Saturday, October 25, 2008

Three Things You Can Do on an iPod touch (that you can't do on your computer)

Ever since I've gotten my 2nd Generation iPod touch, I've felt it's more comparable to a laptop computer than an mp3 player. In fact, there are things the device can do that most computers cannot. Here are three that come to mind:
  1. Play Accelerometer-based Games

    One of the coolest things I saw in iPhone ads before getting the iPod touch was the Labyrinth game. I remember playing the physical version of this game as a kid growing up- thinking what an interesting challenge it was to get the ball all the way around the maze without falling in one of the holes. I don't think I ever successfully navigated the course either because I was too young and lacked the coordination to play the game, or because the game was broke and the controls didn't work quite right.

    This game is pure genius because it is such an innovative use of the accelerometer. When you first see than an iPod touch has the ability to change the orientation of the screen automatically depending on how it is held, you assume that it has a little switch in it that advises whether the device is upright or on its side. But the sensitivity of the circuitry that makes this determination is much more sensitive than you'd think it would be which allows games like this one and many more.

    The Lite version of Labyrinth with enough levels to get you hooked is free. Click on the image below to visit the Labyrinth Lite site within the iTunes App Store:

  2. Triangulate Your Position via WiFi

    Google Maps come pre-installed on the iPod touch and it is wonderfully customized for the device. Although it is easy enough for your web browser to remember the location of your home and other frequently used locations once you've searched for directions from that starting point, the iPod touch can determine your location automatically. Note that the iPod touch does not have GPS. Rather, it determines location using WiFi triangulation (read more about how this is done here.)

    This is handy for Google maps for sure, but other applications can make use of this feature as well. One that I've found particularly handy is called Around Me (free from the iTunes App Store). Just fire up the app and ask it which coffee shops, bars, restuarants, gas stations, etc are "around me" and it quickly produces the list (see below). I found this to be quite handy when we were at the Copley Square Mall a few weekends ago and wanted to find all of the restuarants near us. Though we could have search the mall directory, Around Me found restaurants just outside the mall that we knew existed but we didn't immediately recall were nearby. Well done!

  3. Enjoy Instant On/Instant Off Capabilities

    Leaving your desktop or laptop on all the time wastes power. However, many of us leave our computers powered on because we don't want to wait for them to start up in order to check something quickly. "Stand By" and "Sleep" functionality is notoriously flaky in my experience and even when it works flawlessly it isn't truly instantaneous.

    The iPod touch turns on and off *immediately*. There is no lag whatsoever which makes it a really quick and easy way to check things like E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. It is also very tiny and doesn't clutter the area up visually so it's fine to keep it out on the kitchen counter or in your pocket.
I don't consider the iPod touch a replacement for a laptop. In fact, the first thing you need to do when you open up your iPod touch is sync it with iTunes on a computer. That being the case, I think of it as a good way to supplement your existing computer, reducing the time you spend sitting down in front front of a keyboard and screen.

I've had the device for about a month now, and although it has bouts of flakiness (which I'll go into further in a future entry) I continue to be impressed with the device and re-iterate my "buy" rating:

Did you know you can make phone calls on an iPod touch?

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