Sunday, October 07, 2007

iPod Touch in Da House

A couple days before my pre-ordered 16GB iPod touch was supposed to ship (28 September), Apple Japan sends me an email stating my iPod would now ship on 10-14 October, and arrive 15-19 October. This ticked me off, as I've already heard the Touch was in Apple stores here, and I will be going to the US for 4+ weeks on 14 October. Well, before I could call the English line for Apple Japan and rip them a new one, I got another email saying that the iPod had shipped and was on its way (29 September) and could be expected on the original ETA - 4 October. Whoa! Even got my くろねこ tracking number. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived on 2 October - two days early! Woohoo!

Unboxing the Touch

The shipping box was plain old cardboard, with the packing slip taking up most of the surface. Nothing much to see here, move along. Cracking open the box shows the slick Apple packaging cradled in a tomb of cardboard.

Here is the compact box in shrink wrap. I often wonder if Apple should go back to it's more enviro-friendly plain cardboard packaging, as this seems quite wasteful. After clipping the shrink wrap and peeling it off, I get my first look at my new iPod. Note the generous soft foam padding in the box lid. The box is double-layered dense cardboard. The iPod itself is sitting on a black plastic tray (not shown) which supports it above the contents below. More waste.

The Touch was generously smothered in a layer of plastic film, front and back. In the back view you can see how the film flaps were overlapped. I also got personalized engraving (not sure why I did this now), but it's obscured by the flash. I remember how my 1st gen Nano got scratched easily after I took this off. I was a bit hesitant to remove it, to be honest.

All the instructions (all in Japanese) came in the thin black box (right, above) and there were only two pamphlets (above), with the requisite sheet of Apple stickers, and a small slip of paper with websites with contact info. One of the pamphlets was info on compliance and addresses in various countries for support. The other pamphlet was a small fold out pamphlet with slick color photos and text telling you the general features of the Touch, with very little info on how to use it, and of course the requisite URLs to download the latest iTunes, and the pdf user guide. This was a bit surprising - no full manual at all included. I think it's fine to minimize paper waste, but this slick fold-out is more promotional than practical. Maybe I wouldn't mind the pdf 'only' manual if I could actually refer to it on my iPod Touch whenever I need to.

At left you can see the thin white plastic pack that contains the Touch's accessories. Inside there is the USB cable, Apple earbuds, dock adapter, and a supposed stand.

-The USB cable is crappier than the one I got with my 1st gen Nano. The 30 pin iPod plug is half as tall as the one from my Nano and lacks the side buttons to release it from an iPod. No plastic plug covers either, but let's call that a positive enviro move.

-The dock adapter apparently works with Apple's docks (but not on my 3G iPod dock nor my old Altec-Lansing portable speakers).

-The Apple earbuds I didn't try - they are still in the shrinkwrap. I'm not bothering with those things anymore.

-The stand is a clear plastic thing that has a groove you for the Touch's edge. It's kind of like one of those plastic things used to keep photo frames standing upright. Although I suppose someone will say that its elegance is its simplicity, I would say that Apple could have done much better for the price we paid. The big problem with the stand is that you can't have the Touch plugged in to the USB cable unless it is sitting in landscape mode. Given that the menus and controls are all in portrait orientation, it's kind of stupid. I suppose this allows you to use the Touch as an digital photo frame or table/desktop movie player...

-Apple was kind enough to include a 'polishing' cloth. I think it was under the plastic tray, but I can't quite recall. This cloth is supposed to help you control the fingerprints and skin secretions that will make your shiny iPod touch look like a subway train window. Unfortunately, the grain on the cloth is too coarse to actually polish anything. I had to use a damp microfiber cloth instead (came with my PSP).

Using the Touch
I'd like to post in more detail at some point, but will try to be brief here. Without a physical manual to refer to, I've found myself just learning by doing. Yeah, I could read the PDF file on my Mac and fiddle with the Touch at the same time. Unfortunately, I mostly have time to fiddle with the Touch on the train or while I'm falling asleep in bed. So, I probably am missing some things.

Browsing photos and watching videos is a joy. The screen is awesome (no bad screen for me) and the quality of video play is at times stunning. I love being able to zoom up on photos and see the grain. Getting video content on the iPod was not difficult. I had some Frederator video podcasts sitting in my iTunes library, and there is plenty of free video podcast content out there. (National Geographic rocks!) To convert some of my digicam videos, I use the free iSquint. I prefer to save them as TV format (this app was designed for the dinky 5G iPods), and the quality is quite good. Better quality would mean less space on the Touch. Loading photos was not so easy. I wasn't able to use my Pictures folder and choose folders within it to sync picture from. iTunes chokes on this - likely because of the number of photos in that entire folder. So, I'm using a nested folder with copies of photos I really like. Sure, I could sync with iPhoto - but I haven't cataloged all my photos there as yet - and not sure I want to.

The biggest gripe I have with the touch is that when I scroll around through menus (coverflow, music lists, etc) or even around a web page - I somehow inadvertently click on a link or button. This is annoying and I would think there was a way to adjust the touch sensitivity or the 'click' sensitivity. But there isn't. Yeah, some bozo will say that I need to practice using it more - but it's more than that.

The second biggest gripe I have is the one everyone has - no way to control music without taking the damn thing out of my pocket and firing up the screen. This is ridiculous.

The third biggest gripe I have is the inability to open a link into a new web page. Yes, you can open a second web page, but not open a link on a page into a new page. Pain in the ass.

I'd like to say more on using the Touch, but this post is too long already.

I will close by mentioning that I did find a decent pouch for the Touch. Given this product is just released, there isn't Jack for accessories available. I first put it in an old Timbuktu 3G iPod nylon case. But this was too bulky in my shirt pocket, and didn't fit too well. Then on a whim, I poked around the camera section of Yodobashi (after not finding anything in the Mac section). I found this little microfiber cleaning cloth bag made by Hama that just fits my iPod touch and is thin. Only ¥950! I remember seeing self cleaning iPods bags on Waterfield Design's site, but this one is nicer - has a draw string. This product is available outside Japan, and is made by a German company I think. And it works well, self-cleaning the iPod while it's inside. You can see what it looks like here.

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