iPod touch sixth generation lineup 001

Apple yesterday refreshed its aging lineup of iPod-branded music players. By and large, the iPod touch has received its most substantial upgrade yet as Apple really went all out with upgrades on the hardware front.

Not only does the new iPod touch run the latest Apple-designed “A8” processor as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but includes the M8 motion coprocessor, a much-improved eight-megapixel camera on the back, three times faster Wi-Fi and the latest in Bluetooth networking.

Here are some interesting tidbits related to the iPod touch’s hardware surprises.

But before we get to it, just a few observations concerning the iPod nano.

That device still runs the strangely skeuomorphic iOS 6 style user interface, suggesting that Apple doesn’t deem the iPod nano worthy updating to support the App Store.

According to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, that may have something to do with the fact that everybody who worked on the nano software now works on the Apple watch team.

“Word from a few little birdies is that what remains of the iPod software team is now working on Apple Watch — the Nano UI wasn’t updated to look like iOS 7 because there’s no one left to do it,” he wrote.

The iPod nano also has a circle rather than a rectangle on the Home button while all gold iPods feature a gold trim for the Home button.

As for the new iPod touch, its hardware ID is ‘iPod7,1’ versus ‘iPod5,1’ for the previous model, but you won’t find that on Apple’s iPod touch specs page.

It’s interesting that Apple skipped ‘iPod6,1’ and went straight to ‘iPod7,1,’ which, to me, is yet another indication of a major hardware bump.

iPhone 6-class CPU

Apple claims the A8 processor inside the new iPod touch is six times faster than the A5 chip inside its predecessor, as well as ten times faster in graphics performance.

Having run an initial Geekbench CPU benchmark on their review unit, TechCrunch was able to confirm that the Apple-designed A8 chip inside the new iPod touch is underclocked slightly from the iPhone 6, presumably to manage battery life, running at 1.10GHz per core vs the iPhone 6’s A8 processor which runs at 1.39GHz per core.

iPod touch mid-2015 CPU benchmark iPhone screenshot 001

The new iPod touch is also at least six times faster in CPU benchmarks than the previous model, having scored 1379 on the single-core test and 2440 on the multi-core test. By comparison, the previous-generation iPod touch with the A5 chip scored 215 on the single-core test and 410 on the multi-core test.

Keep in mind that the new iPod touch doesn’t really need all the power of the iPhone 6’s A8 chip due to its smaller screen and lower pixel count.

The device also has 1GB of RAM, like the iPhone 6.

The iPod touch used to be vastly underpowered versus its comparable iPhone generation in terms of hardware, but this new model changes all that. It’s still not on par with the iPhone 6 in terms of CPU/GPU power, but the gap is now much narrower than before.

With the A8 chip powering it, not only does the new iPod touch run latest Metal-optimized games and apps smoothly, it’ll also support the upcoming iOS 9 with ease and future iOS releases, too.

M8 coprocessor

The new iPod touch has Apple’s latest M8 motion coprocessor which also ticks inside the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. The chip allows the device to track your motion and fitness data for recording in the Health database and elsewhere while using very little energy because it tracks movement on its own, without waking the main, power-hungry A8 processor.

iPhone 5s-class camera

An improved FaceTime HD camera out the front now supports burst mode and HDR stills and video, courtesy of an updated sensor with larger pixels for better low-light selfies.

The back-facing iSight camera has gone from five to eight megapixels.

It now shoots 1080p video at thirty frames per second, like before, but now supports advanced imaging features like slow-mo video at 120 frames per second, time-lapse video, burst mode at ten frames per second, cinematic video stabilization and improved face detection.

Specs aside, it’s not the same camera as the iPhone 6 in terms of the CMOS sensor. It’s more like an iPhone 5s camera with some of the imaging technologies from the iPhone 6 due to the latest Image Signal Processor provided by the A8 chip.

Three times faster Wi-Fi

The new iPod touch supports the latest consumer wireless standard, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, also known as Gigabit Wi-Fi. The iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPad Air 2 also support Gigabit Wi-Fi, among other iOS devices.

To take advantage of three times faster data transfer, your new iPod touch must be connected to a compatible 802.11ac hotspot provided by a compatible router or modem such as the latest-generation Time Capsule or AirPort Extreme.

Bluetooth 4.1

The new iPod touch marks the first time an iOS device has adopted Bluetooth 4.1, the latest in Bluetooth networking. According to the Bluetooth website, Bluetooth 4.1 offers improved power management and faster data transfer while featuring less interference with LTE bands and more reliable performance.

“The consumer can leave the room and upon returning, two recently used devices reconnect without user intervention,” reads the website. Improvements to data transfer allow Bluetooth 4.1 fitness sensors that gather data during a run, bike ride or swim, to transfer that data more efficiently when your return home.

The new iPod touch could also become a versatile device to control the Internet of Things because Bluetooth 4.1 allows a single device to act both as a Bluetooth Smart peripheral and a Bluetooth Smart Ready hub at the same time.

“For example, a smart watch acts as a hub gathering information from a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor while simultaneously acting as a peripheral to a smartphone — displaying new message notifications from the phone,” notes the Bluetooth website.

For reference, the Apple Watch has Bluetooth 4.0, like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and other iOS devices.

Missed opportunities

Here’s what the new iPod touch doesn’t have:

  • Touch ID—I’m sorry, you’ll have to do with the good ol’ passcode.
  • NFC—Apple Pay won’t work on the new iPod touch.
  • GPS—Dedicated navigation apps and programs that specifically require GPS may not work. The device uses information based on your proximity to known Wi-Fi networks to determine approximate location in apps like Apple Maps.
  • A sharper screen—It’s still the same Retina display at 640-by-1,136 pixels as is predecessor.
  • A bigger screen—Now, a 4.7-inch iPod touch would have been perfect for games, media and apps. Sadly, Apple’s decided to leave the screen at four inches diagonally.
  • Stronger battery—It’s rated the same 40 hours of music playback time and eight hours of video playback time. A longer-lasting battery would have been appreciated, but at just 6.1mm thin there’s little room inside for a thicker battery.
  • Cellular modemAs Jeff pointed out, outfitting the iPod touch with cellular radios would let users listen to their music, message, post to social media and more in areas not covered with Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • FM Radio—It’s been a long time coming, and the iPod nano has it, but I’m not holding my breath for the real FM radio on the iPod touch. That’s what Apple Music, Beats 1 and Wi-Fi are there for.

While the lack of Touch ID is surprising, I don’t think the iPod touch will be getting LTE connectivity anytime soon. It’s a media device, not a phone. And if Apple added cellular connectivity, the iPod touches would basically become iPhones, and then they’d need to add a microphone and an earpiece.

Final thoughts

To me, the iPod touch has always been an epitome of an entertainment mobile device.

It’s an iPhone without the phone part, albeit way more affordable than any unsubsidized iPhone has ever been. It’s also the perfect App Store machine for anyone interested in iOS and, according to many journalists, the best handheld mobile gaming device around.

And with the much improved camera, it’s now “the new point-and-shoot,” as TechCrunch puts it. I don’t pretend to have knowledge of Apple’s pipeline, but I don’t think the iPod touch will be going away anytime soon.

iPod touch mid-2015 image 002

Other iPods might, but not the iPod touch.

It helps Apple widen the addressable market for App Store developers while bringing new users into the fold. That it makes for a very attractive, ultra-thin form factor to carry in your pocket doesn’t hurt either.

The new iPod touch is the ultimate iOS device and at just $199, it’s within nearly everyone’s reach. Apple just needs to follow its strategy of keeping the barrier to entry low and update the iPod touch on an annual basis with the latest technologies.

And your thoughts on the new iPod touch?

  • Really going to buy the IPod touch 6th gen since my contract with my iPhone 5s will end next year. Not going to pay the 12mos left & pre-termination fee just to get the iphone 6s this October.

    • Anonomous.TECH.man

      Besides the processer update that would be pointless.

      • Still no proximity senor with the removal of the loop hook seems they just don’t want to add it.

    • regkilla

      Why go from a Touch ID and Passcode iDevice to a Passcode-only iDevice?

      • Because I always carry an IPod touch with my iPhone. It something I just got used to long ago. And the iphone 5s battery life is terrible.

      • Valinor

        Thats what I used to do. But when I switched to spotify, I didn’t really need an ipod touch anymore.
        And battery life isn’t that big of an issue these days. i carry a small powerbank with me, so charging is easy these days.

  • Would have been nice to see a 4.7″ iPod Touch.

    • iPhoneWINS

      exactly it should have been at least the size of the small 6 but as always apple give sis slightly less than they should cause they can

    • I like the iPod touch, They are perfect for kids that don’t need iPhones yet. I think the bigger screen isn’t really necessary though. Just because of repair costs from bending and screen damage. Since the iPod is thinner I imagine it would bend a lot easier than the phone too.

      • Derpy Crabs

        It is impossible to bend ipod touch. I’ve tried it by myself.

      • I’d believe you If I didn’t replace screens on bent ones already.

      • Jason Baroni

        Mine already bent once, and couldn’t get it replaced due to “wrong use” according to an Apple’s authorized repair service in my country.

      • Did you ever get it repaired. I’ve to bend many iDevices back into shape to get the new screens in. iPhones 4 up to 6 plus and iPods too.

      • WolfgangHoltz

        Never satisfied

  • Greenmeenie

    I disagree that the iPod touch with cellular would canibalize the iPhone. When you think about it, the iPod touch is really an iPad nano. The iPad mini has cellular, and it doesn’t canibalize the iPhone. Heck, the iPhone 6 plus is almost as big as a mini! I think if apple offered the iPod touch in 4.7″ and/or 5.5″ sizes with cellular and rebranded them iPad nanos, they’d sell like hot cakes.

    • They already have iPod touch with cellular. It’s called an iPhone.

      • Blip dude

        Uhh, yes and no. I get where he or she is coming from. If you can name one carrier that will allow me to have a Data Only plan like the iPad on my iPhone, than I would agree with you. But as of this point, I still need to either sign a contract, or pay almost $900+ for an Unlocked phone, plus still be stuck paying for both Voice and Data Plans.

        As much as I would love to ditch the iPhone and use my iPad only for voice calls (Google Voice, Line, FaceTime, etc). I’ve learned that in a few instances, it’s not that easy (Job interviews, meeting with college counselors/professors, etc). Give me a iPod touch with Cellular or a Data Only Plan for an iPhone and I’m set.

        But in the end I understand this argument as well. The iPod touch is simply a media device and it’s clear that if it wasn’t for everyone’s brag for an upgrade, the iPod line may have even been discontinued altogether.

    • Bugs Bunnay

      If I could fit an iPad in my pocket I’d ditch the iPhone!

    • Anonomous.TECH.man

      The iPhone 6 plus killed the iPad mini I can’t justify caring around both devices only for a few inches of screen size. I’m thinking that’s why apple didn’t upgrade the iPad mini with the latest generation of processors.

  • iPhoneWINS

    I will pass on this mediocre tech

  • Nex

    The same battery is a problem. I have the 5 and the battery is horrid. Especially when jailbroken.

  • e-nova

    How can you publish this with so many errors!

    “without waking the main, power-hungry A7 processor.” – It has the A8 processor.

    “It now shoots 1080p video at thirty frames per second, an
    improvement over the 720p camera on the previous model” – The previous iPod touch also shoots video in 1080p at 30fps

    “802.11ac Wi-Fi, also known as Gigabit Ethernet.” – Should be WiFi Gigabit

    “must be connected to a compatible 802.11ac
    hotspot provided by a compatible router or modem such as the latest-generation Time Capsule or AirPort Express.” – The AirPort Express is compatible, but it doesn’t have 802.11ac capabilities.

    Really annoyed from reading this.

  • Buck

    I am personally THRILLED this got an A8 bump!

    This is the clearest sign yet that a 4″ iPhone 6C type device might be coming.

    All I personally want is a spec bumped 5S with Apple Pay NFC ability (iPhone 6c basically)

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    Again with the cellular modem/chip in the iPod touch spiel. That’s what the iPhone is for, your iPod touch is a media device! Putting a cellular chip inside will not differentiate it from the iPhone at all. Also, it’s good that there’s no TouchID (this needs to be an iPhone / iPad exclusive). Equipping it with TouchID will make it a carbon copy to the iPhone at half the price. Disagree with those two points. But a built-in in-house FM radio app in the iPod touch and a 4.7″ screen would’ve been great.

  • Tony Trenkle Jr.

    Looks like Jeff will have a new test device!

  • Nirvana

    Battery, always falls behind (can’t blame the svelte form factor). Still happy Apple does not abandon iPod touch, Wish it came with 4.7” screen, no Touch ID should not be a complaint, that’s good for kids, who knows what they would do if iPod touch went too personal.

  • While I would love a cellular radio in my iPod, Apple is never going to do it. That would make it an iPhone, which already exists. Honestly, it doesn’t need one. There’s WiFi almost everywhere.

    Apple could have given it a 4.7″ display, but it was probably cheaper to use the casing they already had.

    I’m really interested in this device. It’s a solid upgrade, based on the specs.

    • Blip dude

      “There’s WiFi almost everywhere.” Doesn’t mean it’s also great either. Hell, I’ve been to places where I can’t even fetch my email manually because the Wi-Fi speed at certain establishments are, and I kid you not, running at an average speed of 0.03MB/sec, so unless I’m at home, or freeloading from friends, I’m stuck with an mp3 player that can play games and take pictures throughout the day. Oh wait. . .

      • regkilla

        If you want a cellular radio get an iPhone.

      • Blip dude

        Thanks, but your comment is pointless to me at least as I already own an iPhone 6 Plus. What would be extremely helpful is finding a carrier that will let have a Data Only plan for my phone, period.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    “The new iPod touch is the ultimate iOS device.” Oh how wrong you are mr author, how wrong you are. Many iPhone and iPad users will beg to differ.

    • regkilla

      Got to make it appealing for the kids.

  • regkilla

    Christian Zibreg I don’t know why you expect the new iPod Touch with the same specs as an iPhone 5s or iPhone 6 when it costs the fraction of the price of those 2 devices.

  • regkilla

    It should still be faster considering it costed more.

  • n0ahcruz3

    this will not increase the ipod touch sales.

  • Gabriel Anaya

    I don’t see why people are complaining about the iPod not getting touch ID or a bigger screen. This device is mainly aimed towards children. If they want those features they may as well just get the actual iPhone.

  • Yunsar

    Does it really support HDR for the front facing camera? That isn’t even on the new iPhone.

  • Farkas Izabell

    If anyone is buying unlocking website that’s however in a situation to factory unlock AT&T telephones following their data bottom turn off, you are able to take auto insurance at att–iphoneunlocking, it’s among the best unlocking website on the net, I tried it for 6 of my phones following the power down currently