Sometimes we get accused of becoming an Apple blog, we post so much Apple-centric stuff, but there’s a reason for that. Apple might be obnoxious in its app approval behavior, closed in its development platform, and prudish in its gatekeeping, but there’s no denying that they make some damned fine e-book reading devices. My iPod Touch was my sole e-reader for most of the two years I had it, and I still miss it badly.
Matt Buchanan makes a similar point on Gizmodo, where he says that if the rumors are true about the new iPod Touch that will (presumably) be revealed tomorrow and it ends up with the same retina display, Facetime camera, and 5-megapixel rear camera as the iPhone, it has the potential to be a device “serial killer”—replacing just about every gadget one would carry around (iPod, point-and-shoot camera, motion picture camera, notepad, gaming device, etc.) except the phone.
Inexplicably, there’s never been a credible iPod touch competitor. The Zune HD doesn’t run apps (the handful it’s got don’t count), so it’s limited in what it can do—it’s simply a very good music player. Android is still a miserable place to be when it comes to media, and on top of that, all of the Android "tablets" have been thoroughly mediocre. There’s nothing out there that’s remotely like the iPod touch. And obviously, there’s a demand for it, since it’s the only iPod whose sales are still growing.
The iPod Touch has basically taken over the ecological niche vacated when PDAs evolved into smartphones, in much the same way as rats or cockroaches might evolve to replace humans after we kill ourselves off. There haven’t been any real competitors, perhaps because most tablets are larger and most devices the same size are smartphones.
Of course, it does get a boost from being an iPod, given that the original iPods rapidly became the 800-lb gorillas of MP3 players, but it’s nonetheless interesting that not even Palm who first made the PDA format successful has tried to make a wifi-only pocket device since the Palm TX. The iPhone might be only one of many smartphones, but the iPod Touch stands alone. (I made a similar point in a post exactly one year ago today, in fact.)
And depending on what gets unveiled in less than six hours, it might just stand more alone than ever.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the new Touch will have everything the rumormongers think it will. It was thought that the iPod Touch was going to get a camera last year, but when the event played out there was none to be found. Only a 2-megapixel rear camera rather than the iPhone’s 5-megapixel was one of the rumors rounded up by Appletell in its post the other day.
Will Apple worry enough about cannibalizing the iPhone’s sales to leave features out? I don’t know. After all, Apple sells many times more iPod Touches than iPhones, and the iPods don’t come with the awkward entanglement with telcos of the iPhone. It would make more sense for Apple to be concerned about cannibalizing the iPod Touch’s sales in favor of the iPhone.
Either way, the new iPod Touch is sure to have enough sweet features to leave anyone who likes Apple devices drooling (myself included). And there’s one more device Buchanan doesn’t mention it replacing that I could see it taking care of. When coupled with a $150 MiFi (just a little more than the premium one pays for adding 3G to an iPad) and Virgin Mobile’s unlimited contract-free $40 a month data plan, it might just replace the phone, too. (With the side benefit of providing wifi to 4 other devices without any tethering being necessary, too.)