Why the iPod touch is still totally relevant

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It's a repair manual! The iPod touch can be anything.
It's a repair manual! The iPod touch can be anything.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPod touch exists to be used by waiters, warehouse staff, delivery persons, and anyone else whose employer wants them to use an iOS device as a handheld on-the-job computer. That’s why it just got an update, and it’s probably why it hasn’t — and never will — change size or shape. It is a utility computer. Making it an all-screen, buttonless iPhone-lite is pointless. Adding Touch ID is equally useless when it is used by multiple people.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a great device for everyone else. If you need a utility iOS computer, then you should buy it. Musicians are one great example of potential users. Let’s see why the iPod Touch is still great.

An iPhone-lite

This is how we made iPhones before 2007.
This is how we made iPhones before 2007.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The original iPod touch was wonderful. I used one for several years instead of an iPhone. Back then, pre-pay SIMs with data plans didn’t exist where I lived. I refuse to buy a phone on contract, so the only way to get an iOS device was the iPod touch. I djayed parties from it, read novels, and even took crappy photos (its one weakness was the poor camera quality on early models). Moreover, it was always way thinner and lighter than the concurrently-available iPhones.

And it was cheap. After one great impromptu DJ session, where the other guests showed their appreciation with endless gin-and-tonics, I woke up the next morning with a massive dent in the back of my iPod touch, and a shattered screen on the front. I must have staggered and fallen on something on the way home.

But because it’s so cheap, relatively-speaking, I was able to afford to go out and buy a replacement right away, hangover and all.

iPad mini mini

“It’s best to think of the iPod Touch as a very small, $199 iPad,” says Manton Reece, the developer behind Micro.blog. “I think the value for that price is better than any other Apple product.”

The new iPod touch costs $199 for the 32GB model, which is too little storage for a general-purpose pocket computer, but fine for use as a waiters’ order pad. The 128GB version is $299, and the 256GB model costs $399. That’s already into iPad mini territory, so let’s consider the base model.

iPod touch for musicians

Yes, it has a headphone jack. Yes, it has a headphone jack.

I’m a musician, and I use and iPad for everything computer-related when it comes to music. But sometimes all I need is a little device to record a snatch of music, or to hook up to, say, a MIDI keyboard in order to (badly) play a piano part.

At $199, an iPod touch could sit at the center of a music hardware rig, and remain always connected. You wouldn’t have to plug in your iPhone just to record an idea you had on the guitar. You won’t have to unplug the mini-brain of your studio when you leave the house. And you can use it as a Apple Music (or Spotify) jukebox that’s always hooked up to great speakers.

In this case, 32GB is fine. You’re at home, so you have Wi-Fi, and maybe you already subscribe to a 1TB iCloud plan. You have all the storage you need, and because you’re not clogging the thing up with photos and other cruft, 32 GB might actually be enough. Plus, with iCloud drive, anything you create will be immediately available on your bigger, more capable devices.

Less is more

Touch ID? Not necessary. If it’s usually at home, you can set a generous auto-lock timeout, say an hour, and just wake it with the home button. Or leave the screen on always, if it’s connected to a charger. Inductive charging? Pointless. Face ID? All-screen design? Ditto.

It has a headphone jack, and it comes in pink. What's not to love?
It has a headphone jack, and it comes in pink. What’s not to love?
Photo: Apple

And if you do need to take it out to a gig, the lack of cellular connectivity is a boon: no interruptions. If it gets broken or stolen, then no big deal. And it’s tiny. An iPad mini may be small, but unless you wear dorky cargo pants, you can’t carry it in a pocket.

It’s not just for musicians. I just picked that because it’s my interest. Any time you could use a small, cheap iOS device, and you don’t need the latest bells and whistles, then consider the little iPod touch. It’s still pretty great. And cheap.