The new iPod touch software changes everything

The new iPod touch software changes everything


A few months ago, I purchased an iPod touch to replace my old broken iPod. What sets the touch apart is the applications it can run next to the music functions. In fact, it was essentially an iPhone without the phone or built-in camera and it was indeed quite spiffy.

But when the new iPhone 3G was released in mid-July, Apple also released an update to the operating system that runs the older iPhone and iPod touch too. Among the improvements, the biggest was the opening of the device to third-party applications. Suddenly there was a whole world of new functionality available. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s like a whole new device. Let me give you some examples, based on programs I’ve downloaded from the store. I will point out that a very large proportion of what’s available in Apple’s iTunes AppStore is free and of the apps I’ve purchased, most have been less than $5 and only one was $19.

The app of most interest to my Catholic readers would be the Universalis Catholic Calendar. From the fine folks who brought you the Universalis web site, which gives you the Mass readings and Divine Office readings every day, the Catholic Calendar is a free app that tells you the feast or memorial of the day, and a brief biography of the saint or saints for the day. Apart from offering customization for the English-speaking country you live in, as well as any provincial peculiarities, that’s about it. Nice, but not earth-shattering.

However, if you’re willing to pony up $32.99, then you can get the full Universalis app, which gives you all the Mass readings, all the Liturgies of the Hours, all the Offices of Readings, everything! If you’ve ever seen the multi-volume breviary plus a daily Missal, then you know how compact this is. Plus, they do all the organizing of the different sections for you, so there’s no more page-flipping, back and forth, and no more rushing out to buy the little calendar update at the end of the year. While $33 may sound like a lot for an iPhone app, I may be working this into my budget in the future.

Helping me get things done

Another indispensable app on my iPod is Omnifocus. This is a companion to the desktop version of the productivity and task management software based on the principles of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book. Some reviewers have called it complex, but I’ve been able to fit it into my workflow. The nice thing about the iPod app is that it synchronizes with the desktop app over wifi, which means it happens on a regular schedule, not just when I connect the iPod’s cable.

Now, if I had an iPhone it would have another amazing ability: location-awareness. One of the principles of GTD is that when you record your “next-actions”, you put them in a context, which is the place or situation you need to do them. For example, office, home, grocery store, client A, client B, and so on. The theory is that when you’re in a particular context you can do all the appropriate next-actions, regardless of the project they’re attached to. Since the iPhone has a built-in GPS, it knows where you are. You can imagine the possibilities for that! Imagine going into the grocery store and Omnifocus presenting you with your grocery list. Or you’re at the mall, and it shows you the five items you needed in three different stores. Or you go to your doctor’s office for a check-up and it presents a list of all the questions you’ve been meaning to ask him.

While the iPod touch doesn’t have GPS, Apple’s iPhone OS can triangulate location based on known Wifi hotspots as well. It does pretty well for my home and office so that’s nice. Plus, I can now record new tasks and projects right into my Omnifocus as they occur to me; I don’t have to be sitting at my computer.

Another “like magic” set of apps are those that provide streaming music. While iPods have always let you carry your music around with you, now with an Internet connection (always-on for iPhones or when around WiFi networks for iPod touches) you can get streaming music from a variety of sources. The free Pandora Radio connects you to the excellent Pandora web application that plays music for you based on how you train it regarding your likes and dislikes. The iPhone app will play that same music for you without requiring a computer. Who needs a radio?

Streaming music


And if you want to hear the music you’ve already purchased on CD or via online music stores, there’s the awesome Simplify Media (also free). First, you download the free desktop client from the Simplify Media site (available for Mac, PC, and Linux). Then you launch it, create a free account, and point it at your iTunes software. Then on the iPhone/iPod launch the client and enter your account info and your entire iTunes library appears. This is great for me since I only have an 8GB iPod, while my music library is over 31GB. Now, when I’m near an open WiFi hotspot, I can listen to anything in my library, not just what I’ve fit on the iPod.

I haven’t even touched on Simplify Media’s other function, which is that it will let you listen to streaming iTunes music from up to 30 of your friends as well!

I could go on and on—I haven’t even touched on the fun, little games to keep me occupied, for example, while waiting in line—but you get the idea. What the new iPhone and iPod capabilities show is that this is no mere PDA or smartphone, but a whole, new computer platform that opens up a whole world of possibilities. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.


  • Sweet! Thanks!  But a quick question.  I did /0800/ for Pacific time… but it put me in Monday.  What should I put for Pacific?

  • I’m not sure what you’re asking. Are you talking about setting the time in the general preferences for the iPod? You need to make sure the time zone is correct.

    Click on the Settings, then General, then Date & Time. Make sure your time zone is correct.

  • I’m sorry… I meant I used the website (I don’t have an iPod, but can use the browser), and the settings on that are a little off, but I just realized you didn’t mention that at all!  Mea culpa maxima.

  • The 2.0 software has made it a totally new device.  It reminds me of what Jerry Pournell said about the first iPhone is that as a device it was the closest thing he has seen to the pocket computer he described in the novel The Mote in God’s Eye.  2.0 really fulfills that.

    Just the free stuff is great and the games are great for those waiting moments such as standing in line or in a boring meeting.

    I really love PocketPedia since I already owned the desktop versions of Bookpedia and DVDpedia so I have my collections with me at all times, especially my wish lists which is quite useful to remind me of what I am looking for in a used book store, etc.

    The iPod Touch was already a great device, but now it is even better.  I had been pretty skeptical of using it to actually browse web site and was really surprised at how actually useful it was as a web browser when used with the touch screen.  Plus typing in things doesn’t take as much practice as I thought it would and the horizontal keyboard is downright easy.

    Though of course there is room for improvement.  I would love to be able to sync over wifi to keep podcasts and data updated.

  • Sync-over-wifi is indeed a big hole and I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t filled it. Perhaps they have security considerations. That said, developers have come up with innovative ways to do the same, like Omnifocus does via WebDAV and 1Password—which syncs via Wifi/Bonjour.