Editors' take: iPod Touch (third-generation)

CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell offers his first impressions of the third-generation Apple iPod Touch.

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I have to admit, my expectations for the third-generation iPod Touch were pretty lofty heading into Apple's 09/09/09 event . Somehow, it seemed logical that many of the new features Apple rolled into the iPhone 3GS (video recording, specifically) would trickle down to its flagship media player. Well, I was wrong. Aside from a bump in capacity and a performance, the third-generation iPod Touch announcement was a bit of a snoozer.

It was also a little confusing. Apple is now selling identical-looking iPod Touch media players in 8GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities, priced at $199, $299, and $399, respectively. But to reach that magical $199 price point, the 8GB iPod Touch is literally a second-generation Touch with a new price tag. Only the 32GB and 64GB models will include the mildly exciting third-gen features, such as a 50 percent faster processor, OpenGL graphics support, Voice Control, and accessibility improvements.

Now, before this starts sounding too much like one prolonged whine, let's reflect on the good news. First off, the iPod Touch--whether it's last year's model or not--is still a great device that remains far ahead of its competitors on many fronts. Paying $199 for an 8GB second-gen Touch that includes iPhone OS 3.0 features such as Bluetooth and voice memos is not a bad deal. Also, kudos to Apple for breaking the 64GB Flash memory barrier. At least that's one thing Touch users can rub in the face of iPhone owners for awhile.

The Touch is also getting a new Genius Mixes feature which, like Genius Playlists, sounds a lot smarter than it really is. Basically, it's a shuffle of music from your library, constrained within a particular genre, with selections magically filtered through iTunes' Genius recommendation engine. In other words, it's genre shuffle with a prettier face and an extra dose of Apple mojo. I'm not exactly jumping out of my seat.

Battery life for the 8GB, as well as the 32GB and 64GB Touch models, is unsurprisingly rated at 30 hours of audio and 6 hours of video. For the first time in history, the Zune may have actually pulled ahead of Apple on battery life now that the Zune HD is boasting 32 hours of audio and 8.5 hours of video. Once both products have been subjected to testing in CNET Labs, we'll have a better sense of what to realistically expect.

Stay tuned for CNET's official review of the third-generation iPod Touch later this week. Until then, there's plenty of iPod ranting and raving to watch on this week's MP3 Insider video podcast , and all sorts of breaking news to be found at CNET's iPod Central.

 

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