By Steve Bass | Monday, July 13, 2009 at 10:52 am
You would think a PC guy could escape Apple’s clutches. I’ve been successful until now, but I recently bought an Apple iPod Touch. Here’s the weird part: I love it.
If you own an iPod Touch, you’re wondering why it took me so long. For the rest of you: This is one fun device, and a terrifically useful one with the right applications. Watch a video to see what the gizmo does. (Warning: The presenter is a hurt-your-eyes perky Apple evangelist.)
Actually, I had no choice. My wife, Judy, heard about iBird ($30), a must-have birding program available for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. The app does away with the hassle of carrying birding field guides; iBird shows images and illustrations of birds, plays their songs, supplies behavior and range details, and more. (Even if you’re not a birder, watch a video of iBird in action–it’s amazing.)
The iPod touch can do everything you’d expect from a portable media player — listen to music and podcasts, watch videos, and run programs designed for it. It’s just that everything is a lot cooler, including the icons, the navigation, and the nifty free apps.
And boy, are there apps. I’ve downloaded a dozen free Sudoku programs, a high-frequency whistle to get my dog’s attention, an accurate carpenter’s level, and dozens of others fun tools. I have a Wi-Fi finder, a news reader for the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, a cheap gas looker-upper, and the Weather Channel and Weather Network, both which get me more detailed weather forecasts than the iPod’s built-in weather feature. Google has all sorts of applications and services especially designed for mobile devices, including pint-sized versions of Google News, Google Calendar, and Gmail.
Most of the apps are free or cost under a buck. To download podcasts, for instance, I found RSSPlayer, a 99-cent gem.
You can use your home network wireless connection to download everything. If you’re traveling, or just floating around town, and within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, say, a library with free access, or fee-based Wi-Fi at Starbucks, you can use the iPod’s built in wireless feature to access the Internet. Just like on your notebook, you can check e-mail, browse the Web, stream video and podcasts, and download programs. The touch is essentially an iPhone, but without the outrageous monthly fee for the continuous Internet connection.
This just in: You can get free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, just by getting and registering one of its refillable cards. You’ll need to refill or use the card monthly and put up with a few easily filtered AT&T e-mails.
However, if you’re into S&M, use iTunes instead to transfer music to your touch or download apps. Apple’s official boondoogle, iTunes was designed by monkeys and is the dumbest, most unintuitive program I’ve seen since I tried to use dBase II’s command line. (Rumor has it that iTunes engineers actually enjoyed using the barcode-reading CueCat.)
Want to buy a Touch? Amazon sells an 8GB version for $215; we wanted the extra legroom, so opted for the 16GB version, a whopping $275. Odd, but Amazon beat Costco’s prices on the 8GB version by about $10 bucks. No, don’t bother looking for better prices. Apple doesn’t offer discounts.
You know it’s difficult to buy a device and then try to avoid getting accessories. Here are the three I bought to keep my iPod up and running.
* 4-in-1 Car Charger for iPod: I use the $30 USB-to-iPod cable to charge the device at home. In the car, Kensington’s 4-in-1 Car Charger does the trick. I can also charge other USB-cabled devices, such as my cell phone and camera.
* Kensington Battery Pack and Charger: If you’re heading up into the Himalayas and won’t have access to a power outlet, take along a battery pack. About $40 on Amazon, the Kensington Battery Pack and Charger weighs 22 ounces and has enough juice to run your gadget for 100 hours of music or podcasts or 21 hours of video. I can’t vouch for the specs, but I will say the Battery Pack provided enough power for my iPod to run iBird and play podcasts for a full day; the Battery Pack indicator lights showed it still had plenty of juice left.
* MediaGate I-kit: One hassle with an old car is getting the iPod sounds over to the radio. (Ancient ain’t the word. We own a 1992 Roadtrek; the radio still has a tape deck.) We used to use a cassette-tape converter gizmo, but we’ve graduated to a transmitter that sends the sound from the iPod to an unused FM-radio station. I like the goose-neck that lets me rotate the holder in every direction; it also has a USB port for charging, eliminating the need for an extra device. It sells for about $24 on Amazon.
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