Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Loving my iPad Pocket / $0-Monthly-Fee iPhone

What’s my favorite technology purchase that I’ve made in the past 2 years?  It’s my iPad Pocket Edition; I also like to call it my $0-monthly-fee iPhone.

That is, my iPod Touch.

ipod_touch_4th_gen

My iPod Touch (or “iTouch” for 33% less syllables) has become one of the items that are always in my pants pockets when I leave the house in the morning, along with my keys, wallet, and phone. 

Why do I like the iTouch so much?  When I’m in a wi-fi zone – which in a typical day for me, I am in much more often than not – it can do essentially everything an iPhone can do except make phone calls.  It’s amazing to have the following readily available from a device I carry my pocket, almost all of which are free or very inexpensive:

  • Web browser
  • Calendar with cloud sync
  • Music (mp3 player, Pandora), Podcasts
  • To-do list with cloud sync (Appigo Todo)
  • Clock / stopwatch /countdown timer
  • Games (tons of great, inexpensive options)
  • Physical game aids like 7 Wonders Scorer
  • Support for 99% of iPhone apps in the App Store

Insofar as they affect me, there are only three real major “missing features” affecting the iPod Touch as compared to an iPhone:

Can’t make or receive phone calls.  I work around this by carrying, in addition to the iTouch, a nice compact “dumbphone,” the Samsung Hue, for which I have a prepaid plan with Verizon that gets me phone service for a grand total of $7.50/month.  I get very few minutes for that price, but since I only use this phone for quick calls to home and for emergency purposes, I’ve never come close to running out of minutes.

No Internet access outside of wi-fi zones.  This is occasionally bothersome, but only very occasionally; typically a couple of times per month when waiting to pick up a pizza or to get a haircut.  For the significant cost savings vs. a full phone and data plan – more on that below – it’s certainly something that I can live with.  And many apps have good “offline mode” support – implemented mostly to cater to iPhone users on airplanes, but working just fine for iPod Touch owners too.

No GPS.  When I take an occasional long trip alone to an unfamiliar place, I do notice the lack of GPS capability, but it’s nothing that can’t be worked around “the old fashioned way” by just printing directions off the Internet before leaving.  (How did people find their way around before the Internet?)  On vacations, I’m pretty much always travelling with my wife, and we do spring for a smartphone for her – as a so-called “stay at home mom” she’s actually out and about on a daily basis far more than I am – so we just use her phone’s GPS.  If I travelled alone more often, I’d make a one-time purchase of a standalone GPS device for the car.

The cost savings vs. an iPhone are, to me, well worth the minor drawbacks:

  iPod Touch 4th Gen (32 GB) + Prepaid dumbphone iPhone 4S (32 GB)
Up-front hardware cost $275 + $50 = $325 $300
Monthly fee $0 + $7.50 = $7.50 $70
Total over 2 years $325 + ($7.50 * 24) = $505 $300 + ($70 * 24) = $1980

About $1500 to spend however I like, in return for a couple of (for me) minor drawbacks?  Yep. I’m in.

I like the iPod Touch enough that even though I’ve had my current 4th Gen iTouch for only about a year and a half, I’m also in for another $300 on the new iPod Touch 5th Gen that was announced earlier today.  To paraphrase a tip from @shanselman, it’s worth spending money on something that you’re going to get heavy use out of every day – and for me, the iPod Touch is that.  And at an amortized cost of under $13/month over the next two years, I consider it a bargain.