Can I use an iphone as an ipod touch?
September 6, 2008 11:14 PM   Subscribe

Can I use an iphone as an ipod touch?

I am looking into getting an ipod touch as a PDA-type device that can handle my contacts, email, and also serve as a web browser. However, I really dislike the fact that the ipod touch doesn't have external speakers. It is the ONE thing that is missing for me. I know the 3g iphone has an external speaker as well as a camera. Is it possible to use a non-activated iphone as an ipod touch? My google-fu has resulted in outdated forum discussions. I am aware that initially, the ipod touch did not have many of the apps that the iphone has, but thanks to a software patch, this issue was resolved.
My understanding of the new iphone is that all the hoopla it received was due to the increased network speed through the EDGE network. Does the new iphone have any better wifi connectivity or any benefits that would affect me? Any tips or alternatives would be appreciated!

In summary:

address book
music/picture/video player
external speaker


cell phone plan
posted by bigcheesegump to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
You certainly can use a first generation iPhone as an iPod touch. That's what I did for the first weekend I owned mine. However, I'm not sure about the new ones, as I'm pretty sure you need to sign up for a new 2yr at&t plan just to purchase the phone. That's one of the (many) reasons that 1st generation iPhone are still selling strong in the second hand markets (like craigslist and ebay).

Also, depending on your personal ethical code, you can unlock the old (and I *think* new) phones to use with your own compatible cellular plan, or just to upgrade to the new 2.0 software and use the AppStore.
posted by whycurious at 12:04 AM on September 7, 2008

I recently purchased an iPhone 3G after having an iPod Touch, so I can relate to this pretty well. I too hated the fact that the iPod Touch had no external speakers! Lame!

With regards to using an iPhone 3G as an iPod Touch, it's hard to say. The question comes down to activation. You basically can only buy a new iPhone 3G via retail if you sign up for an AT&T service, and once you do buy it from retail, they activate it on the spot. That's for the 3G though. You might be well served by looking for a 1st generation iPhone on eBay or Craigslist that is unlocked (i.e. not tied to a cell carrier) - you should, I would think, be able to use that iPhone's functionality (minus calling, voicemail, and SMS) without having it actually activated on a cellular network. It has all your "wants" and it can be updated to the most current iPhone firmware (2.0.2) so you can have current functionality.

The iPhone 3G uses AT&T's 3G data network, which is faster than the EDGE technology. 3G has been spotty thus far for most new iPhone owners - it's believed that AT&T's 3G network can't handle all the traffic (capacity is overloaded) and so 3G speeds have been less than advertised so far. Hopefully this will get better soon.

Also it should be noted that on Sept. 9th Apple is going to be likely unveiling a new iPod Touch. It's not certain yet what features it will have over its predecessor, but maybe they'll add some new functionality to it. An external speaker would be great, but probably unlikely. But who knows! You never really know with Jobs running the show.
posted by karizma at 12:07 AM on September 7, 2008

There really isn't a way to get a 3G iPhone in the US without a cell phone plan, at least not without getting billed another $300 or so.

It sounds like the original iPhone would really do everything you want. You might be able to find one used, but I don't know what kind of prices they are fetching. Once you've got one, my understanding is that you'd need to use a 3rd party tool to activate it so you can use all the non-phone features.

I'd wait a few days though. There is an apple event next week where they are expected to refresh the iPod line. I doubt they'll add a speaker or camera to the touch, but you never know.
posted by Good Brain at 12:08 AM on September 7, 2008

The new iPhone supposedly has faster internet capability via the 3G network, versus the old iPhone which used the Edge. The only reason this should matter to you is if you want to access your web apps, information dynamically updated, or miscellaneous things like baseball scores if you are away from an open WiFi connection. Otherwise, there's no reason to get the iPhone as opposed to the iPod Touch.

In fact, if you want any of that savvy stuff (stocks, email, wikipeia, etc) away from a wireless connection, you will HAVE to purchase a data plan from ATT/Cingular. No question. And you'll have to have an iPhone to access those capabilities.

That said, get the iPod touch. There's enough WiFi to source if you need it in a pinch (you may have to pay $3 an hour at some hip coffee shop, or ask a friend for their PW at their home) for a Touch to be supported, and is far cheaper in the long run than an iPhone.

iPod Touch is what you're looking at. Especially since you can upgrade to the 2.0 and have all the apps an iPhone does.
posted by self at 12:16 AM on September 7, 2008

> My understanding of the new iphone is that all the hoopla it received was due to the increased network speed through the EDGE network. Does the new iphone have any better wifi connectivity or any benefits that would affect me? Any tips or alternatives would be appreciated!

The answer is no. Without a cell contract, which you clearly stipulated you did not want, you don't get the 3G (or EDGE) network, so the iPhone would only add the speakers and camera (vs the iPod touch). Wi-fi reception is the same.

Trying to circumvent the cell phone plan requirement of the iPhone is going to be either a huge pain in the ass or crazy expensive just to get the marginal benefit of those tiny, awful speakers. If that's really the only dealbreaker on the iPod touch, just get a little set of speakers that connect to the iPod touch without making it too big to fit in your pocket. Something like this sort of thing, or this, or this. There's dozens of them and even a mediocre set will be an improvement over the iPhone's microscopic speakers.
posted by churl at 1:11 AM on September 7, 2008

Also seconding Good Brain above; wait a week or so for them to refresh the line. Who knows, maybe the next iPod touch will be cheaper, or have a camera or something else you want.
posted by churl at 1:13 AM on September 7, 2008

Check the fine print with the contract. With the first Gen, you had a certain number of days to cancel without penalty, including getting the activation fee back. AT&T's employees often don't even know these stipulations themselves, so you might have to be insistent, but it's an option. If they tell you to just return the phone say no, you want to cancel the contract over the phone. It might be more of a pain than unlocking it, but you don't have to worry about bricking it. Everything will work except the phone service.
posted by starman at 5:43 AM on September 7, 2008

If the speaker is the only thing holding you back from getting an iPod Touch is external speakers, why not get one along with one of the minuscule clip-on speakers available? They're about the size of a AA battery. The sound is probably nothing special, but the sound from the external speaker on the iPhone is nothing to write home about either.
posted by adamrice at 6:31 AM on September 7, 2008

I have both an older and a 3G iPhone.

It's all a contract issue. If you can get your hands on a 3G, then it will certainly work as a non-phone. Just don't insert a SIM card, or don't activate the SIM card that's inside, etc. I just pulled the SIM card from mine to check, and it works fine, you just get to stare at the tiny words "no SIM" in the top left corner of screen. It also worked this way when I first got it, since I remember playing with the software for a few hours before ever inserting my SIM. Works fine, including Wifi.

If you can't get a 3G (because it's only available carrier-subsidized or gray market), then sure, an older "classic" iPhone will also do. Again, I just pulled the SIM from my older one to check. Works fine, including Wifi.

Also, I agree that the tiny speakers are surprisingly good. I wouldn't call it audiophile quality or listen to much music that way, but it's fine for TV shows.
posted by rokusan at 7:20 AM on September 7, 2008

Thanks for all your input. I am definitely going to wait until the event comes and goes to see what new ipods they bring. To those asking why I am interested in an ipod as an organizer is that it is the cleanest interface I have seen on a mobile phone. While happy with Verizon's service, the ridiculous OS that those phones have prohibit me from effectively using my phone as a PDA. I appreciate all those who helped me out!
posted by bigcheesegump at 12:22 PM on September 7, 2008

The new iPod Touch has an internal speaker...
posted by nitsuj at 10:39 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

As Nisuj pointed out, the new Touch pretty much brings it up to par with the iPhone on all things non-phoney.
posted by rokusan at 3:08 PM on September 11, 2008

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