iPod touch-down in AustraliaOctober 3, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Posted in iPod, iTunes | 3 Comments
The iPod touch went on sale yesterday throughout Australia. I popped down to my local tricky-dicky’s and picked up an 8GB model. I had been ringing my local store once a week since Apple announced the new lineup on the 5th September. The woman who I spoke to offered to put one aside for me as they had been selling fast that morning. The iPod touch is particularly sort after in Australia as we have yet to get the iPhone here.
I really want to see the how the new display looked and try out first hand (literally) the new touchscreen interface. When I got it home, I plugged it in via the standard USB adapter. iTunes immediately began synching my music collection. I was a little surprised that it didn’t start downloading a multitude of firmware patches and security updates, given that it’s been released for over 3 weeks now. I don’t know what could have conditioned me into expecting that sort of behaviour.
The first thing to try was the cover flow display. This looks the same as in iTunes but is much more compelling when you’re using your fingers to shuffle through the album covers.
Go to the start or end of your collection and give your finger an extra flick to see the display hit the end and bounce back a couple of albums. Find an album you like, tap it and it flips over to display a list of tracks. Use you finger to scroll the list of tracks up and down. Tap a track and it begins to play. Tap the top right corner and the album flips back to display the cover again.
I had a couple of little helpers (3.5 and 5 years) who also had no trouble in mastering the interface. All in all, cover flow is intuitive, looks stunning, feels great, and is way cool.
The next feature of the iPod touch to try out was internet surfing using the built in Safari browser and the wifi connection. The first thing to do was to configure my ADSL modem/wireless router for wireless. Plug in the aerial, turn on wireless, enable WPA2 security.
Now to see up the iPod. Select Settings -> Wifi. The iPod automatically starts looking for wireless networks. It found 3, my own and a couple of others in the neighbourhood. Two had little padlocks beside their entries indicating encrypted networks but what do you know, one of my neighbours has a completely open network. Select this network, launch the Safari web browser and I’m surfing the Internet on my iPod touch using my neighbour’s wireless network. This weekend I’ll have to walk around the garden and use the signal strength indicator to work out exactly which neighbour is providing free internet access. I’m sure they’re not aware of the community service they’re providing.
The browsing experience itself is surprisingly useable. Entering URLs via the onscreen keyboard requires a precise touch as the keys are not all that large. However pressing a key does provide satisfying feedback. In addition to a nice click, the key will briefly zoom out and back again. Rendering of web pages on the display is very nice. Zooming in and out and panning is very easy using the touch screen. Text is large and clear once you’ve zoomed in. You can view a page in portrait or landscape mode just by swivelling the iPod. The built in accelerometer detects which way you are holding your iPod and adjusts the display accordingly.
I then tried viewing a YouTube video. What I didn’t realize is that a dedicated YouTube interface is built right in. I expected that you would just use the Safari web brower to navigate to YouTube. Instead when you select the YouTube icon you are taken to a screen where you can browse Featured and Most Viewed clips for Today, This Week or All. You can also Search or select previously bookmarked clips. The display is easily capable of handling the low quality YouTube clips. I found download times to be a little slow but then that’s probably just due to my internet connection (perhaps I should see if I get better performance using the neighbour’s).
To really test the display, I synched a selection of photos. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements to manage my photo albums and iTunes will directly import albums from Photoshop Elements. Once on the iPod, you can choose to view individual photos from a thumbnail view or you can simply view all as a slideshow. The iPod touch’s widescreen 320 x 480 pixel display is perfect for displaying photos. They look like a digital version of 6″ x 4″ prints. The touch’s screen really does make a very capable photo browser.
I’ve only touched on a few of the highlights here today. I’ll be giving it it’s first road test tomorrow during my daily commute. It will be interested to see over the next few weeks which features I use on a regular basis.
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