Daily Archives: July 13, 2008

Swiss Army Knife of Travel Gadgets: iPod Touch 2.0

Posted by on July 13, 2008


Hands down, without question, the most handy travel gadget I have is my iPod Touch. It isn’t just a music player. It is a host of useful things which fit into my pocket. Along with my wallet, it is the only thing which is on my person 24/7 whenever I’m not in the shower. I often make mental checks throughout the day on my wallet and my iPod.

I purchased my iPod Touch at the Ginza Apple Store in Tokyo. It was something I was a bit ambivalent about at first, but since then I haven’t regretted it once. It is basically an iPhone without the phone (or camera). For the most part it runs the same software can can do the same things, only you can’t call other people. Given all the border crossing I do, and the extreme lack of people who call me, an iPhone really doesn’t make sense, but the iPod Touch works well.

Me and my best friend

Me and my best friend

This weekend, my big adventure was getting the new 2.0 version of the software which came out with the new iPhone launch. Getting it was a bit of a pain, but I eventually was able to download it when most of North America was asleep.

What do I use it for?

  • An alarm clock. There is built in alarm clock software and the external speaker, while not good enough for music, is good enough for waking you up.
  • A watch. I don’t even wear a watch anymore. I just pull out my iPod and check the time. You can also keep a list of times around the world in the built in clock application. That is handy when in bizarre half-hour time zones like Central Australia.
  • A wifi finder. When I started my trip, I had a tiny key fob thing which would tell me if there was a strong wireless internet signal around. The iPod is 100x better. Instead of a tiny green light, it will give me the names, signal strengths and tell me if a signal is open or closed. It is a lot easier to pull out an iPod than it is to pull out a lapotp. It is also a lot safer as well.
  • Web browser. Several times on my trip (none in Australia however, but that is another post) I’ve been able to check email or do other important things right from my iPod. In Bussan, South Korea, I was able to contact the owner of a hostel via an open wifi connection I found on a sidewalk. He was able to pick me up at the train station. It isn’t as good as a laptop, but it more than gets the job done considering its size.
  • A flashlight. There is an application written for the 2.0 software which will do nothing but make the screen display one solid color of light. Have you ever used your cellphone as a flashlight? The iPod has a bigger screen and can put out more light. It even has a strobe effect.
  • Remote control. The new 2.0 software has a remote control application which lets you control iTunes from your iPod? Why would you want to do this? I can lay on my bed and watch podcasts or TV shows on my laptop as if it were a TV, without getting up. Three cheers for laziness!
  • Calculator. The new 2.0 calculator software will now become a scientific calculator when you turn it horizontal. How freaking cool is that? Wait a few months for some new calculator apps and no one will ever purchase a dedicated graphing calculator again.
  • A notebook. I use the note application all the time. I am never at a loss for paper and pen now. I kept the mileage and gas usage during my entire drive from Darwin to Perth. I got 16gb of memory, so I never need to worry about running out.
  • A photo album. I keep about 100 photos I’ve taken on my trip on my iPod. (I really need to update them. I don’t think I have included any photos since Borneo.) If I meet someone, i can show them a map of my journey and photos I’ve taken instantly. They can “get” what I’m up to immediately. Girls especially like to browse the photos and swipe their finger across the screen :)

Oh yeah. I can also listen to music and watch video on it.

I have to believe they will come out with a new version of the iPod Touch before Christmas. Here is my wish list for how they could upgrade it:

  • Bigger battery. The iPod Touch is slightly thinner than the iPhone. I’d make it the same size, and increase the battery. Without having to power the 3G stuff, it should increase battery life significantly. The added size and weight would be trivial.
  • Put in the camera. Other than the phone, the biggest hardware difference between the iPod and the iPhone is the camera. From what I’ve been told, the iPhone camera isn’t so hot. Use the next version of the iPod Touch to upgrade the camera.
  • GPS GPS would kick ass. With the larger battery, you could use it as a real GPS and not has quite as many worries as you might with the iPhone. There are more than enough memory in the iPod to store maps locally. Even with no maps, I could still get good use from the GPS if I had it log my position and use that to geotag my photos.
  • Infrared Port. This isn’t on the iPhone, but given the power of the iTunes remote application, it shouldn’t be hard to put an IR port on it and put every programmable remote control manufacturer out of business. This 80s technology, so it shouldn’t be too hard to add or raise the cost too much.

If they put in half of my suggestions, I’d but the upgrade in a heartbeat. With the flood of new applications expected, the number of uses for my iPod will probably only increase.

I’ve had some people tell me “16gb isn’t enough storage”. Well, yes it is. You really don’t need to carry around every single bit of music you own. 16gb is a LOT of music. in fact, I haven’t come close to filling it. Your primary storage should be on a computer anyhow. Even if you think you need to carry around every song ever written, the added utility you’ll get from an iPod Touch will dwarf the benefits of carrying around music you never listen to.

If you are thinking of traveling (or not) and are looking a new gadget, put this on the top of your list.