Buyer's Guide: iPod Touch

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iPod Touch Keeps your finger on the pulse

iPod Touch Keeps your finger on the pulse


Who's it best for?


The iPod Touch is a lifestyle companion first, and a games system second. But those two aspects of the iPod Touch's existence are all but neck and neck these days, what with there being a megalithic 25,000 games and over 100,000 applications in total currently available - with an estimated 60 new ones being added every day.

Some would argue that the lack of physical buttons means this isn't a proper games machine, but most anyone who owns an iPod Touch would avidly disagree. Let's find out why.

Best Bits


Touchscreen and tilt technology
Okay, so maybe the iPod Touch doesn't have any buttons, but it more than makes up for it with an advanced new form of touchscreen. The DS Lite (for example) can only register one point of contact on its touchscreen at any one time - this means if you put two fingers on it, you confuse it. The iPod Touch is what's known as a 'multi-touch touchscreen', allowing many points of contact all at once. This might not sound important, but it's a major factor in really unlocking the power of a touchscreen-controlled game.

It also has a function built in called an accelerometer - in layman's terms, this means it's motion sensitive and can detect when you move the handset. Tipping it on its side, or leaning it backward and forwards are important aspects of how games and software are controlled on the iPod Touch, and this is a powerful feature that no other handheld has. For instance, it turns the whole device into a highly sensitive and responsive steering wheel in racing games - the first time you see it in action is a jaw-dropping experience.

Very cheap, very cheerful
On face value you might think the iPod Touch is an expensive device, but when you weigh that initial cost up against the fact that some of its best games are available for just 59p (and even for free), this actually reveals itself as one of the cheapest game systems available.

Simple and safe
The simplicity of the iPod Touch is unrivalled. Anyone who can point a finger can use it to its fullest, making it ideal for younger users as well as technologically shy newbies.

Apple also goes to great lengths to vet every single game and piece of software (generally referred to as 'applications' in the iPod world), and with parental controls built in, you can be sure kids will only receive suitable content.

Worst Bits


Wot, no buttons?
The biggest gripe handheld gamers have with the iPod Touch is its lack of physical buttons - and it's a justified complaint. The more 'acradey' titles seen on the PSP often don't work so well without a button to click. But then again, most iPod Touch games aren't designed like that anyway.

Bonus Extras


It's all about the App Store
All the iPod Touch's games and applications are bought through the App Store - a section of iTunes dedicated to the iPod Touch and iPhone. There are over 100,000 different games and apps available, so you're guaranteed to find more great software than you can possibly handle.

Next to games, digital books are the most popular part of the App Store. There are literally tens of thousands of books available (many of which are free), making this a great device for other kinds of entertainment and education. It also makes the iPod Touch valuable for school, college, university and for people who aren't bothered about games, but love their gadgets.

3D, multiplayer, online communities
The iPod Touch has outstanding 3D graphics, creating games that are comparable to the PSP. But its built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth mean you can play multiplayer games with other iPod Touch users nearby, or play online with users around the world.

Communication is the key
Because the iPod Touch loves being connected to the internet, you've got a beautifully easy-to-use web browser, full email support (with an on-screen keyboard), voip applications like Skype and Fring, full access to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia and a host of other communication outlets.

Online Features


Wi-fi is becoming a necessity for all handheld devices, and the iPod Touch handles wireless internet beautifully. Whenever it detects a network, it asks if you want to connect, and with the quick input of any required passwords, you're online - no fuss.

Getting started
Searching for a wi-fi signal is automatic, though it can also be initiated with a single touch. The iPod Touch does all the legwork for you, so email, the App Store, and the entire internet are always in your pocket.

Thousands of different applications (many of which are free) will also allow you to gather information and entertainment from the internet in their own way, too, so once you've signed up for an iTunes account you literally have the world at your fingertips.

What will you find online?
The iPod Touch's web browser is very easy to use, and gives the best experience next to using a computer. You've also got email exactly as it is on your PC, but it's iTunes and the App Store that offer the more adventurous online action:

  • Play multiplayer games locally, and with friends around the world,
  • Over 60 new games and applications per day,
  • message and email friends,
  • upload high scores from loads of your favourite games,
  • check the weather report,
  • use Google maps,
  • browse and bid on eBay,
  • download music and videos,
  • check what's on at your local cinema,
  • find books, recipes, game guides and all kinds of reading matter.

Buying games online:
Buying games, applications, music and videos is amazingly simple once you've registered an iTunes account. You can link a credit card to your account, or top up your account using iTunes vouchers.

A handy tip for parents:
iTunes vouchers are a great way of allowing kids to shop safely on iTunes and the App Store, while monitoring how much they spend. You add the vouchers, they spend 'em! These vouchers are also a superb gift for anyone who owns an iPod Touch (or iPhone, for that matter).

iTunes vouchers can be purchased through your iPod Touch using a credit card or in your local GAME store.

Essential Accessories


Your iPod Touch should be with you at all times - that its purpose. And while there are plenty of accessories for this amazing device, a couple of them are absolutely essential.

  • Case: We've said this a lot with handhelds, but a case is an absolute must for your iPod Touch. It's a metal housing with a glass screen, so it needs protection.
  • Screen protector: Essentially, the iPod Touch is the touchscreen, so if this gets marked or damaged you're in trouble. A clear, stick-on screen protector is vital to keeping the glass display in pristine condition. When it starts to look a bit rough, simply replace it - your screen will always look gorgeous.
  • Headphones: When all is said and done, this is still an iPod, so get yourself some decent headphones so you can really enjoy the music, videos and game sound when playing in public.

Non-essential (but recommended) accessories
You don't need these to get your iPod Touch career off the ground, but once you realise you can't live without it, these will be great add-ons.

  • Stylus: The touchscreen of the iPod Touch works differently to that of the DS Lite, and an ordinary stylus won't work (it detects the biometric imprint of your finger, which a plastic stylus doesn't have). But if you're doing lots of tapping, a special iPod Touch 'pen' is just what you need.
  • Gaming grip: This is a specially shaped rubber case (and we like cases, don't we?) that adds grips right where you need them when gaming. The iPod Touch looks beautiful, but those smooth, shiny surfaces make it easy to drop.
  • Speaker dock: A great way to charge your iPod Touch while listening to all that great music is to get a speaker dock. It outputs the sound in great quality, and your iPod Touch is charged and ready to go whenever you are.

You'll find GAME's full range of iPod Touch accessories here.

Games


With over 25,000 games to choose from, simply browsing the App Store will often prove to be entertainment enough. But because these games are so affordable (even the most expensive iPod Touch game is only .99, and most are half that) you'll be filling it up in no time. Here's some of the best to get you started.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Driving: Real Racing, Jet Car Stunts, Rally Master Pro, Need For Speed: Shift, Asphalt 5, Trackmania, Moto X Mayhem.
  • Adventure & RPG: Zenonia, Sims 3, iMob Online, Dungeon Hunter, TNA Wrestling, Command & Conquer: Red Alert.
  • Retro: Earthworm Jim, Doom Classic, Resident Evil 4, C64 Emulator, Wolfenstein RPG, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Tetris, Escape from Monkey Island.
  • Applications: NASA App, Jamie Oliver 20 Minute Meals, Stanza e-book reader, iHandy Spirit Level, eBay, Orange Wednesdays, Facebook, Twitter, Skype.
  • Puzzle: Zen Bound, Ivory Tiles, Ancient Frog, Bejeweled 2, Tower Bloxx, Geared.
  • Free games: Real Racing GTI, Fling, Sheep Launcher, JellyCar, Paper Toss, Sudoku, Eliminate.

And here's a new gaming genre that's pretty much unique to the iPod Touch, but has become one of its most popular. 'Line drawing' games involve you tracing a route around the touchscreen using your finger to interact with the game. They're a cross between puzzles, racing and time management games - you've got to try them!

  • Line drawing games: Flight Control, Harbor Master, 33rd Division, Line Rider, Parachute Panic, Harbor Havoc 3D, Space Dock, Return of the Pied Piper.

Summary


It's true that the iPod Touch isn't an out-and-out games console like the PSP or DS - it's so much more. The games are different, but sensational, and the device will quickly become an essential part of your lifestyle technology, every bit as much as your mobile phone. It's easy to use (my dad makes extensive use of his and is never without it, and that's saying something!) and infinitely expandable. Suitable for ages from 5 to 105. Make that 205.

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