiFi networks. Additionally, you can’t use Apple Pay because it lacks a TouchID fingerprint sensor (though you can’t do that on the iPhone 5s, either, since both devices lack NFC capabilities).
Both the iPod Touch and the iPhone 5s feature the 8MP iSight camera, but Hughes notes that there are some differences between the two. Most users won’t notice the difference between the images taken on the devices, though for true mobile photography enthusiasts, the iPhone 5s has a slight edge. The camera in the iPod Touch has a maximum aperture of f/4.2, while that in the iPhone 5s has a maximum aperture of f/2.2. The iPhone 5s also features a True Tone flash module to produce true-to-life images in dark settings, while the flash on the iPod Touch is likely a standard white camera flash.
The iPhone 5s also has automatic image stabilization, which the iPod Touch lacks; and automatic high dynamic range seems to be limited to the front-facing FaceTime camera on the iPod Touch, while both the FaceTime and iSight cameras of the iPhone 5s are equipped with the feature. But one area where the camera of the iPod Touch definitively beats that of the iPhone 5s is in the resolution of panoramic images, as Apple says that the new iPod Touch can capture panoramas up to 43MP.
Brian Barrett notes at Wired that an iPod Touch hasn’t been an attractive choice for most people for a while, though it’s been a popular purchase for parents of school-age children and tweens who aren’t yet ready for a smartphone. But in the newly upgraded iPod Touch, consumers can get a smaller iOS device that’s easier to use on a run or at the gym, a backup device that’s half the price of the cheapest iPad, or simply a device that offers inexpensive access to the latest iOS apps to accompany a cheaper phone. As Barrett notes, “if you’re comfortable leaning on a VoIP app for phone calls, you can also use the iPod touch as your main phone in a pinch.”
Barrett notes that the 2012 iPod Touch could conceivably complete some of the same tasks. But the performance of its processor and camera, while passable, aren’t anywhere near the standards of Apple’s newer devices. But Apple’s choice to equip the iPod Touch with the A8 chip, instead of the A7 chip that iGen had predicted, gives the device enough processing power to last several years without feeling outdated.