Sidekick: iPhone 5 release date also delivers grown-up iPod touch 5
July 22, 2011 by Beatweek
by Johnny Major
Lost amid the hoopla surrounding the oh-so-close iPhone 5 release date is the increasingly seductive arrival of its sidekick the iPod touch 5 alongside it. The two devices will show up at the same September press event or see introduction in another not too separated fashion. Even as the iPhone 5 is set to gain features which feel like gravy, the iPod touch has long battled to pick up basic functionality which has gradually transformed the “fake iPhone that couldn’t” from a nice music player with fully crippled communications functionality into a device which may, after this next transition, become a desirable device. And that’s a long way from 2007.
Even as the original iPhone was being teased nearly five years ago, it had nearly everything most mainstream consumers wanted right from the start, except of course the fact that it was limited to AT&T. But realizing its mistake and unable to get out of the crippling long term AT&T exclusivity contract it had just doomed the iPhone to, Apple responded with a touchscreen “iPod” which was really just a gutted iPhone with the music app. Steve Jobs publicly derided the iPod touch as “training wheels for iPhone” and made it equally clear that the wifi was only there for the mobile iTunes Store and the web browser was only there to sign onto wifi networks. But Apple’s own derision at its own crippled product didn’t keep a subculture from rising up nonetheless, creating the curious phenomenon of Verizon, Sprint, an T-Mobile customers who carried a phone they hated in one pocket and an iPod touch in the other. Many of them loaded up their touch with network based apps which could only be used when in the presence of wifi, which is still exceedingly rare anywhere home, hotels, and Starbucks, and more or less simply pretended they were iPhone users as they waited for the years to tick by until the iPhone would be unleashed to additional carriers. Now that they’re finally getting their wish with the iPhone 5 release date arriving simultaneously for at least AT&T and Verizon, however, their long crippled pet iPod touch is on its way to becoming less crippled.
Of course that’s been a gradual process. The iPod touch originally lacked an email app, as the lack of built in access to 3G or any kind of mobile network would seem to make such a thing pointless. But touch users fought for the Mail app and got it through software. Along the way they also got a camera, a speaker, and other features which made the touch less of a fake ghetto iPhone and more of a fancy fake iPhone. Not being able to make phone calls was always solved by having a separate phone in ones other pocket. But not being able to get online with the iPod touch anywhere but in wifi range has always the device’s achilles heel for those users who’ve longed to consistently use the device outside of the house.
Now there’s backchatter that, like the iPad 1 and 2, the new iPod touch 5 could finally gain a 3G (or for that matter 4G LTE) mobile networking option. Users would optionally pay for a month of mobile network data from AT&T or Verizon, and would be able to use their iPod touch like an iPhone in all ways except making phone calls. Want to check email on your iPod touch while walking down the street? It could finally happen. Want to play something as simple as the network-based Words With Friends while you’re on the go? You’d be able to.
The odd happenstance is that this freshly un-crippled iPod touch would be arriving at the same time as the iPhone 5, which will finally remove nearly every real or imagined excuse for not buying an iPhone you’ve ever had. For the first time, the iPhone 5 will debut on Verizon from day one. The various concocted controversies surrounding the iPhone 4 will be gone by default. And unlike the iPhone 4, which was exceedingly difficult to find for its first few months on the market, the iPhone 5 is expected to arrive in massive quantity. And if it also expands to carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile, it’ll take away any carrier-based reasons to dodge it in favor of the iPod touch 5. In other words, the iPod touch may finally graduate beyond being an elegant kids’ toy at the precise time when the iPhone becomes so irresistible that the iPod touch only ends up being bought as an elegant toy for kids. Here’s more on the iPhone 5.