Mobile Technology

Review: Apple iPod touch (6th generation)

Review: Apple iPod touch (6th ...
Gizmag reviews the new 2015 iPod touch, a good upgrade for the (relatively) few people who need one
Gizmag reviews the new 2015 iPod touch, a good upgrade for the (relatively) few people who need one
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The new iPod touch's aluminum build, which is nearly identical to the 5th-generation model (
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The new iPod touch's aluminum build, which is nearly identical to the 5th-generation model (
Gizmag reviews the new 2015 iPod touch, a good upgrade for the (relatively) few people who need one
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Gizmag reviews the new 2015 iPod touch, a good upgrade for the (relatively) few people who need one
The 2015 iPod touch has the same 4-inch screen we saw in the 2012 model
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The 2015 iPod touch has the same 4-inch screen we saw in the 2012 model
The new iPod touch is a mere 6.1 mm (0.24-inch) thick
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The new iPod touch is a mere 6.1 mm (0.24-inch) thick
The 6th-generation iPod touch is a pleasure to hold
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The 6th-generation iPod touch is a pleasure to hold
The iPod touch's 326 PPI display should look familiar to anyone who's used an iPhone 5, 5s or 5c
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The iPod touch's 326 PPI display should look familiar to anyone who's used an iPhone 5, 5s or 5c
It may be a niche device, but the iPod touch is still a gorgeous device that's lot of fun to use
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It may be a niche device, but the iPod touch is still a gorgeous device that's lot of fun to use
We suspect a large portion of iPod touch buyers are using it for gaming – perhaps for younger family members
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We suspect a large portion of iPod touch buyers are using it for gaming – perhaps for younger family members
The iPod touch's A8 chip benchmarks at 85-86 percent as fast as the iPhone 6
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The iPod touch's A8 chip benchmarks at 85-86 percent as fast as the iPhone 6
Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
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Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
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Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
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Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera

It's almost surprising that Apple bothered to update the iPod touch in 2015. With most people already having a smartphone in their pockets, what place does a Wi-Fi only smartphone have in today's marketplace? Let's try to answer that, as Gizmag reviews the new 6th-generation iPod touch.

The new iPod touch is a more attractive product than you might expect. It doesn't get any lighter or thinner than its predecessor (from way back in 2012), but it does hang onto the same awesome build while taking a huge step forward in raw power and camera quality.

We could jump into a long list of technical feature breakdowns (and we will cover some of that), but that one question remains: what the hell does one do with an iPod touch in a smartphone-saturated world?

The 6th-generation iPod touch is a pleasure to hold
The 6th-generation iPod touch is a pleasure to hold

When the first iPod touch launched in 2007, the iPhone was still a novelty that was out of financial reach of a large portion of consumers. The iPod touch served as a cheaper way to see what the fuss was all about. A gateway product for future iPhone owners, somewhat miscategorized as an iPod. But today iPhones, Android phones and even some Windows Phones are in nearly every pocket or purse you come across. The gateway aspect died years ago.

The iPod touch always lacked a crystal-clear identity, but today its purpose is foggier than ever.

Our best answer is children. Many parents aren't comfortable buying smartphones for their kids until they become teens (if then), but they may still want their children to get in on the entertainment (and perhaps learning or productivity) that mobile devices can offer. So Mom and Pops are left to choose between a tablet like the iPad mini or a (slightly cheaper) portable media player like the iPod touch.

In that sense, the iPod touch is probably, first and foremost, a gaming device. More a rival to the Nintendo 3DS than to smartphones.

We suspect a large portion of iPod touch buyers are using it for gaming – perhaps for younger family members
We suspect a large portion of iPod touch buyers are using it for gaming – perhaps for younger family members

Another possible use is for people who own Android phones, but still want access to the occasional iOS game or app (on the whole, it seems like many app-makers still prioritize iOS development). If you prefer Android for most of your phone needs, but wish you could dip your toes into the App Store from time to time, then the iPod touch isn't a bad way to do that.

So let's say you fall into one of those two categories: parent or iOS-curious Android phone owner. Is the new iPod touch a good buy, or worth the upgrade?

In many ways, yes. It has a newer and better system-on-a-chip than any iPad mini to date, and also costs less. And while you miss out on the larger screens that you'll find in Apple's tablets, you get a beautifully-designed aluminum body that's compact, ridiculously light and pleasantly thin. It's an absolute pleasure to hold.

The 2015 iPod touch has the same 4-inch screen we saw in the 2012 model
The 2015 iPod touch has the same 4-inch screen we saw in the 2012 model

Its 4-inch screen does look downright shrimpy compared to today's flagship smartphones (it's the same size as the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c screens), but it's a great size for small kids' hands. And for adults, it's better for one-handed use than today's humongo-phones.

The iPod touch's screen has a familiar 326 pixels per inch (apart from the iPhone 6 Plus, every iPhone from 2010 to today has this same pixel density), and looks good. It has lower contrast than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus do (800:1 vs. the 6's 1,400:1 and the 6 Plus' 1,300:1), but for a device in this price range, that isn't something to nitpick over.

As a gaming device, it's going to be future-proofed for several generations, as it runs the same Apple A8 chip found in the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus (though it is clocked a bit slower). Compared to the iPhone 6, the new iPod touch benchmarks (in Geekbench 3) at 85-86 percent as fast. Again, not too shabby for a device that costs less than one-third of the iPhone 6's full retail price.

The iPod touch's A8 chip benchmarks at 85-86 percent as fast as the iPhone 6
The iPod touch's A8 chip benchmarks at 85-86 percent as fast as the iPhone 6

In terms of UI navigation, the iPod touch is also very zippy. Though some of its specs are the same as the 2012 model, this 2015 model stands head and shoulders above it as a significantly more powerful device. The 5th-generation iPod touch had an early 2011 A5 chip. This new iPod touch's A8 launched in late 2014. That's three and a half years worth of silicon innovation – practically an eternity in today's mobile tech world.

The new iPod touch's camera isn't quite on par with the latest iPhones' shooters (it's about iPhone 5 or 5c level quality), but this is another area where it's a huge step forward from the 2012 model.

Here are a few unedited (though downscaled to 1,060 px. wide) samples taken with the new iPod touch:

Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera

Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera

Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera
Sample shot, iPod touch (6th-generation) rear camera

If you already own a flagship smartphone from the last year or two, then you probably already have a camera that's roughly this good or better. But this is another area where the iPod touch is great for little ones: it can make for an outstanding first camera for a child.

Battery life is good, but also not breaking any new ground. In our benchmark (streaming video with brightness set at 75 percent), it dropped 12 percent per hour. For comparison's sake, that's a little bit better than the iPad Air 2 (14 percent) but off the mark of the iPad mini 3 (9 percent per hour).

For a Wi-Fi only device that largely serves as a portable gaming console, it would have been nice to see Apple push some battery life limits. But perhaps that would have meant adding some grams and millimeters to that lusciously light and thin build. We can live with that call.

It may be a niche device, but the iPod touch is still a gorgeous device that's lot of fun to use
It may be a niche device, but the iPod touch is still a gorgeous device that's lot of fun to use

You need to fall into a certain niche to even consider buying an iPod touch in 2015. If you don't see a clear-cut need to buy one, then nothing we can say about our experience with it should change that. But if you want a relatively cheap entry into the world of iOS, either for you or a loved one, then this is one of the best ways to do it. You can pay a bit more for an iPad mini (with larger screen) or pay a bit less for the new iPod touch, with better performance.

The new iPod touch is available now, starting at US$200.

Product page: Apple

15 comments
John Driggers
I'm not sure I understand why parents would favour a Touch over a phone. With more-or-less ubiquitous wifi for those that seek it out--especially kids in school, Facebook messenger, iMessage, etc; I fail to see any real world protection for kids whose parents want to keep them in a bubble. I think you miss a group of potential users who would replace a much more expensive iPhone with a pretty capable Touch, use Ringcredible or Skype or even FaceTime for calls via wifi--or just use a cheap pay as you go phone for voice calls. These folks use Starbucks. Mickey Ds, libraries and other locations as mobile bases with wifi. Some will supplement with a pay as you go 4G mobile router for those times when they must connect and there's no free wifi available. There are lots more nomadic folks around than you might realise. And this is a great choice for travellers who never intend on buying local sims sa they go from country to country. No, the Touch is not a solution for the coat and tie USA mobile warrior type. But for many others it is.
hshires
As someone who uses an iPod (now the 6g and before that the 5g and 3g ) as my wifi-enabled phone as often as possible, I'm really very pleased that Apple continues to offer a device with so much capability. The 6g is substantially faster than the 5g and is the perfect little device for cutting the cel phone service charge cord. I wish it was GPS enabled but still find it very useful for navigation in cities where wifi is everywhere and the signals still enable mapping services. It's also incredibly light and a great little email/web browsing machine and, especially as of the 6g, a more than adequate pocket camera. Kudos to Apple.
Santa
@ John Driggers you are absolutely right. All article on the new iPod touch seems to miss everything! Even @ gizmag! Kind of they r wearing blinkers. The iPod touch will for sure not be that heavy sale that iphone does, but it still has it place for a long time to go.
Okereket
John, are you suggesting we have to use smartphone monitoring like http://2simdesign.com/ or mobilewatchdog? No, really what is the solution? leave them unattended?
Stacy Young
What I wonder is since they decided to further develop the 4 inch platform, that we might see a new 4 inch iPhone in the near future.
Randy Moe
I still use an iPod touch 4, with similar usage as above. Long time waiting. I never use earbuds or listen to music on the go, it's my excellent micro computer. I will be getting this new one shortly. I wish it had the latest iPhone camera, I would have paid more for that.
KevinStober
I just received my iPod 6 Touch yesterday and after using my iPod 4 for over 3 years this is a huge upgrade. Perfect for music at the Gym. Plus you get 3 months free music service from Apple. So you can use Siri to pull up what ever music you want to hear. It has great sound, I would say a small improvement over the older model. Very fast and videos look sharp and clear. If you order from Apple you get free monogram on the back. The WiFi is a big upgrade and Bluetooth works perfect. Has the same great camera of the iPhone 5. For $199 you can't beat it for music lovers. The size is small and very thin and light. Great for those that want to take photos and leave there phone in the car. I got the Gold model and has a very nice look. This is a big jump forward for those that still want a music player that has all the bells and whistles.
NemaToda
@John Diggers "I fail to see any real world protection for kids whose parents want to keep them in a bubble." I'm a parent of a 12-year old. The issue is not one of keeping my kid in a bubble. It's a matter of cost. I'm not going to buy a 12-year old a $650 phone. Nor am I going to pay for $50 to $80 month for a phone plan when my 12-year old doesn't need to call or text anyone outside of the house. (In an emergency, she can use a friend's phone.) If, as you say, wi-fi is everywhere, then it makes even more sense to get my kid an iPod Touch since she can use wi-fi to make calls, text, etc.
AndréHiggins
I have a different reason for buying this new upgraded Ipod touch, although I'm probably one in a million. For the past three years I've been extremely happy with my Iphone 4S, but recently, it has started to show its age with IOS 8. It's getting slower. Also, I live in Quebec and the cell plans are extremely expensive here, I pay over $70/month and only get 1 Gb of data. All carriers are priced about equally here. I use the "phone" function sparingly, for emergencies only. 99% of my Iphone I use as a micro computer, so I'd be happier with more performance Why don't I sign on for another two years and get a recent Iphone model you ask? I don't have that kind of cash anymore. A two year contract with a Iphone 6 will cost me more than $70/month plus I have to pay over $200.00 for the phone. That's nearly $1900 for two years. Personally I will keep my Iphone 4S and use it strictly as a phone, go prepaid with it ($100 card is good for one year at 0.40/minute), and use the Ipod touch as my new micro computer. So, that's $300 for the Ipod touch (I bought the 32Gb model) and $200 for two years of prepaid. A total of $500 vs the $1900 previously mentionned. I don't mind the fact that the Ipod touch is wifi only, I rarely need to be connected outside my home. Like I said, one in a million surely.
DaneScottUdenberg
Tech writers have long carried high-end smart phones around with them, so it's unsurprising they are unable to fathom why anyone besides a child would have need of an iPod Touch. I get that. But let this non-child stand up and be counted as someone who feels it's perfect for him. I'm a self-employed home business owner. I do nearly all my phone calling from my desk. When I'm away from the desk, my TracFone more than meets my needs, for a tenth of what a lot of other people are paying for their cellular service. Pretty much everywhere I go, there's Wi-Fi, so I have no particular need or desire to pay for a costly data service. When I'm out and about, I love to take pictures, but hate lugging a camera. My iPod Touch 5th gen is so think I don't even notice I'm carrying it...and it took great shots. I can't wait to see how much better I can do with the 6! When I'm in the garden, I often want answers to questions about plants and their care. "Hey Siri... " When I'm in the car, or out walking or fishing, I like having the ability to listen to music and podcasts. I like being able to check and answer my e-mails and messages. I have my own home-brew "cloud" set up on a big hard drive in the house, and can use FileBrowser to watch movies and TV shows I've recorded, even while sitting in the gazebo outside. Games, nope. But I'm sure game players will have fun with it too. Long story short. I get great use from mine, and it serves as the perfect accompanyment to my nicely-unsmart "just use it to take calls" flip-phone. I hope Apple continues to support and update the iPod Touch for many years to come, and as they do, I'll be lined up to get the latest one.