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What are the differences between the iPad 2, the iPod touch 4th Generation, and the iPhone 4 models? Which one is right for my needs?
Please note that this Q&A compares the iPad 2 with the iPod touch and iPhone models that were most recent at the time of its introduction. Although none are the most recent model, Apple continues to sell an iPad 2, an essentially unchanged iPod touch "4.5" model, and an iPhone 4. Accordingly, this Q&A can be helpful to anyone trying to decide whether or not to purchase any of these devices on the new or used market.
When Apple unveiled the original iPad, EveryiPad.com dutifully compared it to the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (3rd Gen/Late 2009. Although some of the same general differences remain, there are numerous other more detailed differences that again merit closer evaluation. There are different contractual requirements as well.
First, it should be obvious that the iPad 2 models -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi), iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/A-GPS), and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/A-GPS) -- are larger than the iPod touch 4th Generation and the iPhone 4 models -- the iPhone 4 (GSM) and the iPhone 4 (CDMA).
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad 2 and Smart Cover)
The iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen both have a multi-touch capable 3.5" 960x640 (326 ppi) "Retina" display but the iPhone 4 is higher-quality with IPS technology for a wider viewing angle. The iPad 2 has a physically larger 9.7" 1024x768 display, also with IPS technology, but it is much lower density (132 ppi). The iPhone 4 and iPad both have "oleophobic" (oil repellent) coatings, the iPhone 4 front and back, whereas the iPod touch does not.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPhone 4 GSM - Left, iPod touch 4th Gen - Right)
Externally, the front of all three effectively are the display, but the housing design and back material differences are notable. The iPad 2 has a black or white glass front and a matte aluminum back (models equipped with 3G have a plastic area on the top rear for the 3G antenna), the iPhone 4 has a stainless steel "band" that holds a chemically hardened flat black glass front and glass back and the iPod touch 4th Gen has a "mirror" reflective chromed steel rear case with a tapered rather than flat back.
The iPad 2 models also support a new magnetic "Smart Cover" -- available at additional cost -- that protects the screen when not in use and automatically wakes up the iPad 2 when the cover is removed and puts it to sleep when the cover is attached. The Smart Cover is not compatible with the iPod touch 4th Gen or iPhone 4, although it is not inconceivable that Apple will design future iPod touch and iPhone models to accommodate smaller versions of the Smart Cover concept.
The iPad 2 (Wi-Fi), iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/A-GPS), and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/A-GPS) have model numbers A1395, A1396, and A1397, respectively. The model number for the GSM-equipped iPhone 4 is A1332 and the CDMA-equipped iPhone 4 is A1349. The iPod touch 4th Gen is model number A1367.
These models can be differentiated by other identifiers as well, such as the order number, which can be located by selecting the Settings app and pressing General > About and scrolling down to what is specified as "Model" within the iOS.
As originally shipped, all three devices run slightly differing versions of iOS 4 and all three devices support wireless keyboards via Bluetooth 2.1+EDR or the Apple keyboard dock accessory, although naturally, with the physically larger display, the iPad is better suited for composing full documents (not to mention spreadsheets and presentations as well as basic video and music editing).
At the time this Q&A first was written, a version of iWork -- Pages, Numbers, and Keynote -- was exclusively available for the iPad line as was a version of Garage Band, but Apple has more recently released versions of these apps for the iPhone and iPod touch, too. A version of iMovie also is available for all three devices.
All three devices have two cameras. The front-mounted cameras on all three are of similar quality -- each take VGA quality photos and video up to 30 FPS -- and are designed to be used for video conferencing in conjunction with Apple's provided "FaceTime" software over a Wi-Fi network. The rear-mounted cameras, however, are of differing quality. The iPhone 4 has a 5 megapixel rear camera with LED flash and autofocus support whereas the iPod touch 4th Gen has a camera that is roughly a paltry 0.7 megapixels (960x720 stills) without a flash or autofocus support. For the iPad 2, Apple does not even bother to specify megapixels for its low-quality back camera, but it is of similar capability to the iPod touch 4th Gen camera.
All three have accelerometers that allow each to "know" whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode and switch automatically, an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness, and a three-axis gyroscope that is particular useful for 3D gaming. All also have Wi-Fi -- 802.11b/g and the 2.4 GHz frequency of 802.11n for the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen and full 802.11b/g/n for the iPad 2.
Otherwise, features are quite different between the three devices. The iPhone 4 has "phone" capability, mobile phone networking (3G/EDGE), GPS-A support, a digital compass, and voice control functionality. The 4th Generation iPod touch has voice control but lacks the remaining features (phone, 3G, GPS-A, and the digital compass). iPad models do not have mobile phone voice capability or voice control, but do include a digital compass. The higher-end iPad 2 models -- the iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/GSM/A-GPS) and iPad 2 (Wi-Fi/CDMA/A-GPS) -- have 3G networking and A-GPS as well.
The iPad is powered by a dual core Apple A5 processor whereas the iPod touch 4th Gen and iPhone 4 models are powered by a single core Apple A4 processor. Storage capacities are different -- 16 GB or 32 GB for the iPhone 4, 8 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB for the iPod touch 4th Gen, and 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB for the iPad.
Upfront pricing for the iPod touch 4th Gen and iPad 2 have no contractual strings attached. The iPad 2 models that are equipped with 3G capability are available without a contract. The iPhone 4, on the other hand, requires a contract with either AT&T Wireless or Verizon in the US at a minimum cost of US$64.99 per month.
The primary differences between the iPad 2, iPod touch 4th Generation and the iPhone 4 are summarized below:
iPod touch 4
|Primary Functionality:||Fullscreen Web
|Display Size:||9.7" (1024x768)||3.5" (960x640)||3.5" (960x640)|
|Display PPI:||132 ppi||326 ppi||326 ppi|
|Oleophobic Coating:||Front||None||Front & Back|
|Housing Material:||Glass & Aluminum||Glass & Steel||Glass & Steel|
|Processor Speed:||~800 MHz||~800 MHz||~800 MHz|
|Processor Type:||Apple A5||Apple A4||Apple A4|
|RAM:||512 MB||256 MB||512 MB|
|Data Networks:||2G/3G* & Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||2G/3G & Wi-Fi|
|Storage Size:||16, 32, 64 GB||8, 32, 64 GB||16, 32 GB|
|Talk Time (3G):||N/A||N/A||7 Hours|
|Talk Time (2G):||N/A||N/A||14 Hours|
|Music Runtime:||10 Hours**||40 Hours||40 Hours|
|Video Runtime:||10 Hours**||7 Hours||10 Hours|
|Rear Camera:||0.7 Megapixels||0.7 Megapixels||5.0 Megapixels|
|Shake to Shuffle:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Nike + iPod:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Dimensions (In):||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.34||4.4 x 2.3 x 0.28||4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37|
|Weight:||1.33, 1.35, 1.34 lbs.||3.56 oz. (101 g)||4.8 oz. (137 g)|
** Apple doesn't break out individual tasks for the battery life of the iPad 2 but estimates that it provides 10 hours of runtime over Wi-Fi and 9 hours of runtime over 3G.
† The iPad 2 with 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of storage and Wi-Fi is US$499, US$599, and US$699, respectively. Configured with the same capacity, but GSM or CDMA and A-GPS in addition to Wi-Fi costs US$629, US$729, and US$829.
†† The 8 GB iPod touch 4th Gen is offered for US$229, the 32 GB is US$299, and the 64 GB is US$399.
§These prices are as advertised only for "qualified" or new customers on AT&T Wireless or Verizon with a two-year contract.
Which one is right for my needs?
Ultimately, although the technical differences between the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone models continues to change, the target market has not.
The iPod touch 4th Gen is best suited for those who want a handheld computer capable of playing music, displaying photos and videos, surfing the web, video conferencing, basic video editing and playing games.
The iPhone 4 also is a handheld computer capable of doing everything the iPod touch is capable of doing and then some with phone, mobile data connectivity, and GPS as well as a higher-quality display and much better rear camera but it also often is tied to an expensive monthly plan.
The iPad 2 is larger and is best suited for those who need portable -- but not handheld -- mobile Internet use, media playback, a digital book reader, as well as productivity, video editing and music editing applications with convenient support of a full-size keyboard. As always, only you can decide which device -- or devices -- are best for you.
To dynamically compare any iPod, iPhone, and iPad models to one another -- new and old -- please see EveryiPad.com's Ultimate iComparison feature.