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Apple's iPod Touch Gen 4
Wednesday, December 28, 2011  

I remember when vacations were real vacations. A cruise meant no televisions, no telephones, no Internet, no email, you get the idea. People take their kids on a cruise so they can sit in the stateroom all day and do what they do at home…play video games! I don’t get it. Nevertheless, the electronic age is here whether we like it or not, and people are addicted to cell phones, email, computers and every other gadget imaginable.

Recently, I acquired a 4th Generation Apple iPod Touch. The iPod Touch looks like a slimmer version of the iPhone, but without the phone part. When iPods were originally introduced, they were dedicated to storing and playing digital music files. However, the iPod Touch offers a lot more capabilities that make it a formidable travel companion. Most iPhone “apps” will work on the iPod Touch and it has similar built-in photo and video capabilities. This makes the iPod Touch a potentially good travel companion.

On our recent Alaska cruise with InnerSea Discoveries, I decided to put my iPod Touch to the test. Since the ship did not have any television programming, I decided to download some movies to my iPod (from the iTunes Store). I purchased a composite video cable connection kit at Walmart before the trip that allows the iPod to be connected to a television.

As far as music, I already had several dozen songs on the iPod that were purchased through iTunes.

MUSIC

Of course, this is what the iPod was originally designed for. Music files (songs) can easily be transferred to the iPod Touch using iTunes, Apple's free software for Mac or PC. iTunes will display all of the music files you have purchased from them as well as any movies you have rented, movies you have imported, photos stored in iPhoto and more. Plugging your iPod Touch into the USB port of your Mac (in my case) or PC will launch iTunes and allow you to sync the files you want to take with you on your iPod Touch.

iTunes is used to sync files from your computer with your iPod Touch

Playing your songs is as simple pressing the Music button on the iPod Touch. You will be presented with your Playlist selections from which to choose. Even though the iPod Touch Gen 4 has a built-in speaker, the audio quality and volume is poor, so using the ear buds that come with the iPod, or aftermarket ear buds/headphones (see below) are recommended. You may also plug the iPod into external speakers for a richer sound that can be enjoyed by more than one person.

PHOTOS AND VIDEO

One more compelling reason to travel with an iPod Touch is the built-in photo and HD video capabilities. Actually, the iPod Touch has two cameras, one faces the front (away from the screen) and one is mounted on the screen side. When using the Camera app, you can toggle between the lenses. The screen is used for composing your photos/videos. When using the rear mounted lens, you can easily take a photo of yourself or you and a friend and see exactly what the camera sees before snapping the photo.

Taking Pictures


Taking a picture with your iPod Touch is pretty straightforward. Click the Camera app icon on the screen. When the app opens, the screen will basically turn into a monitor showing you what you are about to take a photo of. A small control strip appears at the bottom of the screen. The Control Strip allows you to switch between Photo and Video shooting modes. The shutter button displays either a camera icon (photo mode) or a red Record button (video mode). Pressing this button will snap a photo. You will hear a traditional camera shutter release sound and the snapped photo will be taken and saved to the Camera Roll on your iPod Touch. A small icon representation of the last photo taken will appear at the left hand side of the Control Strip. If you want to play/view your photo, clicking the Photo icon will open the Camera Roll and display the most recently shot image.

To switch between lenses, you can click the Toggle icon on the screen. You can change the Auto Focus point by tapping on the screen where you want the camera to focus. Pressing on the screen will also display the Zoom slider along the bottom of the image. You can zoom in by dragging the slider to the + side. However, the iPod Touch uses a digital zoom, not optical. So, your images will be much more grainy if you use this feature.

Shooting Video

Shooting video footage uses the Camera app. To being shooting video, you toggle from Camera mode to Video mode. Press the red Record button and the iPod Touch will begin recording video. The Record button will begin to flash indicating that the camera is recording, and an elapsed timer will appear on the screen. The iPod Touch will continue to record until you press the Record (stop) button again. When recording is stopped, the iPod Touch will save your video clip in the Camera Roll. You can also switch between the front and rear camera lenses when shooting video.

Quality

The iPod Touch does a pretty poor job on photos and a better job on video, but it should not be considered a replacement for a stand-alone camera or camcorder. To its credit, the iPod actually will capture HD video at 720p. The photo quality is about what you would expect from a cell phone while the video quality is comparable to a low-end pocket digital camera. iPod's biggest limitation is the tiny lens. Another is the digital image stabilization. Shooting video while holding the iPod Touch will deliver a fair amount of hand shake. And, since there is no simple way to attach a tripod, most people will be limited to handheld shots. Another limitation is the lack of a flash. Therefore, you really need a fair amount of light to get decent shots.

EMAIL AND INTERNET

Another benefit of the iPod Touch is that you are able to access the Internet using Wi-Fi. Apple's Safari web browser comes pre-loaded on the iPod Touch as does an Email app. It is feasible that you could take an iPod Touch with you as your only connection to the outside world when traveling. Why carry a laptop when you can access the Internet on your iPod?

OTHER FEATURES

The list of other things that an iPod Touch can do is endless. There are thousands of apps, many of which are of value to travelers. One app that I use all the time is the Currency Conversion app. It comes in handy when in a foreign country trying to figure out what something costs. There are also map capabilities, alarm clocks, calendars, you name it.

iPod Accessories

The iPod Touch by itself makes a decent travel companion, but there are a few aftermarket accessories that really take the iPod to the “next level”. I already mentioned the A/V connector purchased at Walmart which allowed us to watch our movies on the television.

For listening to music, we also tried the iLuv iSP110 portable speakers. This is an excellent, portable speaker option as it is small, battery operated and durable. The sound is surprisingly rich coming from the two small speakers. The clamshell design opens via a zipper around the edge so that the iPod can be carried inside...genius. The whole system can be attached to a belt loop or lanyard using the attached strap and clip. For around $15, this is the best value of any iPod accessory we found.

Every iPod Touch needs some sort of external protection. I mean, who wants to scratch up that pretty polished surface? We tried out a couple of different iPod “jackets” on this trip. The iLuv flexible jacket is a stylish neoprene rubbery cover that slips over the back of the iPod. The Jelly Belly cover is the same concept, but has a fruit scent embedded in the rubber, sure to be a hit with the teen market. Both covers come with screen protectors that can be adhered to the glass screen. However, the iLuv cover seems to be a little more substantial and provides more protection.

Even though the iPod comes with its own ear buds, we were able to test the Jelly Belly ear buds. Like the jackets, they too have the fruity scent impregnated into their material. The sound quality was a small improvement over the Apple ear buds, but an improvement nonetheless. And, Jelly Bean buds come in a variety of colors/flavors, so they definitely have a "cool" factor.

Our picks for best iPod Accessories? The iLuv Portable Speakers, iLuv protective cover/jacket and the Jelly Belly ear buds.

One of the best features of the iPod Touch is that it is very compact, yet does a lot of pretty incredible things. With Wi-Fi access, it can connect to the Internet, it can play music, it can play movies or videos, it has a built-in camera and can even shoot video footage! Heck, you can even edit video right on the iPod! So, it is basically a pocket-sized computer. When it comes to versatility, the iPod Touch is the Swiss Army Knife of travel gadgets.

OUR BOTTOM LINE

The iPod Touch is a great value for travelers. The combination of apps that can be of value for those who travel is formidable. Of course, if you have an iPhone, you also have all of the capabilities of the iPod Touch. As a primary camera, the iPod Touch comes up short. As a video camera, it is actually pretty decent, with a caveat, the iPod Touch is only effective where you have plenty of light. If you plan to shoot and store a lot of video clips, you may want the 32gb or 64 gb models.

What I like:


  • Great music player
  • Lots of helpful apps for travel use
  • Decent 720p HD video quality
  • Well made
  • Great battery life
  • Charges from USB port

What I don't like:


  • Photo quality
  • No tripod mount (at least that I can find)
  • Needs a lanyard

SAMPLE PHOTOS

Click on the thumbnail photos below to see full size images.


 
 

SAMPLE VIDEO

The video sample below uses clips that were shot using the iPod Touch. The video was edited using the iMovie App on the iPod Touch.






Reviewed by Chris Dikmen
Managing Editor of CruiseReport.com
     
     
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