We're also happy to see the inclusion of Nike+ functionality considering the popularity of MP3 players as workout companions. And if you're interested in making voice memos, an investment in a compatible iPod microphone headset (due out in October) will allow you to make voice recordings directly to the iPod touch, provided that third-party developers begin creating voice applications specific to it.
We're disappointed that the new version still can't stream Flash video or audio content through its Safari browser. Many of the Web's more popular content providers are working around the problem, however, by creating specific App Store applications for their content. We also can't help but crave the camera and GPS capabilities included on the touch's close relative, the iPhone 3G. With any luck, a third-party manufacturer will step in with some clever accessories.
Both the iPod touch and iPhone allow users to browse, preview, purchase and download music from the new iTunes Wi-Fi music store. The store is limited strictly to music downloads -- no movies, TV shows, podcasts or games -- at least not yet. You'll have to hop on to an available Wi-Fi Internet connection to take advantage of the wireless music store, but once connected, you can search for any artist, album or song in the iTunes catalogue, as well as browse by genre, top sellers, featured artists and new releases.
Store purchases require you to enter your iTunes password as a security measure. Once the download is complete, the song is immediately available to listen to and will transfer to your computer's iTunes music library the next time you sync the device. The feature seems to work without any kinks -- even interrupted downloads pick up once a Wi-Fi connection is re-established.
Before you run off to buy one, consider this caveat: those who use this or any iPod will be required to install and use iTunes. No other piece of software has equalled iTunes in both praise and scorn from CNET's users. Some argue that iTunes is a top-notch media library tool and online music store, while others become infuriated by the software's insatiable demand for system resources and frequent updates.
Whatever side of the iTunes debate you take, know that iTunes 8 is a mandatory install for the second-generation iPod touch. If you haven't used iTunes before or haven't upgraded the software in a while, we strongly recommend giving the new software a spin before committing to a new iPod.
Having handled our share of touchscreen iPod and iPhone imitators this past year, we've yet to find a product that measures up to the responsiveness of Apple's multitouch technology.
Granted, some Web-based applications need a few seconds to warm up, but the majority of the features on this iPod touch react with an uncanny immediacy and fluidity. Small things such as album cover art that flips over to reveal track listings, menus that scroll with artificial momentum and photos that resize with a pinch of your fingers, all illustrate an attention to detail not offered by the iPod's competitors.
For reasons known only to Apple, the obsessive detail poured into the iPod's design doesn't translate into audio performance. The barrage of sound-enhancement settings packed into MP3 players from Sony, Cowon and Samsung are in stark contrast to the unchanged and marginally useful list of equaliser presets included on the iPod. That said, the balanced and smooth audio quality of the iPod touch is likely to satisfy the majority of listeners, despite the limited scope of its audio control.