Blog Post

All Hail the iPod touch

As the competition for smartphone domination starts to heat up, it is becoming increasingly clear that the iPod touch is Apple’s (s aapl) ace up its sleeve, and according to a report by Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile analytics company, 24 million iPod touches represent about 40 percent of the total 58 million iPhone OS devices.

From the time I first laid my hands on the iPod touch, I have been a big fan of it — after all, it is just like an iPhone except that it has more storage, is skinnier, and has none of the hassles of dropped calls.

It is a handy little touch computer, that allows you to quickly check emails when sitting in a nice comfortable chair and reading a book. It allows me to play a game of MLB World Series, control my favorite music system — the Sonos — manage the Apple TV, and very soon, people will be able to use it to accept credit cards.

OK, so what if it doesn’t make phone calls or have 3G connectivity?  Those are problems you can fix by buying a MiFi and getting connected to Verizon’s (s vz) 3G network, and you can make Skype calls as well. Last January (wow, how time flies) I wrote about why Apple was going to rule the mobile web, thanks to the iPod touch. I wasn’t that off the mark.

AdMob, a mobile advertising company currently being acquired by Google, (s GOOG) in a recent report said that during the month of October (on a worldwide basis) the iPod touch accounted for 9.8 percent of all requests for applications and web sites that embed AdMob’s advertising script. In comparison, the iPhone has 22.4 percent of all requests. For the U.S. market, the iPod touch brought in 11.4 percent of total requests compared with 24 percent of requests emanating from the iPhone.

AdMob’s numbers mirror the data collected by Flurry, which tracks 3,000 applications, 45 million consumers and four platforms. In terms of the total number of user sessions per month, at present, iPod touch usage is much higher than the Android-based user sessions and is giving the iPhone a run for its money.

“It’s important to remember that the iPhone’s flank is protected by an often overlooked, powerful fighting brand: iPod touch,” Flurry notes in a report likely to be released Monday. “As all industry eyes look to the iPhone, the iPod touch is quietly building a loyal base among the next generation of iPhone users, positioning Apple to corner the smartphone market not only today, but also tomorrow.”

Agreed. In a post earlier this year I wrote how “the emergence of the iPod touch/iPhone is changing how we perceive and interact with computers. My friend Antonio Rodriguez, who founded and sold his startup Tabblo to Hewlett-Packard, thinks that a whole generation of kids is now growing up with keyboard-less computing as a default way to interact with machines.”

The iPod touch is much more than the iPhone’s little brother, as Jordan Golson recently pointed out:

Apple is perpetuating a “virtuous cycle,” as Gene Munster put it in a recent research note, to keep users on the iPod touch — an improved version of the lock-in provided by the old iTunes/iPod music ecosystem. Users buy the iPod touch; download apps; developers promote their apps (and the iPod touch platform), which leads to more consumers buying the iPod touch.

This virtuous cycle is more pronounced in the case of social networks and games. In its soon to be just released November Pulse report , Flurry notes:

Empirically, Flurry compared how iPod touch session usage has changed over the last six months across key application categories important to this demographic; namely, Social Networking and Games. While Social Networking’s viral nature is understood, iPhone Games have become increasingly social with the inclusion of features like friends lists, leader boards and remote multi-player modes. Together, Social Networking and Games category usage reflects the strength of the iPod touch Generation’s influence among its peers.

It is hardly a surprise. Apple changed its tune and started touting the iPod touch as a gaming device, which has started to have a negative impact on the earnings of specialist game device makers such as Nintendo.

It is starting to make its presence felt in the e-reader business. It is already a travel planner, thanks to apps like TripIt. So what’s next? (Related post: “The Past, Present & Future of Mobile Games.” On GigaOM Pro: “Is There Any Demand for a True Gaming Phone?” (subscription required)).09touch_3up.jpg

I think a digital camera would be a welcome addition, for that would allow the iPod touch to take on new roles: that of a camera. Secondly, it could become an easy-to-use and cheap bar code scanner. The latter would be the first of the many offerings for the iPod touch to disrupt a business described as enterprise mobility and dominated by Motorola’s (s mot) Symbol Technologies.

It is not as far-fetched an idea as you might think. Square is already building a card reader. Last week, when I went to Apple’s Palo Alto, Calif., store, I saw the salespeople using a new device instead of the typical handheld credit card terminals. They were a combination of an iPod touch/iPhone (I couldn’t tell) and a sheath that snugly wrapped around the device and plugged into its connector, making it a point-of-sale device. And that’s just the start.

Against such a backdrop, it isn’t wrong to say: All hail the iPod touch.

43 Responses to “All Hail the iPod touch”

  1. Wonder how much leverage the Touch adds to Apple’s negotiations with the telcos. I fringed a Touch video conference the other day using Skype. One way for now. Wonder how long it will be before we all wake up to the vidcon revolution, already a done deal: free, easy, great. Did I say FREE?

    Me, I want a camera and gps on the Touch to create documentation for when and where I travel, shoot, meet, eat. And to communicate. Like that.

  2. About that camera issue: i noticed that when i connected my iPod Touch to a pc with no iTunes installed (Windows, that is), it was recognized first as “iPod Touch” and next as “Digital Camera”.
    That could be just a technical issue. A workaround for Windows to be able to get pictures from the device, as Apple wouldn’t let it be recognized as Mass Storage Device. But maybe it’s a hint that there are some camera drivers for the Touch already existing?

    I’d like to recommend our Apps. I work for a studio called Jumi Tech (see my name for link) and we have some cool apps that make your PC and iPhone/Touch play nice together. One realy cool app is our Gamer app, that allows you to use your device as a motion-detcting game controller, for any PC game (just like Wii). I think that’s getting the best of all worlds.
    (Sorry if i seem a little spammy, but you did mention some Apps in the post and i thought it’s nice to show what else you could use your Touch for.)

  3. About the camera issue: i noticed that when i plugged my iPod Touch into a pc (with no iTunes installed) Windows recognised it as “iPod Touch” and then as “Digital camera”. This could just be a technical issue, to let windows download pictures from the device, since Apple wouldn’t let it be recognised as a Mass Storage Device, but maybe it holds a hint of some sort?

    I work with a studio called Jumi and they make some realy cool Apps. A specificaly nice one is Jumi Gamer, which lets you use your iPhone/Touch for gaming, Just like a Wii controler! Sorry for being a little spammy, but it’s a realy nice app, check it up for yourselves (let us know what you think in the forum). The link is in my name.

    This was a good read. The Touch, which seemed useless to some at first, is rapidly proving it self to be a useful little device to carry around or even just keep around the house.

      • I hear you on the “proper lens” subject, but i’m not a big fan of the mega-pixel competition in cellphones. The lens is necessarily small and the optics are crmaped together so there’s no chance of getting a realy good picture out of such a small device (unless they come up with a way to multiply photons) so i don’t see where the extra pixels come in handy. I think those cameras should be blazingly fast, so you can reach for your pocket and get your Kodak moment. It won’t be the best shot technicaly, but the moment will be there.

        Either way, it seems like Apple is squeezing some more juice out of this lemmon, and given the numbers shown by Om, i can’t blame them.

      • Tom Ross

        oren, I was thinking of something that looks like an iPod touch from the front, but like a real pocket camera from the back, ie with a protruding lens (and a hardware shutter button and a bigger battery). I’d like picture quality to be comparable to those Canon IXUS or whathaveyou, but on a smartcam instead of a dumbcam. Then I really wouldn’t mind a fat iPod for once. I don’t know if this wouldn’t be out of Apple’s expertise anyway. Maybe we’ll see Android on a Canon IXUS soon, who knows.

  4. i love my itouch. i do wish the next generation has a phone style speaker/mic so that voip can be used without a BT headset. it also would be great if skype and/or other VOIP could run as official background apps without jailbreak. i believe there are quite a few people out there who would use these as phones that only work in wifi as cell phone replacement.

    • Tom Ross

      I think there’s a line that Apple wouldn’t cross so as not to offend its carrier partners. Looking at the price points ($200-$400 for the iPod Touch vs. $500-$700 for the iPhone, before subsidy) it’s obvious that the iPhone is providing most of the family income now.

  5. As far as I’m concerned, the barrier-to-entry for getting Skype to work practically on a iTouch is big enough to discourage most people from succeeding. Sounds great in theory, but it’s obvious that Apple crippled the iTouch so it couldn’t easily be used as a phone (no bluetooth microphone support, for example). You’re touting iPod telephony in a way that is far from realistic.

    • Tom Ross

      The new iTouch models (for $299 and $399) come with microphones now. At least that’s a start. Have you checked if your Bluetooth problem still persists on the new models and latest OS release?

      • Don’t have it on me. It’s a 2G bought in July, and it’s on the latest update, AFAIK. I’m aware of the newer miked models, but I’m pretty sure that the 2G will never allow bluetooth mike support. (PLEASE someone correct me, I’d love to be wrong on that count – also, how does one receive calls on an iTouch? I am skeptical about robust receive functionality). Having to carry around a plug-in mike, not to mention earphones/headset, is not a viable phone solution for most. Throw a MiFi in that mix, and you’ve got four things to carry around. Fail. And would I buy a newer iTouch with mike? No. I’m very happy with what mine does, and don’t mind its limitations in the phone department. No, I’m probably going to get a non-Apple phone pretty soon to replace my aging Pocket PC phone. My sights are on either a slick, teeny candy bar phone just for calls, or a full-fledged Android or WinMo smartphone.

        While thinking on this, I did realize that a MiFi/Phone hybrid would be a really neat device! I could use it as a phone, and a hotspot for other devices, including my iTouch. Two devices I can handle carrying around. Also remember that a BT headset should be optional, not a requirement for a good phone solution. I should be able to forget it at home, or forget to charge it, and not end up crippling my phone experience further that it already is.

    • In fact, I got a free one as a promotional giveaway from a brokerage house 2 years ago. after using it as an email, app device, I was sold and bought an iphone. A happy convert (although the voice issues do exist – but that’s all well documented elsewhere).

  6. I’ve been wondering about commercial applications of the iPod touch since it first came out. I have clients in the self service/digital signage market and digital signage would be an excellent application. Right now, screens are run by expensive purpose-built Linux and Windows Mobile appliances. But digital signage network vendors have to do all of the networking, app provisioning etc. themselves. If industrial designers could get over their knee-jerk revulsion of anything Apple, I think they’d find the iPod touch to be a fantastic platform for a whole bunch of mobile and loosely tethered apps.

  7. Om,

    While you touched upon the gaming potential, you didnt elaborate on it too much. From what I read, that is an area being earmarked for the highest growth (I suppose due to this being an established cat, its easiest to point to #s, rather than POS potential sales). Also – the ipod touch ads are heavily touting the gaming platform. I am most intrigued on what hooks (HW or OS) can be added to make it more compelling as a platform. Would be interested to hear any additional thoughts from you or the well informed readers of this blog.

    great article as always…

    • Tom Ross

      Game developer are pointing to the terribly low prices first (if they’re coming from a console background) or to a still relatively small user base (if they’re coming from Facebook or Internet gaming). Both means that the App Store is not ready for big budget titles. Console gamers are pointing to the lack of a traditional d-pad and set of fire buttons that impedes many popular gaming genres on iPhone OS. What Apple could do is 1. release a separate iPod Touch with gaming buttons and 2. have co-marketing agreements with some big game publishers that require them not to drop prices so fast. That would educate App Store customers and at the same time allow big budget games. Or Apple could just wait and let it grow on its own. That seems most likely, knowing the company.

  8. Could not agree more. I was finally able to ditch my Dell AXIM and get a Touch. As a physician I finally have a pocketable computing device that gives me everything I need to get through my days… repository for frequently used info, apps specific to my specialty, CME, entertainment when I find the time (not much). If this puppy had a camera I would be in heaven. I would not be surprised to see the Apple store POS Touches marketed to retailers within the next year. If the connector is open enough we might begin to some interesting hardware/software add-ons as well. Hopefully Apple will continue to push the iTouch further.

  9. Santa's Elves

    I tried the iPod touch and thought it was an overpriced piece of marketing fluff. If I just want to listen to music, then all I needed was a tiny iPod mini. If I wanted to watch video on the iPod touch, good luck. So much for the drag and drop functionality of the Apple desktop. Getting the iPod touch to work right with video, even Apple’s own format, is like trying to please a grumpy old man. Go back to the drawing board and change your marketing Apple. You are being dishonest with people about the inability of the iPod touch to play video well at all. It’s really a piece of garbage on this point and Apple, you should be embarrassed that the iPod touch is such a failure at video.

    • Bitter Santa's Elves?

      Why so much hate “Santa’s Elves”?

      The iPod touch handles video just as well as the iPhone does. Wonderfully, I often load the Touch and iPhone with full length movies all the time and there is never a issue.

      Can you elaborate why so much hate? What issues did you have? Perhaps your just completely clueless and six years old? ;)

      Be good little man or Santa wont bring you anything but coal in your stocking this year. :)

      • @Bitter Santa’s Elves: adding a smiley is not a get-out-of-jail-free for being a patronising dick.

        Sounds like Santa’s Elves has four issues:
        (1) The Ipod touch is big if you only want music
        (2) Its video resolution is fairly low
        (3) The touch screen takes getting used to.
        (4) If you’re trying to play your own videos, instead of buying them from Apple, you may get teething troubles with the format etc.

      • Anyone who claims the iPod touch isn’t great at video has absolutely no idea what they are talking about!

        Resolution is likewise NOT as issue. Maybe you need bifocals?

        I love watching videos on mine, it’s awesome.

    • Hari Seldon

      “So much for the drag and drop functionality of the Apple desktop”

      What does this even mean? It’s the same as all iPods, you can set iTunes to manage manually and drag and drop to your heart’s content or if you go with the default setup – sinc specific playlists.

      As for your comments about video, are you serious? what could be simpler?

    • Tom Ross

      He’s right, video formats have been a PITA for many years, first of all because there are so many outdated formats still being used, but also because computers are still not fast enough for on-the-fly conversions. Ultimately, if Hollywood and the TV stations were more forthcoming in providing a wide content selection on better terms and lower prices, trusting in the long tail instead of arcane release windows and sharing the digital dividend with customers like the music labels did, these problems would be a lot less relevant to average consumers as the demand for video procured by “other means” would subside and Apple (or other providers like Amazon) could settle the market on standards-based videos that run on all players without problems.

      That said, the unique selling point for the iPod touch are the web browser and the apps, so I wouldn’t call it “garbage” before I’d have tried those. If all you want is video, you may also take a look at the iPod classic and iPod nano.

  10. “Those are problems you can fix by buying a MiFi and getting connected to Verizon’s 3G network, and you can make Skype calls as well.”

    What the gosh durn you talkin bout?
    MiFi is data only isn’t it??! The above quote is actually two sentences (not one), so I’m a bit confused by what’s being said there.
    Did I misunderstand something about the Verizon MiFi features?

      • Thanks. I knew that. The paragraph reads like the MiFi solves the problem by supplying Verizon phone or data service, ‘AND’ alternately you can make VoiP/skype calls as well.

        I had a client who bought one thinking they would be able to leapfrog their ATT calls through verizon’s network in locations they had no ATT service. I told them the unit was VZ data only.
        Just wanted to be sure I didn’t miss something.

    • Before I got the iPhone, I used my iPod Touch with Skype to make internet phone calls. All you need is wifi access or the VZW MiFi. The Skype App is available though the App Store for free. The iPod Touch is a great device if you don’t want the iPhone.

  11. Om…Agree with you.

    iPod touch is powerful but people still have a hard time with the keyboard…we have been running some tests, putting the touch in front of some non tech users and they have struggle a lot with it.

    There is still some more technology needed to really nail the usability of keyboard…Otherwise it rocks.

    And yeah Camera/web cam would be a great addition.


    • Yeah but that’s just first-time jitters/apron strings after a while I actually started to mis-type things on purpose because the auto correct made this method of typing quicker! It’s like switching from Windows – after a couple of weeks it’s fine.


  12. I tried the Verizon MiFi and it’s VERY EXPENSIVE. Hear that VZW. $40 for 250MB of download per month and….get this…..$60 for 5G…..please VZW go bother someone else with those prices. I tried convincing [email protected] and [email protected] that VZW should offer an unlimited plan for a single user with an iPod Touch for about $20 per month. I felt that was reasonable. BTW, Jerry is the Northeast Marketing Director and Leah is the Government Rep for VZW for the NY, NJ, Conn area. They said no. So after being frustrated having three devices (old Moto Razr, MiFi and my iPod Touch) I ported my number over to AT&T and got an iPhone. I am so happy with it. I live in NJ and the calls are fine. NO ISSUES AT ALL. I get FAST 3G downloads also. Unfortunately, I had to leave my family on VZW due to ETF’s at this point. Within a year I’m moving all my lines to AT&T and getting the family 4 more iPhones. And, I also found the Customer Service to be fine. I have a PERSONAL AT&T Rep at my local store. I call them with any issues and they are more than heppy to help. The VZW stores are always dirty and you have to wait for at least a half hour to talk to someone. So, my advice, get the iPhone instead. the MiFi is way to expensive at $40 for just 250MB/month.

    • Frank

      I am not sure why there is a download limitation of 250 MB on your plan. I have a MiFi from Verizon and it is 5 GB download limit on the “unlimited data plan” enough to keep me using the Skype at the very least.

  13. I’d like the iPod Touch to have everything the iPhone has, minus the 3G radio. You’ve forgotten that aside from lacking camera, it also has no compass.

    Some are certain Apple is working on a VOIP “iPhone.” I wonder if that will be the next-gen iPod Touch?

    An iPod Touch without a camera is not a buy for me.

  14. Tom Ross

    “I saw the sales people using a new device instead of the typical handheld credit card terminals. They were a combination of an iPod Touch/iPhone (I couldn’t tell) and a sheath that snuggly wrapped around the device and plugged into its connector making it a point-of-sale device.”

    It’s an iPod Touch.

    With the iPhone OS 3 SDK, Apple opened up the 30-pin-connector and the Blutooth antenna to developers. I’ve been wondering for the last months why we don’t see more business uses for the iPod touch.

    • Tom

      Thanks for the link and the information. By the way I just learned from a reader that Incase is the one who is making that tack-on for the iPod Touch. So I am betting more companies are going to go down this route.

  15. I bought an iPod Touch, because I was the customer of another carrier which didn’t sell iPhones. I had a crush on my iPod Touch when I got it because I was able to a part of the Apple app store experience as a 4th generation iPod customer (shuffle, mini, Nano, Touch). Even now that I do carry an iPhone, I still adore my iPod Touch. Why?

    1. Battery life. I can preserve watch a movie on a plane, listen to music and play games, and then when I land and power up my cell, I have full battery for text and voice communications. When I travel this is huge, since I never know when I will have a chance to stop to charge up.

    2. Storage. I can use the iPod Touch more like a backup drive for my PC. I carry a full library of photos and music on it, because I invested in the bigger drive on the iPod. I was able to buy a less expensive iPhone, because my iPod now acts like a portable drive for my personal media.

    3. Multitasking. I often find that I miss the multitasking of Android, but I am able to make up for it with two devices :-).

    With all the iPhone buzz, it’s surprising the industry has failed to maintain the strategic link that it was provided by the iPod. I know parents who will give their tween an iPod Touch for trips or home use, and only let them carry a standard feature phone because they can control the apps downloads, gaming and data usage during school hours, which would be harder to do if their child carried the converged iPhone to school.

    Thanks for the data and insight. It’s nice to see my own usage looks a lot like the Flurry graph. :>)

  16. Keith Beucler

    I agree in that an iPod touch and MiFi seem to be the perfect combination. I still use a dumb phone because I want my phone service to be as reliable as possible. The use of MiFi with my laptop and Touch gives me the exact combination of connectivity for my needs. Like most others I hate AT&t but that’s a whole other story.

    • And I am perfectly happy with my myTouch as a phone. In addition to making/receiving reliable calls, the call log goes on – and on – and on. Individual ring tones for any number that calls is nice, too. The smart phone is definitely a better phone than the dumb phone.