What does the iPhone have that the iPod touch doesn't have?
February 6, 2010 7:03 PM   Subscribe

iPhone vs. iPod Touch: Besides the phone and the camera, what can you do on an iPhone that you CAN'T do with an iPod Touch?

For example, I'm unclear on whether the iPod Touch has GPS capability.

Stipulation: Assume I have the latest and greatest models of each.
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Technology (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Meaning, assume I will get the latest and greatest version of either device, depending (in part) on the advice provided here.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:04 PM on February 6, 2010

It's not just the phone app that the iPod touch lacks; there's no microphone or speaker.

That means no voice control, no voice memos, no playing music or watching YouTube without headphones, etc.
posted by reductiondesign at 7:07 PM on February 6, 2010

gps tracking away from wifi while on the road or outsidewheres.
posted by tilde at 7:08 PM on February 6, 2010

It's not just the phone app that the iPod touch lacks; there's no microphone or speaker.

Only the first version didn't have a speaker, all the later versions do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:10 PM on February 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

iPhone can get on Internet anywhere you can get a phone signal from AT&T; iPod Touch only has Internet via Wi-Fi.
posted by lukemeister at 7:18 PM on February 6, 2010

No iPod Touch currently has GPS.

The only real difference — other than, as you've mentioned, the phone capabilities and the camera — is the design. The iPod Touch has a metal back, whereas the 3GS (and the 3G) have a black plastic back. Speaking as someone who went from an iPod Touch to an iPhone, I say definitely get the iPhone. The only thing that stops this from being a no-brainer is cost; if an iPhone is too expensive, then obviously the one-off cost of an iPod Touch is better. Since you seem to be approaching this from the angle of functionality. The problem with the iPod Touch? It's wonderful, but without internet access, it's crippled in terms of functionality. You want to use a Twitter iPhone app? Wonderful, provided you're in your home/office/somewhere with wi-fi. Want to use Google Maps for directions? Sure, as long as you're online. Dinner recommendations? No problem, as long as you're online.

It really is so much more useful when it's with you *everywhere*. If cost isn't a factor (or at least not a major one), get the iPhone every time.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 7:22 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

After asking this question, I just got an iPod Touch! I'm quite excited.

As everyone has said, the Touch, at least the newer one, does have a speaker. The built in microphone in the headphones works decently well so far, and the voice controls and dictation apps work just fine.

If cost isn't an issue, and finding wireless is, then get the iPhone. I couldn't afford the iPhone, but I'm perfectly satisfied with the Touch. Either way, you really can't go wrong.
posted by pecknpah at 7:32 PM on February 6, 2010

The latest iPod Touch comes with a pair of earbuds that has a mic on the cord. Also the iPod touch does not have a compass.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:19 PM on February 6, 2010

My husband rocks the Touch. He got me an IPhone.

Here is our background:

Back in the day I scored the Motorola SlVR - this was the one and only itunes- cell phone prior to the big Apple/ATT contract. It was a thing of beauty, that cellphone.

One day, it dropped in a vat of paint. By this time, my husband already had a Touch. I bought another Slvr on ebay. He got the old Slvr and the new one to work. In there I turned to the LV Touch - sucked. He bought me an IPhone. I bought him an expensive something or another... For over a year he's used the Slvrs. Really.

My Iphone is jailbroke and soon, the wireless fried. So essentially, my Iphone is a jazzed up Slvr. But bigger.

My husband just switched to one of our other devices today because he finally broke both Slivrs. He still relies on his Ipod Touch.

I never liked accessing websites via the IPhone or the Touch - so I am happy with my Iphone acting like the Slvr - except it is bigger than the actual Slvr. My husband is sad those two Slvr's died and reports same.


What I am saying is that you are being forced into more and more sophisticated technology that either won't work as advertised and/or is irrelevant.

Only you will know what works for you based on your previous experience and expectation.

My husband likes his Touch and was happy carrying 2 devices. I hate looking at websites on the Touch, and was happy when my Iphone broke and was more like the Slvr (sync w/ itunes, no annoying web browser with micro features I couldn't master with fat fingers/lack of patience!)

He still carries a Touch+mobile phone. I carry one device that is both a phone/mp3/podcast player.


I read an article last year where a tech guy chose a Touch over an Iphone - I agreed, but only because I wanted the simplicity of a Slvr.

My rule is: The more functions, the more things to break. Also, I don't care.

If I was starting fresh and didn't have the luxury of the Husband's Touch.. I would get a fully operational Iphone w/ a proper warranty. And I would keep it on airplane-mode. Just like I do now.


Bigger is not always better, but if you are left with no choice... You're left with no choice.

The Ipnone has more to break. The Touch is more stable. Your choice concerns warranty vs. price vs. convenience...

That is all.

Your Choice.
posted by jbenben at 8:23 PM on February 6, 2010

I initially got an iPod Touch and ended up returning it and getting an iPhone. For me, it was the "always-on" aspect of the phone that was the dealbreaker. Also, I decided I wanted to carry one gadget rather than two (ie, phone + iPod).
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:54 PM on February 6, 2010

Since you're looking at "latest and greatest," I assume that means top of the line. The top of the line iPod Touch is $100 more than the top of the line iPhone. If you need a cell phone anyway, that's $100 that can go towards covering however much more you'd be paying for the iPhone calling plan vs. your normal phone plan. There's also the perk of carrying one device instead of two.
posted by spilon at 9:23 PM on February 6, 2010

@jbenben: although I haven't explored this, there are browser apps on the App Store that can replace Safari.

I went from a iPod Touch 2G to an iPhone 3GS. IF you

NEED, like me, the ability to be online at all times
AND also have the ability to pay for it - dataplans are kinda like the white elephant in the room, and they're a huge additional cost, plus iPhone carrier plans are usually priced quite expensively to boot

then yes, get an iPhone. Otherwise, the 2G and 3G iPod Touches are good enough for what you want - they're exactly the same in functionality now AFAIK. For me, however, the dataplan was a game changer because I barely used apps on my Touch, but use them all the time on my iPhone since I can now browse through the App Store whenever I've got 5 minutes to spare; internet tethering is also awesome. Also, having a dataplan can at least partially replace SMSing if you communicate with people who are on IMs all the time. Finally, having to use and carry around just one device instead of two (the iPhone supplanted a N95 8GB) was great.

Things that I feel the iPhone doesn't do very well that you might want to consider:
- Camera fail. Lomo effects apps are fun, but quality wise it produces little that can go beyond uploading-to-Facebook quality.
- Ringtone fail. Unless you hack/jailbreak your phone, you will have no custom ringtones.
posted by selvaria at 9:25 PM on February 6, 2010

I like 'em both (and we have both), but I will be honest, I go through about 1 "smartphone" per year, and have enjoyed nothing as much as I have enjoyed my iPhone... No regrets.
posted by jkaczor at 9:26 PM on February 6, 2010

selvaria: Not true! You can add ringtones in iTunes, both from songs and from your own sound files

Now, you can't change the email sound, and the text message sounds are limited to a selection of five. The alarm clock is limited to something like 15 different sounds. Those you'd need to jailbreak for.
posted by JDHarper at 10:30 PM on February 6, 2010

- Camera fail. Lomo effects apps are fun, but quality wise it produces little that can go beyond uploading-to-Facebook quality.

On the 2G and 3G maybe, but take a look at Flickr results filtered by iPhone 3Gs. Plenty of garden-variety snaps, yes but it can do quite a bit more. The 3GS has auto-focusing and is especially good at close range. Still only 3MP though. Comparison shots 'tween a 3G and a 3GS

- Ringtone fail. Unless you hack/jailbreak your phone, you will have no custom ringtones.

Perhaps you meant custom alert sounds instead of ringtones. One can easily make custom ringtones for the iPhone out of any non-DRM protected mp3 by following very simple instructions and using iTunes. There's also tons of them out there as free downloads, this is my current ringtone.
posted by jamaro at 10:50 PM on February 6, 2010


D'oh! on the ringtones, I knew that D:<>
I stand by my comment on the camera, because the autofocusing isn't the best, its ISO is quite low, and it has no macro or other settings like light balance, no flash, no timer, zip without apps. Also, photos have noticeable grain even in fair light conditions, like the ones you linked on Flickr. It doesn't help that I had a 2006 Sony Ericsson k800i which beat the pants off it four years ago with the same 3MPs. One of the comments in the entry on comparison shots points out just how late the 3GS is to having any sort of macro ability.

IANA professional photographer, but many phones, right now or even from 4 years ago, have better cameras than the iPhone 3GS. I still got my 3GS, but OP may want to consider it as the iPhone is very expensive after the cost of the phone plan is factored in.
posted by selvaria at 2:24 AM on February 7, 2010

This is so minor as to be almost inconsequential to anyone but the really nitpicky, but the calendar on the iPod touch doesn't allow for multiple calendars. At least, not that I've managed to figure out. It's a little bit infuriating.
posted by Phire at 2:43 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've read jbenben's comment 3 times.


And I still don't quite get it. :)


Though I will say that comparing a Motorola SlVR to an iPhone is like comparing a 76 pinto to a 2010 Mercedes. A better comparison would be with a Razr, which only sucked more.


The main difference is going to be, of course, connectivity.

- If I'm going to surf the internet for 4 hours, sure I'd rather be on a computer. Otherwise I find looking at websites on the iPhone fine. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. For random surfing (quickly checking wikipedia, the menu of a restaurant...) I'm much likely to use my iPhone than open up my laptop which is overkill.

- Many websites are optimized for the iPhone, which is wonderful. Metafilter is a perfect example.

- Some websites on the iPhone aren't visited through safari. They have their own apps. They are also, usually, wonderful. I'd rather visit both twitter and facebook on my iPhone than on the internet. The iPhone version of myspace is actually usable (even though I don't use myspace).

The ccn app (a couple of dollars) is great, and for my money better than cnn.com.

- I'll be taking a trip in a couple of hours. Using the iPhone we'll be able to use gps for directions, make reservations for a restaurant, get email, comment on metafilter, download a song I hear on the radio, find out who's singing the song on the radio, read the current news, and on and on. None of this could you do on a touch.

- I would be more lost without my iPhone than my computer.

Of course, if none of this appeals to you, you'd be better with the touch, which is more of an entertainment device than anything else.

(as far as the camera, if you're expecting a professional experience, which I don't really get, it's generally fine. Then again I subscribe to the 'best camera is the one with you' theory. For quick snapshot to save a memory, it does the job.)
posted by justgary at 6:45 AM on February 7, 2010

I received a Touch as a gift. I have an employer-provided Blackberry, so I carry two devices at all times. I love my Touch. If I ever had to furnish my own phone and could afford the monthly cost, I would get an Iphone in a heartbeat.
posted by raisingsand at 8:39 AM on February 7, 2010

Something I forgot is that you're within shooting distance of the next generation iPhone, and it would be wise to wait until it's released — probably in June. Avoiding the lunatic fringe of the rumour mill, it's likely to have an upgraded camera (5 megapixels as opposed to the current 3); a mobile variant of the Apple A4 processor that powers the iPad, which will make it significantly faster (not that the 3GS is slow!) and less battery hungry; and minor styling tweaks (current rumours suggest a matte black bezel rather than the current aluminium). All of these are worth the wait, in my opinion.

The only non-feature specific possibility that springs to mind is the potential for the next iPhone to be available on multiple carriers. No-one knows yet, and there's no consensus on this, but if you'd prefer it on Verizon or whatnot then it'd be sensible to wait before you sign on the dotted line with AT&T for two years.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 8:52 AM on February 7, 2010

Phire, you can sync your calendars on the Touch with iCal if you have a mac or Microsoft Outlook if you have a PC. Here's a really basic overview. My multiple calendars work just fine, and I can create events with different calendars on the iPod Touch and it syncs back to iCal.
posted by pecknpah at 9:30 AM on February 7, 2010

You have lots of comparison material here, so I'll just add another opinion, FWIW - I have the Touch, my partner has an iPhone - and I'll be getting an iPhone the second my current phone gives up the ghost (and have taken to leaving said phone on the edge of the tub, on the seat next to me on the bus, in the hands of small children...) I can't wait to have the increased connectivity, the microphone, the camera etc. all on one device.
posted by Bergamot at 10:48 AM on February 7, 2010

Also, the value of the iPhone goes up by $200 once you buy the contract (like-new iPhones are going for ~$500). iPod Touches don't increase in value. Damaged iPhones sell for $200, old ones retain value immensely. if you're going to have a 2-year AT&T contract anyway, there's no reason to get a Touch.
posted by meowzilla at 11:06 AM on February 7, 2010

I love my iPod touch but it frustrates me that there is not a camera included and I would love to have GPS so I could use 4square. Having only wifi is a little frustrating at times because most wifi points these days are locked down. With a boingo subscription the coverage area increases greatly if you travel.
posted by andendau at 11:52 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Phire, you can also sync multiple calendars with the Touch if you use Google Calendar as the back-end. My wife and I share calendars this way.
posted by Lazlo at 12:14 PM on February 7, 2010

pecknpah: "Phire, you can sync your calendars on the Touch with iCal if you have a mac or Microsoft Outlook if you have a PC."

Lazlo: "Phire, you can also sync multiple calendars with the Touch if you use Google Calendar as the back-end. My wife and I share calendars this way."

Hm, I guess that's a possibility. One of the reasons I got the iPod touch was because I was frustrated with keeping my calendar on my laptop when I needed to modify it on the fly, and wanted an electronic planner/PDA. I guess it just seemed counter-intuitive to me that you couldn't simply add a new calendar directly from the iPod.
posted by Phire at 5:06 PM on February 7, 2010

You can create new calendar entries from the iPod, just not entirely new calendars. Things may get a little more robust in this respect when 4.0 comes out, as the iPad is more likely to be shared by multiple people.
posted by Lazlo at 6:34 PM on February 7, 2010

i have GPS on the the iPod touch I am typing on right now. I just checked -- it found my location.

Of course, you need a map for GPS to tell you where you are, and the map program that comes with the touch is dependent on Internet access to google maps. However, you can purchase offline maps -- $10 for the whole of my city, about the price of a mapbook.

There is no native microphone, but the latest model also comes with headphones with a mic and remote music control (start, pause and volume).

As far as I can tell, the ONLY difference between the iPod touch and the iPhone is that the iPod touch does not currently have a camera, and it (of course) does not have cellular service. You cannot make cellular phone calls, and you cannot use cellular networks to access the Internet -- you need a wifi signal. Of course, it also comes with no contracts. The yearly cost of my itouch will be $300 this year, and $0 for the next. I have a phone and a contract that is just fine, and as much Internet via wifi as is actually good for me.
posted by jb at 10:21 PM on February 7, 2010

I was speaking of the 32GB touch, which I believe is one of the latest models (2nd generation? I wish they would just give these things clear, simple model names/numbers, like Nokia 1110 or something).
posted by jb at 10:27 PM on February 7, 2010

I was speaking of the 32GB touch, which I believe is one of the latest models (2nd generation?

No, I have a first generation iTouch that's 32 gb. The one you're speaking of, with the headphones that come with a mic, are a 3rd generation, which goes up to 64 gb.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:06 AM on February 8, 2010

@jb: the iPod Touch does not have GPS: it uses WiFi triangulation to work out (roughly) where you are

I've just upgraded from iPod Touch to iPhone. It was a great move.

The camera, GPS and built-in mic open up more apps to use: Redletter for scanning bar codes, various 'satnav' apps, Shazam for identifying music, using the Photoshop app easily. I'm sure there are more, and I'm on the lookout.
posted by hatmandu at 5:11 AM on February 8, 2010

How can it use the wifi to know where I am? the wifi system doesn't know where it is. To get your location, you have to turn on "Location Services" which is separate thing to turn on from wifi. I just looked at an iPhone, af that is the same label as its GPS.

I actually want to figure this out. I didn't get an iPod touch for GPS, but thinking it had it, I was planning to get some offline maps.
posted by jb at 5:46 AM on February 8, 2010

I just tested it by turning wifi off -- and yes, it could not find my location. So it seems no GPS -- I'm glad I confirmed this before getting maps.

How does it do location through wireless?
posted by jb at 5:53 AM on February 8, 2010

A Google search for ipod touch wifi location brings up this:
Skyhook Wireless, provider of the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), recently announced that Apple is using its technology for the new Wi-Fi location positioning feature in its Maps application on both iPhone and iPod touch. Using WPS, iPhone and iPod touch users can now locate themselves in the popular Maps application with the tap of one button. (See Skyhook Wireless featured in the Macworld Keynote.)

By mapping known Wi-Fi signals throughout entire metropolitan areas, Skyhook has built a database of over 23 million Wi-Fi access points with their locations. The patented technology behind WPS leverages that database to provide location information. Skyhook's software-only system offers high accuracy indoors and the ability to make location more precise for users.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:23 AM on February 8, 2010

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