The other day I got an e-mail from Jacob, the managing agent of my apartment building, a young guy who knows I work for CNET.
"Hey," he wrote, "Have you reviewed the iPod Touch yet? Should I buy it?"
This was the day after it was announced, so no, I hadn't reviewed it--or even seen it. But I didn't have to. With a few properly posed questions, any tech buying advice hack should be able to pass judgment and impart wisdom to those seeking help.
"Do you have an iPod?" I wrote back, suspecting he did, since it seems that just about everybody I know owns at least one iPod--and sometimes two or three.
Lo and behold, he had the 30GB iPod. And it was in perfect working condition. So, why would he want the new iPod Touch?
"I don't know," he said. "It just seemed cool."
Such is the power of Steve Jobs and Apple these days. Every time a new iPod or iPhone comes out, your natural reflex is, "I want that." Even if you basically have it already. Some aren't capable of restraint, but for a lot of people, after the initial impulse passes, a bit of logical reasoning sets in. And the fact is, the iPod Touch is sort of a stupid product. Cool, yes, but not worth buying--particularly if you already own an iPod with video capabilities.
Why? Well--and this is what I told Jacob--the Touch is just the iPhone minus the phone and a couple of other key features. So, you're better off buying an iPhone. Or more precisely, I told him to wait to buy the next-generation iPhone when it comes out early next year. It'll cost the same as the current 8GB iPhone, have more memory (probably 16GB, which would match the memory in the $400 iPod Touch) and offer true 3G data rates, none of this EDGE crap.
Is it the wrong time to buy a new iPod or iPhone?
That's the play, I said. That's the Apple mobile device I'd consider buying at $400. Sure, it would help if the iPhone had an expansion slot for more memory and wasn't offered exclusively by AT&T (I'm on Sprint and currently using a Mogul
, which falls short on slick interface, but has all the functionality of the iPod--plus true 3G data speeds, support for my corporate e-mail, and the ability to stream live TV from my Slingbox
). But perfection is elusive in the tech world.
To be clear, all that timing was rampant conjecture on my part--I didn't have an Apple insider telling me when the new iPhone is coming. Since then, however, Steve Jobs has apparently confirmed a 3G model for 2008, and TheStreet.com cites an anonymous source as saying it'll hit before April. The point I'm trying to make, though, is that all these devices become a tougher sell when they're essentially competing against each other. And it doesn't help when you already have an iPod that's working fine.
The more I think about it, there's nothing in the new lineup that makes me want to jump from my current 80GB video-enabled iPod. I like the new Nano, but the scant 8GB to 16GB capacities just aren't ideal for a video device. You know my thoughts on the Touch. And the Classic is just my model with a bit of a makeover.
The iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPod Classic: A hat trick of bad deals?
Ah, but there's the second kind of iPod owner: The guy--or gal--who's recently experienced the loss of an iPod through malfunction, death by dropping, theft, or just stupidly leaving it somewhere. Take Assistant Editor Jeff Bakalar: his 2004-era 40GB iPod Photo began its death throes a couple of weeks ago (almost eerily timed with the announcement of the latest models). After days of freezing up and randomly restarting, it finally gave up the ghost: now it simply displays the dreaded "sick iPod" logo on the screen.
I'm not sure what I'd do if I was starting from scratch. If I lost my iPod, what would I buy? I wouldn't be thrilled with the idea of replacing it with the exact same thing and I'm not sure that "Classic" is the best name for a product--it implies old when you want new. What I'd really be interested in is an 80GB to 160GB version of the Touch. Or actually, I'd feel OK with a 16GB Touch that had an expansion slot for more memory. As prices for flash memory continue to drop, that would provide a little future-proofing for the device--or at least it would foster the notion that I wouldn't outgrow it too quickly.
Unfortunately, that's not exactly what Apple has in mind. Steve Jobs wants you to replace your iPod every year, regardless of whether it still works or not. He's said as much. He wants you to carry an 80GB iPod with video with your 8GB iPhone, even if the iPhone is supposed to be the ultimate all-in-one device. That's fine. That's good business practice. And I don't begrudge him creating shareholder value.
Eventually, though, consumers are going to get pickier. After their third iPod, they're going to show some restraint and demand those little extra features that should really be in a next-generation iPod (for example, some sort of option for connecting wireless headphones--whether it be via Bluetooth or another wireless technology). That's why I held out from buying an iPhone and advised others to do the same. And that's why I laughed when the price rug got pulled out from under everyone who did buy.
The fact is, there's a right and a wrong time to buy Apple products. When the 80GB iPod with video came out last year for $350, that was a good time to buy or upgrade. This is the wrong time, though. If you're with AT&T and dropped your Treo and need a new smart phone, I can understand buying an iPhone; I'll give you a pass. The same goes for anyone who's sitting on a dead iPod or has a birthday or holiday gift wish that you just have to fulfill. But everyone else, take a deep breath. Look at the Touch. Touch the Touch. Think it's cool. But wait. It'll be worth it.
Is it the wrong time to buy a new iPod or iPhone? Click the TalkBack button to get your two cents in.