Toy of the day: iPod Touch

The iPod Touch.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: Just in time for the holiday shopping season, technophiles looking for the latest in smart phones or music players have an abundance of choices.

Microsoft released the latest version of its Zune MP3 player yesterday. Today, Verizon unveiled some new handsets, including something called the Voyager. Their target, of course, is pretty much anything made by Apple -- either the iPhone or its newest iPod, called the Touch.

Kevin Pereira from G4 television's here to talk gadgets. Hey Kevin, how are you? What's the toy of the day?

Kevin Pereira: The toy of the day is one you can't get your hands on if you go to the store and everyone's clamoring for it -- it's the new iPod Touch.

RYSSDAL: All right, let's refresh people's memory -- what exactly is the iPod Touch?

Pereira: Well, the iPod Touch is sort of like the iPhone, without the ability to actually call people. So if you have the latest firmware for your iPhone, it's actually just like the iPhone. Here it is, iPod Touch...

RYSSDAL: It's thinner, though, right? I'm no iPod connoisseur.

Pereira: Well, here's the iPhone to compare -- definitely thinner, definitely lighter, the back is a kind of brushed metal instead of this matte finish, which means all your fingerprints and makeup smudges if you're in TV like me, they're going to show up whether you want it to or not.

RYSSDAL: Oh, you TV guys with the makeup. Who's going to buy this thing?

Pereira: People who didn't want to sign up for AT&T, and people who want a new iPod with the cool touchscreen interface. Now, if you've got 160 gigs worth of music, obviously that's not going to fit -- the device comes in eight and 16 gig flavors, which is a couple of hours of music, not a couple of years' worth of music. So if you want a smaller library, a nice thin device, if you like watching videocasts on the bus or in the bathroom -- hey, there you go.

RYSSDAL: How much is this going to set me back?

Pereira: Uh, 400 bucks.

RYSSDAL: I'm sorry -- say that again?

Pereira: That'll be $400 for the 16-gig version -- but it's also an Internet-enabled device. So not only do you have your music and your videocasts, but if you're in a cafe or at a Starbucks, you can pull it out, surf the Net, send e-mail, watch YouTube videos... you can do all that from the one device.

RYSSDAL: One would hope that Steve Jobs has learned his lesson, but what's to promise me that in two months, I'm not going to be able to get this for $200 cheaper?

Pereira: I can promise you that in probably four months, you will be able to get it for $100 to $200 cheaper.

RYSSDAL: So I'm not buying this today -- as cool as it is, I'm not going to go out and buy it now.

Pereira: Well, that's a good thing, because they're sold out everywhere. You can go and order it online and you're still not going to get it for a couple of months.

RYSSDAL: Did all the cool stuff make it over from the phone, minus the phone part?

Pereira: No, that's the sad thing -- it's the same software as the iPhone running on the iPod Touch, and yet they took out some really critical applications -- e-mail being one of them. Now, you can use the Safari Web browser, connect to GMail and send e-mail that way. But there's no built-in e-mail application. And a lot of people are upset because this hasn't been hacked yet, like the iPhone -- so you can't get cool games, or GPS, or any other neat applications on it yet. That will come in time, but for right now it is just a device for people who want to keep their current cell phone, have a new iPod and be able to browse the Net from time to time.

RYSSDAL: Let's talk about Apple -- the company and the business -- before I let you go here. Obviously, the iPhone is a paradigm-changing thing. It absolutely changed the terms of the debate on cell phones and music players and all that good stuff. Is the iPod Touch going to do that?

Pereira: No. In a short answer, no. The iPod Touch is really competing with the other brands of iPods, and with the iPhone itself. There are competitors making WiFi-enabled video players out there. So it's not a paradigm shift -- but Apple as a company is now in a precarious position. Where they used to be the company for the consumer, and now that they've entered the markets with protected media, and companies wanting to secure data, and lock you into contracts, people are starting to look and frown upon Apple for making them pay a buck for a song and another buck for a ringtone.

RYSSDAL: So really, it's only going to get harder for them?

Pereira: Definitely. They have a very uphill battle from here on out. The good for Apple is, they've got the best hardware -- they've got the sexiest phone people want. The bad news is, they're alienating customers left and right by locking them out of their phones and making them upgrade iTunes to lose certain functionalities. So, they have a balancing act ahead of them, and it's going to be interesting to see how it shakes out.

RYSSDAL: Kevin Pereira with the show G4 -- Kevin, thanks a lot.

Pereira: Thank you, Kai.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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