15 hottest products of 2008: iPod Touch

In the beginning, there was the Apple iPhone, and users named it good. So good, in fact, that Apple quickly transformed its iPod into the same form, the iPod Touch, and it too has been deemed good. Very good, if sales are any indication.

The iPod Touch and iPhone share most of the same applications and capabilities. The most noteworthy difference is, of course, the ability to make phone calls and access AT&t's EDGE network when local Wi-fi isn't available. For those who don't want to be enslaved to AT&T, the iPod Touch is the avenue to the all those sexy features. They will, however, pay a little for for the freedom; the iPods run about $20 more than iPhones with the same memory.

The iPod is a full-featured entertainment platform. Users can buy new tunes from the iTunes store via the built-in Wi-fi connection; no need for a computer. The 3.5 inch display is also crisp enough to show the television shows and movies that can be bought or rented via iTunes.

The iPod is also a gaming machine. Using the accelerometer tech perfected for the iPhone, it allows uses to control games via a multi-touch display and by gyrating the unit. Developers are flooding the iTunes store with new games and applications.

The iPod Touch is also an internet browser, using Safari and Wi-fi to access the net, allowing the user to send IMs, check their Facebook page, get directions to the hottest club in town, or even (God forbid) research a topic for a term paper.

Skeptics discounted the iPod Touch as an iPhone wannabe without a market. Those who wanted it all, they speculated, would buy an iPhone, and those who wanted tunes would stick with their current iPod. Recent reports of spot shortages around the country, however, suggest these skeptics once again (when will they learn?) underestimated the appeal of an Apple toy. Certainly, the company is investing a bundle in advertising for it.

Would I buy one? Frankly, I'm still chaffing under the enslavement issue. To pay a couple of hundred bucks for the right to buy all of my entertainment from Apple via the iPod Touch is only slightly better than paying a couple of hundred bucks for the right to buy all of my entertainment from Apple and give up my ability to comparison shop for my cell phone service via the iPhone. This might be one of this year's hottest products, but a device that allowed me the freedom to shop for music, movies, and games wherever I wanted would really make me hot.

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