Apple released the 4th Generation iPod touch in September of last year, and I purchased one. They added a couple of cameras, the retina display, and squished it flat. Now some have been wondering what’s left for Apple to put into the iPod touch. Some think that the era of the iPod is over. I don’t think so. iPod sales maybe declining overall, but the iPod touch is still selling and more importantly, still growing. It dominates the Portable Media Player (PMP) market like nobodies’ uncle and it’s beginning to cut into Nintendo’s portable gaming market too (personally, I’d blame Angry Birds). I don’t think the iPod will continue exactly as it has for the last decade. That is to say I think the form factor is changing. Changing from a dedicated iPod device to an app that comes on our iPhones and iPads. I’m not saying Apple’s iPod business will dry up overnight. They did sell 9 million in Q2 of FY11. So, what can Apple do to upgrade their arguably most popular iPod? I’m gonna divide this into 2 sections, hardware and software, each with several subsections. I’m going to focus on the software because that’s where I believe the most improvements can be had.
The only thing that would surprise me is if Apple didn’t put the Dual Core A5 Processor in the touch. They introduced it in the iPad 2 and are most certainly going to have it in their next generation iPhone as well. This is one of two things that I’m absolutely sure of when the iPod touch will most likely get a refresh in September. The other is…
A Better Camera
The iPod touch can already take HD video; however, the same can’t be said for it’s pictures. It take pretty decent outside pictures but doesn’t have a flash and subsequently take horrendous inside and night photos. When Apple upgraded the cameras in the iPhone they did it slowly. First 2MP (Megapixel), then 3 MP, and currently a really good 5MP camera on iPhone 4. Despite the lack of excellent photo quality and a flash on the iPod touch, I still use it to take photos and video. I don’t have point-and-shoot camera and this iPod is one of the reasons I don’t. My fear is that Apple will slowly upgrade the iPod touches camera to leave something for the 6th and 7th gen devices. Maybe go to 2 or 3MP this time around and 5 or 6 the next time. I hope they just jump to 5MP and add a flash. We know they have the technology.
Apple’s on this streak where they think that each new version of a product they ship needs to be thinner then the previous. There comes a point in time where they’re iOS devices won’t just be competing with the best Android phones, but also with paper for thinness. I have one request, Apple. Just because you are trying to compete with paper, doesn’t mean you need to have products just as thin as it.
This is the more interesting stand point of a possible next generation iPod touch. It’s likely we find out much about Apple’s plans at WWDC (2 weeks away). iOS 5 is likely going to be announced there and it is rumored to be a major upgrade for iOS devices. Below are a few of many suggestions.
The thing about iOS is it’s all about apps. That was the big thing. While that’s still important (and believe me, I love a good app) Apple has always been about apps. This is no more obvious than the fact that they trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that” (Please, Apple lawyers. I’m sorry for using your phrase and please don’t make me pay royalties). I think that they do need to stick with their guns, but within their own, homegrown apps, there needs to be more integration. For instance, bring the messaging app from the iPhone but change it a little. Keep the Interface (which I really like) and integrate with other services. Even though the iPod doesn’t have a carrier or cellular network connection, do a cheap (or free, free is always good) texting service and integrate Facebook chat. Make it the messaging hub.
Now I doubt that they would do a texting service due to the carriers who would be totally ticked off if Apple did that. Still, many teens have a really cheap phone which they text on (and make phone calls I guess) and an iPod touch for games, apps and media. Why not blur the line a little with your own texting service? Cheaper than the carriers, Apple is one of the few companies that would be able to do this, due the massive number of iPod touches already on the market. A texting service would most likely be widely used, forcing wireless carriers into bringing down their high texting rates. I know many people who use their iPod touch and an app that allows then to text for free, so I have no doubt that this would (1) be popular and (2) be more well thought out, designed and implemented (ad-free) if Apple simply did it themselves.
Integration w/ Facebook chat would also be huge. I’ve heard that for sure email and now even texting is declining in use, while not by as much as people are abandoning RIM’s BlackBerry smartphone (burn) the number of people texting has begun a slow decline in favor of instant messaging (IM). I believe so too. I find myself chatting with people on Facebook far more frequently than I find myself texting them.
For some reason, it’s always bugged me that on the iPhone and iPad, music is found on the app labeled “iPod” while on the iPod touch it’s labeled “Music”. The iPod touch does so much more than music now. I hope Apple will just streamline that. I would like it so much better. I also like the more yellow icon on the iPod app as opposed to the red-orange of the Music app. I’ve actually stopped using the Music app on my iPod touch and have very little music stored locally on the device.
They need to do one of two things here. Either make syncing substantially faster or make it wireless.
The second option would be preferred. The lack of Over The Air (OTA) syncing has caused me to look elsewhere for both Music and Podcast apps that can get their content OTA. I found apps for both on the App Store. There’s an app for that. The drawback of the podcast app is it doesn’t store or keep track of podcasts I’ve listened to on my computer, but I have reserved myself to listen to podcast only on my iPod, which is fine.
That’s a wrap
I would love to see Apple implement all of these features in iOS 5 but well have to see, And really, I’m dying to find out what Apple is going to show at WWDC in June. I’ve come to trust Apple and their abilities to do what customers want, make customers want something they don’t need, and leapfrog the competition all at the same time. Then again, I could be wrong. One thing’s for sure, the iPod touch has become, by far, the most popular “iPhone without a contract”(1).
(1) Steve Jobs during an Apple Special Event in September, 2010