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It’s already been a really busy year for new Apple products, but despite all of the rapid-fire releases of new iPads, AirPods, iMacs, and MacBooks, one rumoured device remained conspicuously absent: the update to Apple’s iPod touch.
It seems, however, that the basic rumours were correct, and with only days to go to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company has decided to clear the stage by quietly announcing the new device this morning via a press release.
The seventh-generation iPod touch isn’t the dramatic upgrade that some had hoped for — there’s no Face ID or OLED display, or even Liquid Retina. In fact, the new iPod touch rather ironically doesn’t even support Touch ID. That said, we’re not all that surprised, as this lines up with code that was found in the iOS 12.2 betas back in January.
The fact is that the iPod touch has always been positioned as an entry-level device — sort of a “gateway” to the iOS ecosystem for those who can’t or won’t buy an iPhone. With the sixth-generation iPod touch not having been updated since 2015, it was getting long in the tooth — the A8 CPU was a year behind the equivalent iPhones even then, so really it offered performance somewhere slightly shy of the iPhone 6. So needless to say, it was well past time for an update — especially with rumours that the iOS 13 will be dropping support for all of the other iPhone and iPad models of that era.
While the new iPod touch may not pack in all of the latest and greatest Apple technology, it’s still a respectable upgrade that will breathe some new life into the device and make it a viable low-cost option for those who want to play in the iOS ecosystem — especially for kids who can’t have an iPhone.
However, although the iPod touch usually lagged a year behind current iPhone performance, Apple has put this one two years behind, incorporating the 2016-era A10 Fusion chip, rather than the A11 Bionic. To put this in perspective, the new iPod touch should roughly parallel an iPhone 7 in terms of performance, although there will probably be other factors like memory that will make it come in slightly slower than that.
This is enough for Apple to heavily promote the ability of the new iPod touch to support augmented reality applications and Group FaceTime, which is actually kind of a big deal considering its $199 entry-level price tag. Of course, it should also be a viable gaming platform — an option that Apple almost certainly wants to offer with Apple Arcade set to debut this fall. True to the name “iPod” it’s still a solid choice for Apple Music users.
Apple is also offering the iPod touch in a 256 GB capacity for the first time, which will be especially important for a device that has to rely on Wi-Fi rather than the much more ubiquitous cloud connection that the iPhone provides.
What Hasn’t Changed
Basically, other than the new A10 CPU and 256 GB model, the seventh-generation iPod touch is identical to its four-year-old predecessor in every other way. There’s literally nothing else remarkable or exciting about the new model.
Externally, it’s the exact same design as the sixth-generation model — the casing, dimensions, and weight are exactly the same, and it’s still packing in a four-inch screen, and a traditional home button. It’s also available in the same six colours: Space Gray, Gold, Silver, Pink, Blue, and (PRODUCT)RED. You’ll likely have a hard time distinguishing between the fifth, sixth, and seventh-generation iPod touch models on appearance alone.
Not surprisingly, the screen hasn’t gotten any kind of an upgrade either. It’s still the same old standard IPS LCD with an 800:1 contrast ratio, 326 ppi pixel density, and 500 nit max brightness level. It seems like a larger, brighter, and/or higher-resolution screen would have been especially desirable upgrades for a device that’s poised to be a portal to Apple Arcade.
The cameras also remain entirely identical to the prior model, which is to say extremely basic: the rear shooter is okay at 8 MP, but the front “FaceTime HD” camera remains at a rather stingy 1.2 MP. You can still shoot only 1080p 30fps video on the rear camera, and 720p on the front. One subtle difference, however, is that the A10 chip now enables the ability to store photos and videos in the more efficient HEIF and HEVC formats.
Wireless technologies remain the same also — the new iPod touch doesn’t even get a bump up to the 2014-era Bluetooth 4.2, in fact, although at least the full spectrum of Wi-Fi protocols are supported, right up to 802.11.ac. That said, Apple’s AirPods worked fine with the sixth-generation iPod touch, so the older Bluetooth won’t be a problem for simply pairing up headphones, which is what the iPod touch is really designed to be used with.
So What’s The Point?
We really weren’t holding our breath for a major redesign of the iPod touch, however what Apple has just announced was slightly disappointing even by our already low standards. The two-year-old A10 rather than an A11 CPU, the same 1.2 MP camera on a device that Apple is promoting for FaceTime use, and not even the slightest design refresh suggest that Apple has really just done the bare minimum to be able to keep selling the iPod touch rather than letting the four-year-old sixth-gen model die off.
It’s clear more than ever that Apple really wants you to buy an iPhone, but if you simply can’t have an iPhone, it’s leaving the iPod touch out there so that you can still be a part of the iOS ecosystem, and able to take part in Apple’s monthly services like Apple Music and the upcoming Apple Arcade.
That said, there’s no reason to dismiss the new iPod touch completely. Of course, it’s not an iPhone — nor is its intended to be — but there were still lots of great uses for the old sixth-generation model, and now that you can get an A10-equipped version for the exact same price, it’s an even better option for those who want a lower-cost device for their kids to play with or to use in the car, around the house, or outdoors where you might not want to take out your more expensive iPhone.