Touched by the iPod update

After anxiously applying the iPhone 3.0 update to my iPod Touch last week, I took the new features for a test drive. How did they fare?

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
4 min read

As a proud iPod Touch owner, I was counting the days until last week's release of the iPhone OS 3.0 update. Though the Touch is sometimes treated as lowly sibling to its bigger brother iPhone, it boasts many of the same features and received a similar update. But unlike iPhone users, we iPod Touch owners had to shell out $10 for the 3.0 facelift. Was it worth it? I took my iPod Touch for a spin after installing 3.0 and here's what I uncovered.

I know some users had trouble downloading the update the first day, but it worked smoothly and relatively quickly for me. I also heard the update disabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on some units, mostly the first generation Touch. But all key functions on my Touch 2G survived the upgrade intact. Speed and performance also felt the same.

New Features:
Cut, copy, paste--This was the one of two features I most craved. In the past, copying, or moving notes, reentering appointments, and rekeying URLs meant loads of retyping. No more. I like the elegance of the new copy and paste. Just double-click the text, move the handles to select more or less of it, copy it, and paste it into the new spot. Using Cut instead of Copy also means I can delete a large chunk of text without keeping my finger on Backspace. Nice job, Apple.

Greater Landscape support--This is the other feature I most wanted. Whenever my wife "borrowed" my iPod Touch, she'd complain about having to type e-mails with one finger--in portrait mode, you need microscopic thumbs to use both hands. No longer. Though Landscape mode was always available for Safari and a few other apps, support now extends to e-mail, Notes, Contacts, and more. Typing e-mails is almost a pleasure with two fingers. Except now I'm having a harder time getting my iPod back from my wife.

Landscape Mode
Landscape Mode Apple

Spotlight Search--I discovered the new Spotlight search tool by accident when I dragged my finger to the left of the main app screen. I dove right in, searching for e-mail, contacts, calendar information, applications, even songs, videos, and podcasts. All came through. A definite time saver and nicely integrated.

Voice Memos--We now have a Voice Memos feature to record audio. I already use a free app called iTalk, so this wasn't critical for me. But I discovered two cool options. Voice Memos lets me trim recorded audio right on my Touch, and it will back up the recordings to my iTunes desktop.

Bluetooth--The one frustrating feature for me was Bluetooth, mostly due to a lack of understanding on how it works (or doesn't) with the Touch. The 3.0 update was supposed to unlock Bluetooth capability (the chip was already on the Touch but just not enabled). I was anxious to use my Bluetooth headsets to make VoIP calls via Skype. But, as I learned, this was not to be.

After trying in vain to pair both of my Bluetooth headsets with the Touch, I made an appointment with the Genius Bar at my friendly neighborhood Apple store. At first, the Apple tech wasn't sure why my Touch wouldn't detect either of my headsets. Nor would it pair with any of their devices.

The first assumption was that my iPod wasn't working right. So the tech reinstalled the 3.0 update. Still no pairing. They he tried a new iPod with the update. Still no dice. Finally, the tech figured out that none of the Bluetooth devices we were using supported AD2P, a standard for streaming audio. Only Bluetooth devices that support it will work with the Touch. And it provides only audio. No microphone support, meaning no VoIP calls via Bluetooth. Disappointing, but not a deal breaker, as I can still use my regular wired headset for VoIP calls.

I should have realized the need for AD2P ahead of time. (My wife keeps telling me I need to read the directions beforehand.) But from the message boards I checked, many people seemed confused over Bluetooth in the iPhone and iPod Touch. Even the Apple tech didn't initially think about AD2P when testing my iPod.

I've only covered a few of the new features in the 3.0 update. Lots more to discover and play with. Despite the Bluetooth affair, the update was well worth my $10. A small price to pay to get a wide range of solid new features.

For a full critique of the iPod Touch and its 3.0 update, check out Donald Bell's review, his latest column, and video review.