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MP3 Players

Hands-on with the iPod touch January software update

Getting the new software on to our iPod touch wasn't problem-free, but having Google Maps, email and Web clips at our fingertips without a contract, we were happy nonetheless

The iPhone had maps and email from day one. The iPod touch, however -- despite being effectively a phoneless iPhone -- did not. At his keynote earlier this week, Apple founder Steve Jobs told us we could get five iPhone apps on the iPod touch for £12.99. He didn't get a round of applause for charging. Nonetheless, we got hold of the software update and we have some things to report.

After buying the update we were told to simply resync our iPod. As it's Apple, this simplicity of installation was no surprise. Except it didn't work; our apps were not available. Odd, since we followed the painfully easy steps. Maybe it just didn't arrive from the store? Well, we tried to purchase again and were told, "You have already bought the iPod game [our emphasis] 'iPod touch January Software Update'. Would you like to buy it again?"

How about no?

We weren't the only ones having trouble. As one poster on Apple's support forums writes, "Bought January Update for my Touch... error, no Download. Synced my Touch... nothing happens... iTunes [said] I should reset and resync my iPod Touch. Done, but did not help." And they aren't the only ones.

It can be fixed be reformatting the iPod from scratch. It's inconvenient, but when complete, the new firmware and apps will be installed.

The Wi-Fi-assisted location finder worked really well in west London at the Apple event, and it worked really well finding our office just now. Google Maps look terrific and the satellite imagery is a huge bonus. Searching for directions to our favourite local eateries was painless and directions were clearly displayed. You can bookmark certain locations, too, so if you always want to find locations to places from your office, you needn't locate your office on the map first.

The mail app is great as well. Yahoo, Google, .mac and AOL mail accounts are supported alongside IMAP, POP and Exchange, though the latter wouldn't work with our corporate mail server, so it's no BlackBerry replacement.

Web clips is a neat little feature, as is being able to arrange the home screen's icons over one or multiple screens. We were easily able to zoom into the 'Top stories' section of our homepage, save it as a thumbnailed clip and get one-touch access to those top stories right from the home screen. With up to nine pages of screens up for creation, you'll get plenty of your favourite Web destinations personified as thumbnails!

You'll also get the stocks, notes and weather applications for your £12.99. These work fine, though we can't honestly get too excited about being able to write notes on an iPod.

In summary, we're still not on-board with the idea of paying £12.99 for these updates, but they're certainly excellent features to add. That said, the mail applications will be very useful if you don't use your phone for email access, so maybe it is worth the money after all? Hopefully Apple will quickly sort out the teething problems we experienced with the installation. -Nate Lanxon