Trip Report: iPod Touch

I finally gave in to iF├╝hrer Steve. A small legal issue means I’m taking public transit for the next few months, and I decided I needed some way of entertaining myself for the duration of the hour a day I am spending being bounced and jolted around Auckland.

Music playing was essential, in no way was I going to be subjected to the rantings of the poor and the homeless, nor the modern trend of blaring shitty RnB music from a shitty cellphone speaker. But once suitably cocooned in my headphones away from the world, what then, stare blankly out the window? Be “that guy” staring at attractive female patrons? Read a book?

Previous state of the art reading technology manufacture.

Hahaha. No, this is 2010, there MUST be a better way. Thankfully, Dear Fatherly Leader Steve has led the way to revolution, with the iPod touch.

Note: Stock image, shitty music portrayed does not reflect actual playlist.

What exactly is an iPod Touch? Well, for starters, it’s a device that makes everyone say “oh, you got an iPhone eh?”, to which you sheepishly reply “ummm no actually”. So for starters, it’s NOT an iPhone. It is identical in every way, except it’s not a phone. Nor does it have GPS. It works the same, uses the same apps and looks the same, with the exception of being almost half as thin, and has a shiny metal back plate. You do still get Wifi and Bluetooth, although being a US product, Bluetooth is limited to A2DP for headsets fuck all useful.

I went for the 8gb model, which has an RRP of NZ$349. Already I wish I had more space, but I was being cheap. That’s why I didn’t just get an iPhone, which would be NZ$1149 for the model I want, sans Vodafone contract. I actually think $349 is good value though – sure, it’s hell expensive for an 8gb MP3 player, but an iPod touch does MUCH more than just play MP3’s. Compare it to PDA pricing, and it actually comes out very well indeed, considering how polished the UI is and how many apps are availible.

Apps are what I really want to talk about, and what really sold me on it. As mentioned, I’m not going to cart around an expensive dead tree book all day, that’s just silly in this day and age. So what does my app load look like?

Byline – $5.29

Byline does one thing, and does it well; it syncs to my Google Reader account and offline caches all the articles. It’s the first thing I read once I get on the bus, clearing out as many of my RSS feeds as I can. Works in portrait or landscape mode, provides buttons for each article to Star or Share it, and when you sync again when back in Wifi range, it marks the read articles as read in Google Reader. It also sorts using the folders you have set up in Reader.

The only things I wish it did better are some kind of automated push sync feature and stupid feeds that only show the first paragraph of the article, but that’s not anything that is Bylines fault.

Stanza – Free

Stanza is an ebook reader. There are now plenty of places who will sell you ebooks (not to forget Amazon’s pay service and their Kindle app), and plenty of sources for free books – both public domain, and uhhh, less than legal services. Great app, you can search/purchase books from within the app itself when online, and there is a desktop app that goes with it as well, although I haven’t really used that. I got used to reading on screen a lot quicker than I thought I would, except I can’t read lying in bed with my glasses off like I do with a real book. Also features coverflow mode too, although it’s a bit slow and not as polished as that in the music part of the iPod. Also supports landscape or portrait mode, but I prefer portrait myself. No good for books with illustrations however. Stanza site.

Instapaper – Free or $6.49

I’m using the paid Pro version. Instapaper has three components, the app itself, the Instapaper website where you make an account, and a bookmarklet for your browser. When you come across a long web page you want to read later, you click the Read Later bookmarklet you have on your browser bookmarks toolbar. It magically reformats the page into a readable format, stripping out all the junk, and puts it in your account on the site. When you open the app, it syncs to your account and pulls down the new pages for you to read whenever you like. Advantages of the Pro version are that it automatically syncs when you open it, saving a single button press, but also that it remembers your position on the page you were reading and supports tilt-scrolling. Also, the developer (who was lead developer for Tumblr) seems like good people. Instapaper site.

Plants vs Zombies – $4.19

YOU MUST BUY THIS APP NOW. I’ve actually paid for it twice, once on PC and once now for iPod/iPhone. What seems like a fairly simple tower defence game turns out to be highly addictive and full of irreverent humour and utter cuteness. Possibly the best game in the history of the planet? Maybe. Look out for the Michael Jackson Thriller Zombies, and prepare to lose that level while you crack up laughing. Popcap games RULE.

Logitech TouchMouse – Free

For those of you who have media computers, this is for you. Install the server software (Windows or OSX) on the machine you want to control, and it turns your touchscreen into a full touchpad and keyboard. One glaring downside is that there is no security on the connection, but if you’re happy with that, it’s pretty good.

Remote – Free

Apples own Remote app, is highly polished, looks and works exactly like the iPod music interface, except that via wifi, it will control iTunes on your computer(s). You can even make it direct certain music to certain Airtunes speakers. Neat.

Honourable mentions

Google – Also this is less useful if you have a Google Apps account you can turn ActiveSync on for, and Byline is better at Google Reader.
Twitterrific – Seems to be the best and most simple of the various Twitter apps, is definitely way better than Hootsuite. Currently using free version, will probably upgrade to Pro version.

In summary, you can see most of my apps are based around offline usage. This would probably change if I had an iPhone and had access to 3G data coverage. As it is, I’m mostly happy with my purchase, but I would prefer more storage space (even 16gb would be fine) and really, a iPhone would be better. But, also much more expensive. And I’m also already sick of having separate devices. GAH.