The eternal battle: iPhone vs. iPod Touch: which is right for me?
November 28, 2007 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Should I ask for an iPhone or an iPod Touch for Christmas? My usage specs inside. I need some perspective and some insight from current users of both.

So, I along with about everyone else on the planet have been seduced by the touch screen Appley goodness. My current iPod is a non-color-screened 20GB with a pathetic battery life, so I'm due for a bit of an upgrade. My phone situation is better, but my phone is also three years old and I'm due for a new one of those as well (although I still like it pretty well). Which will be most worth it for me, a non-power user? Some pros and cons I've come up with:

iPhone pros: It's awesomeness in a shiny little box. Google maps(I use it constantly at home), visual voicemail(something I've always imagined in a perfect phone), always available internet (as I live in an area with good AT&T coverage), ability to write short notes, plus all the goodies the iTouch has.

iPhone cons: My family already has AT&T, but the extra 20 bucks a month raises some issues when I'm already asking for a 400 dollar gadget (will the iPhone data plan apply for any other phones in my family's plan? because the "replaces existing data plan" on the iPhone page doesn't really explain things). I might mitigate the cost with my mom by offering to spring for the first 6 months or so of the extra bill money- I can't pay for all of it, but I could at least do that).

The other big thing is the storage- 8GB seems pretty thin, especially as I really want to use it as a video watching thing. Music-wise I'm probably OK- my current iPod only has about 6 gigs on it after 3 years and a lot of that is not really necessary. I'm also mildly worried about a new version of the iPhone coming out in two months that solves all my issues with it (larger storage, cheaper?), leaving me with a lot of envy. Then again, I don't believe in waiting forever for gadget nirvana and I don't have any huge issues with the current version, just mild concern.

iPhone neutrals: I don't text very much, unlike every other teenage girl currently living, so texting matters not at all to me. The price of the thing itself is less of an issue as if I get the iTouch, it's 16GB all the way. I don't care about size. I don't care about email.

The iTouch's main positive is the larger storage and not having to pay for a data plan. Its main negatives are not being able to access the internet except with wifi access, which strikes me as a bit limited (better slow internet than none whatsoever), plus it lacks all the delightful things the iPhone does have (see iPhone pros). I also will sooner rather than later need a new phone, and the idea of having one unigadget is appealing.

Basically, I have the cheaper, more limited option that won't fulfill my desire the way the iPhone would and the amazing option that still leaves me with a few hesitancies. I don't think I realized how much I wanted an iPhone until I thought maybe it made sense to get one, but the practical side of me is saying that I've been seduced by shiny and that I should go for the more conservative choice.

Mefites, what say you? I need some more perspective. I've played with both options but I need some input from people who have experience with one or both. Looking at my questions, concerns, et. al. and weighing your experience, which should I go for?
posted by MadamM to Shopping (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Wow, I'm really sorry that turned out to be so long. Oh well, more detail is better than too little... maybe.
posted by MadamM at 8:23 PM on November 28, 2007

For less money, why not get an iPod classic with an order of magnitude more money. Perhaps I fail to see the draw of the iTouch - a higher price and far less capacity seem like too big of a penalty to pay for a fancy interface.
posted by caddis at 8:27 PM on November 28, 2007

Didn't want to read that whole thing but as the owner of an iPhone... get one.
posted by pwally at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2007

Constant access to the internet is -- and this is embarrassing to admit, as always -- sort of life-changing. The iPod Touch is just a fancy iPod when you're away from wifi.
posted by buriedpaul at 8:35 PM on November 28, 2007

iTouch - a higher price and far less capacity seem like too big of a penalty to pay for a fancy interface.

It would be if you used it strictly as an iPod....but if you treated as a wireless computer and made extensive use of the web browser then it starts to look a lot more attractive.
posted by mmascolino at 8:35 PM on November 28, 2007

recently, AT&T put an option on the web based account management to remove the $20 data plan from the iPhone. I haven't done it, but I believe you also lose visual voicemail with that.

8 Gigs will hold several movies and tv shows. Right now I have 3 feature films and 4 hour long tv shows plus 2 gigs of music. I'm back at my computer nightly, so it is plenty of space. It holds a longer charge than I expected, as long as I just turn on wifi as needed. I just wrote this on my iPhone, it rules.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:39 PM on November 28, 2007

(better slow internet than none whatsoever)

If you have an internet connection faster than 802.11g, I don't think you'd call it slow.

If you don't, then it's got nothing to do with the client device.
posted by pompomtom at 8:49 PM on November 28, 2007

I would suggest the Touch. 8GB can fill up pretty quickly.
posted by stilly at 9:19 PM on November 28, 2007

(better slow internet than none whatsoever)

I think she meant EDGE on the iPhone being the slow internet connection that the iTouch doesn't have.

You're already on AT&T, and the iPhone can be added to a family plan if you have that. The data plan can be dropped (although you lose the visual voicemail) - so it looks like your last sticking point is size. Unless you'll be away from your computer for more than a couple of days at a time, and/or need all of your music/videos at any given time, I say go with the iPhone.

For me, the unigadget is key. The main advantage is having it around all the time - phone, internet, music, and movies always in my pocket. I've had the T-Mobile Sidekick (first and second generation), the Treo 650, and numerous combinations of separate phones and PDAs and media players. This is the first device that does everything I need (better on all fronts than those old ones) and I never notice I'm carrying it around, even with a full Vaja case in my pocket.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:46 PM on November 28, 2007

And to answer your question, the $20 data plan only applies to one phone.

On that front, I'd say keep the data plan for the first month, see how much you use the internet outside of wifi range.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:49 PM on November 28, 2007

I got the 16GB Touch, myself, and I'm very happy with it. I had a competent (if aging) phone already, and didn't want to be tied down to AT&T. Plus, my campus is drenched with signal, so the lack of EDGE wasn't a problem. And although it seemed very limited in functionality at first, I quickly jumped on the "jailbreak" bandwagon, with fantastic results.

There are websites out there that, by merely navigating to them using the Safari browser, will unlock the Touch and add on a nifty installer program that will give you a choice of hundreds of free third-party apps to install over wifi.

Right now my "springboard" is scrollable and extends to two full pages. I've got Google Maps, Gmail, internet radio, IRC chat, an ebook reader, a notepad, a file explorer, and custom wallpaper. There are also plenty of free games -- Lights Out, Paint, an accelerometer-driven pinball labyrinth, a Crayon Physics port, and emulators for the NES and the Gameboy Advance. And those are just the apps I wanted for myself. There are literally hundreds more.

Of course, this technically voids your warranty. And getting too deep into the nitty gritty of the Touch's filesystem (via the BSD Subsystem and OpenSSH apps and a competent file transfer program) can render it unoperable. It's even happened to mine -- twice. But iTunes has a built-in software restore feature that will return the gadget to its factory defaults in minutes. Since all this jailbreaking stuff is software-only, even the most boneheaded mistakes are reversible, and if you need to return it to Apple for some reason, all warranty-voiding shenanigans will be wiped and impossible to detect.

Keep in mind that you can do this same stuff using the same methods for the iPhone if you wish -- all third-party apps are interoperable between the two devices. I'm not quite clear on the details, since I've been focusing on tricking out the Touch, so I'm not sure how jailbreaking, unlocking, restoring and such will affect a contract with Ma Bell.

Anyway, I'd be glad to help you out if you do decide on getting (and modding) a Touch. It seemed a bit intimidating to me at first, but I understand the process pretty well now, and it's a lot simpler than it looks. Good luck!
posted by Rhaomi at 9:51 PM on November 28, 2007 [6 favorites]

For less money, why not get an iPod classic with an order of magnitude more money.

um, that should be an order of magnitude more "memory." Jeez.
posted by caddis at 10:09 PM on November 28, 2007

Try visual voicemail via Google's (free) Grandcentral service and see if you like it. Google's version is not as tightly integrated as Apple's, but works on pretty much any phone and service. The principle is the same and you should see if it makes a big difference to what you do. There are some value-added visual voicemail services out that claim to do speech recognition and send you the text of the messages as well as screen clicks but I don't know how well they work.

As regards watching video, I don't have an apple phone but my windows phone only takes memory cards in 4GB (so far) and juggling 3 or 4 cards is about all I can manage. So I use Orb (occasionally VLC) to stream audio and video from my home server using the phone web browser. PDFs and documents as well. The iphone seems to have a fair number of video codecs so it should be able to display the streamed videos and such - Orb gives you some options in encoding format. One drawback is you sometimes need high bandwidth - for fullscreen video my phone is happiest with WiFi, can manage okay with a good EVDO 800 Kbps signal, gets unhappy with 300Kbps, and I think AT&T's EDGE network comes in below that. So your streaming might be limited to audio, or to reduced resolution videos.
posted by meehawl at 10:16 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: I can only speak to the iPod Touch experience. (The iPhone is not even available here in Montana due to lack of AT&T service.)

I bought one for my teen daughter. I use it as much as she does. For those who call it just a fancy but limited iPod... did you not read her question? She is seduced by the touchiness! And I have to say, it is slicker than snot on a doorknob!

It is awesome for watching videos and movies. The screen is generous and sharp. You won't be able to keep a ton of video on it at one time time, but you can swap video files when you synchronize.

It does everything a regular iPod does. And the WiFi is awesome. No, you won't think it's slow, it's just that you do have to be in a hotspot. I use it mostly for Safari, in my apartment, in place of using the laptop for web browsing.

It's also impossibly thin. That's the first comment most people have when they see it.

If the $20 a month is not an issue, or if you can make a deal with your folks that you will pay it, then the iPhone might make more sense. The limited capacity may not be an issue. You just swap out the music and video you are tired of for different stuff in your iTunes library. It doesn't take that long. I do that with my 1 gig Shuffle all the time.

Either way, it sounds like you will have a great Christmas.
posted by The Deej at 4:36 AM on November 29, 2007

I'm so jealous! I would totally go for an iphone, even w/o a data plan.

Even in my mildly pathetic financial situation, I think that as soon as someone hacks the iphone to work with google docs/bluetooth keyboard input/skype, I'm jumping in with both feet!
posted by Salamandrous at 7:19 AM on November 29, 2007

I was given the iPod Touch. I thought it was what I wanted, because I figured that WiFi access would be enough - I'm in LA, and as you might have heard, there's a few people around here, so wireless networks are plentiful. What I didn't figure, however, is just how many people now lock down their wireless networks. So far I've only once accessed an open wireless network. Most of the time I find long, scrolling lists of networks I can't use. Very frustrating, especially since I mostly wanted it for its Internet fu.

If using it for Net access is important to you, I'd get the iPhone.
posted by rednikki at 7:40 AM on November 29, 2007

I have an iPhone and a terrible sense of direction, and the google maps thing is SO SO SO SO worthwhile. Also, the storage space isn't really limiting, and the battery life definitely isn't bad either.

Go for it! :D

(I swear I'm not an apple maniac...)
posted by mismatched at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2007

I got an iPod Touch and then (long, boring story) got an iPhone instead. Having the internet all the time really is incredible. I, too, thought the proliferation of wireless networks would mean my Touch had a virtually continuous supply of internet. However, even in London, that is not the case - I only used the net at home and work, where I had a computer anyway.

Storage space. I think the decision is based on whether you need your whole video/music collection with you all the time, or you don't. For most people, having either the Touch or iPhone puts them into the latter category.

I love not having to carry a separate phone and iPod.

Battery life is fine.

In the end, $20 a month for being permenantly plugged into the internet is about the best deal in the world.
posted by maryrosecook at 9:52 AM on November 29, 2007

The iPhone is fucking amazing. It's like a piece of the future.
posted by chunking express at 10:37 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: I love my iPhone. Of the thousands of gadgets I have purchased over the years (and you can ask Mrs. Silvertree about the 1000s part) it is in my top five, probably #1. I work at a place where I can play with the iPod touch, and I have a lot. I prefer the iPhone.

IMO, here is the real questions you need to ask yourself:

How often are you going to watch the same videos? If you are constantly switching things out, the space limitation won't bother you as much.

What is your listening style? For instance, my wife listens to a select few CD's at a time, that moves on to something else. She never has a problem. I am more of a "I have to take everything with me" kinda guy so space is a little more important to me.

Do you mind carrying two devices? It is very nice to a phone with the iPod, instead of carrying two devices.

How often do you have access to WiFi? Constant internet access is a wonderful thing.

Either way, you will end up with an amazing device that will satisfy your "touch" needs.
posted by Silvertree at 12:35 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: I just checked and Orb seems to work fine with Apple's web browser. So there's no real space limitation, you can stream terabytes of videos to your device if you have an upload pipe and a network connection (you can also download over the network to your phone if you can access your local storage). The only thing this review says doesn't work is streaming your TV signal to your phone. But I have a feeling Orb will fix that soon - it's just a case of streaming a format that Apple's phone can understand.
posted by meehawl at 1:35 PM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Thank all you guys for the information- I can't be sure yet, but if my parents agree I think I'm going to shoot for the iPhone.

meehawl, thanks for pointing me to Orb; if it works as slickly as you say, it might help mitigate my storage space uneasiness. I'll have to see if I even really feel the lack, actually, as I tend to be a listen to a few CDs at a time person. This may actually motivate me to use iTunes more effectively, especially as I'm going to be getting a laptop for college next spring/summer that will let me set up my media in a more organized fashion.

Eeee! I'm getting excited already! The idea of having internet at school, where our access is heavily blocked, is verrry exciting.

BTW, just to clear up a bit of confusion, I *do* know that the internet speed on either the Touch or the iPhone is dependent on the speed of the connection it has access to when using wifi- I was referring to the slow-but-better-than-nothing EDGE access that the iPhone uses when out of range of wifi.
posted by MadamM at 7:30 PM on November 29, 2007

Yay for you!!! If you need help to push them over the edge, I'll call your folks and tell them how my daughter became a much better person after getting an iPod Touch, and that an iPhone will certainly make you a greater contributor to humanity. Plus it will give them something to take away from you when you step out of line.


(yeah well, I am jealous cuz we don't get to have iPhones in Montana. Grrr)
posted by The Deej at 10:26 PM on November 29, 2007

I had to make that call myself when they came out, and went for the iPod touch because £35 a month, even for unlimited data, is still fairly expensive compared to a regular phone contract.

Also because I'm a European, I'm very used to 3G speeds on my current phone, and I'd be loth to go back to 2G or even 2.5G browsing when away from a hotspot.
posted by athenian at 5:33 AM on December 3, 2007

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