A week in touch

I’ve had the pleasure of using an iPod Touch for the last week. As much as I like my music, I’ve never really felt the need to upgrade from my old ‘gumstick’ 1Gb shuffle, but we’ve got one at work with the intention mainly of testing podcasts and public facing services.

Yes, the multi touch is cool, the screen is brilliant, the wifi easy to use – all just so sweet. So, what can I say about my week that hasn’t already been said a million times in a million other reviews? I’ll try to stick to a couple of things that have impressed me.

First is the ‘always connected’ nature of it.

I remember just a few years ago, there were plenty of people who didn’t use the internet – couldn’t understand why you would use it – mostly because it was so inconvenient. You had to dial in with your modem – a process which, even if it did work first time, took a good minute or so and then your connection was so slow and flaky that you’d regularly just have to give up and try another time.

Now these same people use broadband – there’s no dialup, no delay, no interruption to the spontaneity of the process; you wonder if it’s going to rain – it takes less than half a minute to check the weather radar. Suddenly, the naysayers got it, and the computer – often wireless – is now a ubiquitous appliance in many homes.

So, what have we got today? A whole lot of hype about mobile internet, but ask most people about it and they’ll say “why would I use the internet on my mobile?”. These people are thinking of the mobile internet in the same way as they use the ‘desktop’ internet, so they simply can’t see the application. I’m inclined to agree… on most devices, it’s a royal pain. So much so, that even reasonably capable mobile phones are still pretty clumsy to use.

Well, it ends with the iPhone/iPod Touch. One click and you’re in – email, weather, maps – all with gorgeous integration. This device that is going to put the spontaneity into mobile internet, and that spontaneity is delightful and addictive. We will see a whole wave of people suddenly ‘getting’ the mobile web.

Second is the purity of the interface vision that Apple have stamped on this product.

One of the first confusions that cleared up for me with the iPhone was the browser. I thought the amazing zoom and pan ability would mean that I could use ‘normal’ sites with ease. Nup. Desktop websites can be navigated successfully, but you could never call it fun or efficient. Sites designed for mobile on the other hand, are just superb. They don’t have to be designed to take advantage of the iPhone, just well designed and focussed on their purpose.

And this is the mastery of Apple. They’ve seen this difference and haven’t just shrunk everything to fit on a small screen… they’ve redesigned the interaction experience. It is so unlike the desktop version of OSX, you’d think it would take time to learn, but Apple have allowed you to click and explore, and learn one simple step at a time. You don’t even feel like it’s learning, it just happens. Compared to a Windows Mobile 6 device I owned for about a month (before disposing of it in disgust!), this is chalk and cheese. That was like all the bad gremlins in Windows had been crammed into a smaller cage where they just caused more havoc than ever before. The iPod Touch takes about 10 minutes to feel like an extension of your thoughts. You never want to put it down.


So, my week is at end, and someone else in my team is going to play with it for a week and I hope they enjoy it. I’m not about to buy one, my old Sony Ericsson K610i still does the mobile web business, but when the contract runs out in October, an iPhone or maybe even an Android device (if they measure up), is on the cards. My taste of the ‘always on’ internet, was a real appetiser!