Showdown: iPod touch vs. iPhone

September 11, 2007

Useless iPhone diagram snippet.Some smart people disagreed strongly with my stab at the iPod touch the other day. I basically said you’d have to be brain damaged to get an iPod touch unless some weird circumstance was keeping you from getting an iPhone (such as a contract.)

sf said “I have no interest in an iPhone. Ever. However, I definitely want an iPod touch.” mx said, “For me, it fits perfectly.” oldguy is getting one too. Maybe I’m out to lunch?

Mind you, we’re all in Canada, where the iPhone is not yet officially available. Unofficially though, via yesterday’s new software unlock method, there are already Vancouverites enjoying iPhones. Rogers will likely be selling iPhones fairly soon, and many readers are in the US, so my comparisons assume the iPhone and iPod touch are both available.

If you don’t bring your iPod out with you always, I can sort of see the appeal of having a small phone plus an iPod touch. However small your phone is though, put it together with an iPod touch and your pocket is heavier than if it had an iPhone in it.

As if you needed help choosing the iPhone over the iPod touch, it seems Apple might purposely cripple the touch to encourage people to buy iPhones. For example, it seems they’ve removed the Add Event button from the touch’s iCal app, as well as Bluetooth. Obviously Apple would far rather you get an iPhone than a touch - they make money every month if you get an iPhone, so it’s clearly higher profit. From what I can tell, the touch is more or less a stopgap for people who can’t get an iPhone… yet.

One of the things I slagged the iPhone for when it was released was the inability to install (and write your own) 3rd party apps. It now turns out hacked apps are now ready, user-friendly, and flourishing, and Apple won’t try to stop them. The UNIX underpinnings of the iPhone have made hacking it relatively safe and useful. This makes the touch equally more useful - I imagine somebody will create a version of iCal for the touch that allows you to create events. Sad that it’s necessary, but nice that it’s possible.

So yes, for those who would buy a plain PDA, especially now that you can get 3rd party apps, the iPod touch is a strong competitor. The thing is, nobody buys plain PDAs anymore. Obviously there’s room for the touch - there are some legitimate reasons for not getting an iPhone. In the medium term though, I see an internationally available iPhone whose sales curve has ramped up (they’re already outselling all Treos combined and about to surpass Blackberries), displacing a lot of touch sales as people’s cell carrier contracts expire.

That said, when I get my iPhone I’ll still hate that it has no buttons.

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.