[Tech filter] What should I replace my iPod Touch with?
September 13, 2019 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What mobile solution should I be pursuing to replace my iPod? Snowflakes inside.

I generally walk around with two devices - my phone, which I use for communication and rarely for gaming or media, and my iPod, which I listen to podcasts and music and watch videos on... or at least I want to. All of the YouTube apps that used to permit listening while being focused on another program have been forced out and I have struggled to simply load an album or two onto my iPod as I once did - now Apple wants to fill it with "ghost" files of music I purchased in the past, that aren't actually on my computer anymore in some cases. Add to this a big involvement in streaming media that necessitates a bigger keyboard for more than tapping out a sentence or two at a time. In addition to my iPod having age-related issues, I need something different for my changing needs, potentially something bigger. I like gadgets but am more interested in value for my dollar than having bleeding edge hardware. I would rather not use my phone for everything, and a phone with no cell service (all I need is a wifi-enabled device) isn't much different compared to the iPod, viewable image/typing-wise.

I have an Amazon Fire tablet already in my possession, but even with the .apk that permits use of the Google Play store, I am constantly fighting with Amazon's ads and apps. "The Fire is an Amazon delivery tool," you say, "all it's meant to do is push more Amazon into your eyeballs, and you thought you could anything else with it?" Well, I initially thought so. I am open to trying custom firmware or something else with it, but I don't know if that's even an option.

I was initially intrigued by the iPad Mini, as it is bigger than an iPod and not a phone, but not a full ipad either (the Mini is at least still somewhat pocketable), but not a full tablet either, and it permits things like having two apps open side-by-side, but it isn't as though Apple has gotten any more flexible. It's also pretty expensive. I'm giving myself a budget of a little over $300 for a refurbished, non-current model iPad Mini, but I am not adverse to spending less, or nothing at all if I performed surgery on the Fire.

I am willing to consider some other (Android?) tablet as well if the price were right. The Verge seems to think that's a non-starter, though. I have read this previous Ask, which is pretty similar to my needs, but it is 6 years old - alot can change in just one year alone.

So where should I go from here? Thank you for your responses in advance.
posted by koucha to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For your Fire tablet, consider the Launcher Hijack tool, which allows you to run a custom launcher (I like Nova) and completely ignore the "All Amazon, all the time" interface that the table ships with, without going to the trouble of completely replacing the OS.

Note that Amazon has blocked apps with the name "Launcher Hijack" because they want your eyeballs, so prior to installing the APK you need to use AppCloner to give it a different title. But that's still much less effort than installing and maintaining whatever they call Cyanogen now.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

How important is portability to you? I'm a big guy with big pockets and while a 7" or 8" tablet will fit in my back pocket, they're way too clunky like that for me to think of them as a daily carry item.

If you want to look at an Android tablet, the Asus Zenpad S8 is relatively cheap, takes a microsd card for lots of storage, and has a nice screen, though the body is plasticy. I don't know if it's still getting security updates though (or if it is, how much longer it will continue to do so).
posted by Candleman at 12:17 PM on September 13, 2019

The Verge is ranking the best all-around tablets. If all you want is a device that will play music and podcasts, what do you care if it's the best all-around tablet? If your goal is to play the media you want, I would avoid big companies like Apple that tend to put restrictions and try to force you to use their proprietary products. In my experience, "off-brand" products give you more freedom to do whatever you want. I'd just look for an Android tablet that has good specs and decent reviews.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:41 PM on September 13, 2019

I also think even a small tablet is going to be too big for your pockets. I would get an old iPhone 6 or newer and never put a SIM card in it. Don't use iTunes to load your music, instead look at programs like MediaMonkey or MusicBee to load podcasts and music onto your phone.
posted by soelo at 12:51 PM on September 13, 2019

As an aside, I wouldn't recommend a used iPad mini unless it's the most recent model—Apple left it to wither on the vine for quite a while, so while the new one has a fast, up-to-date CPU, most of the old ones you find will feel much older than they are.
posted by Polycarp at 4:42 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I completely understand what you're looking for, so I apologise if this isn't relevant.

The Android app Newpipe, which is a third-party interface to YouTube, lets you listen to things in the background while focused on another app. The one drawback with it is that YouTube occasionally makes changes on its end that break Newpipe's ability to interface, and when that happens you have to wait for an update fix.

With the Fire, what do you mean when you say you're constantly fighting with the Amazon stuff? I have one and actually haven't made any big changes: I put all the Amazon apps in one folder so I don't have to see them, never use the Amazon store or browser, and never see ads except for the occasional notification (in the drop-down bar) about some new Alexa thing (which, granted, is annoying). I think if you're seeing ads you can pay some relatively small amount to "upgrade" to ad-free, which might be a cheaper way to test if the Fire can work for you.

If trying to save money I'd personally first see where I can get with the tablet that you have, and otherwise probably buy a good used Android tablet or larger phone off someplace like swappa. (Recent versions of Android should let you have two apps open side-by-side as well, though personally I've found that sometimes awkward to use.)

Regarding keyboard input, my personal experience has been that having a larger on-screen keyboard doesn't make input much easier (but then again I'm using a phone that's probably much larger than the ipod). What does make things easier for me is using a good keyboard app, especially one that lets you swipe instead of tapping out individual words. YMMV. Also, you can probably connect a Bluetooth keyboard to any Android device for use when you're at home.

If listening to music is your primary use case when out and about, and you actually own much of that music rather than having to stream it, maybe a small mp3 player would be useful to you - cheap, not as big to carry around as another phone or tablet, and most models now have a very long battery life and can take micro sd cards.
posted by trig at 1:24 AM on September 14, 2019

The Wirecutter recommends this small SanDisk device as the best portable MP3 player. It seems to be the only Sansa product that speaks Bluetooth.
posted by yclipse at 9:24 AM on September 14, 2019

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