My first iPod Touch

Jacob Allred

Last week I got my very first iPod Touch. I had a surge of traffic to my sites from iOS devices, and wanted to test to make sure my websites worked well on them (i.e., I wanted to make sure there were plenty of ads and that they showed up correctly).

My current phone is an Android. It works okay. Most, if not all, of its problems come from me being cheap and buying the least expensive Android phone I could. I don’t fault Android for this. I got what I paid for. However, I frequently hear that iOS is sooo much better and more intuitive and it just works and things like that, and that iPhone/iPod Touch is sooo much faster, etc. Well now that I have one I can finally compare the two side by side.

Note: For a more coherent review of iOS that states many of the points I list below, try this article. I especially liked this statement: “But I disagree that the Apple App Store is substantially better organized than the Android Market. Both are disasters.”

The first thing I noticed is that the physical buttons suck. The power button is meant to be pushed at an angle, so pushing down from the top or forward from the back doesn’t work well. If you aren’t used to this, it requires sort of an awkward whole-hand-gripping-the-iPod sort of thing. Even worse are the volume up/down buttons. I can’t find any angle of pushing on them that makes them easy to push. Surely I’m not the only one that finds the buttons hard to press.

The syncing process is, for the most part, pretty nice. I wasn’t thrilled about installing iTunes (last time I did, iTunes decided that installing Safari was an “update” that didn’t require my permission), but I really like that it will sync over WiFi without me having to plug in the device. What I don’t like is that if I install an app on my iPod, then delete it from my iPod, it somehow magically gets reinstalled the next time I sync. This is probably some configuration issue, but it is super annoying and doesn’t seem like a good default setting.

My real phone, a Samsung Intercept, has a physical qwerty keyboard. Sometimes I use the on-screen keyboard, and it isn’t too awful. The keyboard on the iPod Touch is pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Aside from there being apparently 3 or 4 different keyboard layouts depending on what app you are in and what type of field you are typing into, it doesn’t have any modern input options that don’t require you to peck each and every letter. Maybe there are replacements out there that make it better, but my Android just works… I didn’t have to find/install a new keyboard app.

The ability to integrate pretty much any email/calendar service with the iPod is pretty awesome. I got my Gmail and Google Calendar set up in about 2 minutes without any issues.

The App Store, like Google’s Android Market, sucks. It is virtually unusable on the iPod unless you know exactly what you want. For example, lets say you are browsing the top 25 free apps. You get to the end of 25 so you click the “show 25 more” button. You then click one of those to read the description, then click the back “Search” button. Bam. You are back at #1. You have to scroll all the way down, click “show 25 more” again, then find where you were at. But only sometimes. Sometimes it works like I feel it should where it remembers where you are at. I’m pretty sure inconsistent button behavior is against the rules of good UX.

The LDS apps on the iPod Touch are awesome. Overall I like them much better than the Android equivalents. I especially like how the Gospel Library app, like Safari, can have multiple windows open so you can flip back and forth. Very very cool.

However, I often find myself missing the context button that Android has. In most Android apps, you can press the context button to bring up an expanded menu that shows icons with text. Apple, and many app developers, seems to think that everyone can decipher what their little text-free icons mean. For example, the Kindle app has a button that looks like “Refresh” but is actually “Sync”. Never would have known if I didn’t click it. It also means that sometimes you have to do weird round-about things to do simple tasks. For example, to delete bookmarks in Safari you have to either swipe the bookmark then click delete, or you have to click edit then select the items you want to delete. Why can’t I just long-hold on them to get a list of options? Maybe if I started on iOS I’d see the long-hold as being the awkward way of doing it, but I don’t think so.

The iPod Touch is super fast. Except when it isn’t. Like my Android, it is sometimes blazing fast and sometimes molasses slow. I haven’t found any way of closing apps on the iPod Touch, and I’ve already had to do a reboot to fix an issue with a core app (the Music app wouldn’t acknowledge me touching the screen, but every other app would). I’ve also had several brand name apps crash on me already. I can’t remember the last time an app on my cheapo Android crashed. I think app crashes and slow downs are just a fact of life. Apple doesn’t have it any more figured out than any of the other device manufacturers.

The iPod Touch is super skinny. It looks really nice and fits well in my pocket. I’d prefer a plastic back though. The metal looks gross most of the time because of finger prints.

Hey Apple, 2007 is calling, they want their proprietary ports back. Put a micro USB port on this thing!

And oh my gosh, if it makes me type in my password one more time I swear I’m going to shoot somebody. Why in the world should I need to type my password to “buy” a free app? No money is changing hands. I have plenty of storage space. Just install the dang thing and let me use it already. I ended up having to change my password to something shorter and easier just so I could actually use my iPod.

Overall, I’m not super impressed with iOS or the iPod Touch. It has pros and cons just like any other device. Its core apps and OS has bugs and slow downs just like Android (or any other mobile platform). The UI has weird inconsistencies here and there, and generally requires me to click more buttons to get things done. I can’t get rid of or hide core apps that I don’t want. The only thing it really has going for it is that it is pretty and probably works well with its expensive cousins (like the iPad and MacBook).

I probably ought to throw this in the “rant” category, too…