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What are all the differences between the iPad 3rd Gen, the iPod touch "4.5" Generation, and the iPhone 4S models? Which one is right for my needs?
Please note that the iPad 3rd Gen models and the iPod touch "4.5" Gen (which Everyi.com has subsequently refered to simply as the 2011 edition of the iPod touch 4th Gen) have been discontinued. The iPhone 4S still is available new from Apple. This Q&A can be particularly useful for one considering any of these devices on the used market.
With even a cursory glance, it is obvious that the iPad 3rd Gen models -- the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi Only), iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS), and iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) -- are larger than the iPhone 4S and iPod touch "4.5 Gen," but there are many important differences well beyond display size.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPad 3rd Gen)
The iPhone 4S and iPod touch 4.5 Gen models each have a multitouch 3.5" 960x640 (326 ppi) "Retina" display but the iPhone 4S is higher-quality with IPS technology for a wider viewing angle. The iPad 3rd Gen also has a multitouch "Retina" display, but one that is not only physically larger (9.7-inch) but also higher resolution 2048x1536 (264 ppi).
The iPhone 4S and iPad each have "oleophobic" (oil repellent) coatings, the iPhone 4S front and back, whereas the iPod touch does not.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPhone 4S)
Externally, the front of all three effectively are the display, and all are available with a black or white front, but the housing design and back material differences are notable. The iPad 3rd Gen has a glass front and a matte aluminum back (models equipped with 4G LTE capability have a plastic area on the top rear for the cellular data antennas), the iPhone 4S has a stainless steel "band" that holds a chemically hardened flat glass front and glass back and the iPod touch 4.5 Gen has a "mirror" reflective chromed steel rear case with a tapered rather than flat back.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (iPod touch 4th Gen - 2011)
The iPad 3rd Gen models additionally support the magnetic "Smart Cover" introduced with the iPad 2 -- available at additional cost -- that protects the screen when not in use and automatically wakes up the iPad 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 4.5 or iPhone 4S.
Although these particular models are not difficult to differentiate from one another based on design, it is particularly easy to mistake any of these devices with an earlier one from the same series.
The iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi Only) , iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS) and iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) are model numbers A1416, A1430, and A1403, respectively. The model number for the iPhone 4S is A1387 and the model number for both the iPod touch 4th Gen and "4.5 Gen" is 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.
All three devices run a version of iOS 5 and all three devices support wireless keyboards via Bluetooth 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).
The iPhone 4S, is the only device of the three that originally supported "Siri," Apple's "intelligent assistant" software program that endeavors to parse naturally spoken questions and provide voice answers using the web as its source and perform basic software tasks as well (like adding an appointment to a calendar or preparing and sending a text message). However, the iPad 3rd Gen models supported "Dictation" which converts spoken statements to text when running iOS 5 and supports Siri, too, when running iOS 6.
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 significantly differing quality. The iPhone 4S has a rear camera capable of shooting 8 megapixel stills and 1080p 30 FPS video, the iPad 3rd Gen has a camera capable of shooting 5 megapixel stills and 1080p 30 FPS video, and the iPod touch 4.5 has a camera that is roughly a paltry 0.7 megapixels (960x720 stills) without a flash or autofocus support.
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 4S and iPod touch and full 802.11b/g/n for the iPad 3rd Gen.
Otherwise, features are quite different between the three devices. The iPhone 4S has "phone" capability, mobile phone networking (3G/EDGE), GPS support, a digital compass, and voice control functionality. The iPod touch has voice control but lacks the remaining features (phone, 3G, GPS, and the digital compass). The iPad 3rd Gen does not have mobile phone voice capability or voice control, but does include a digital compass. The higher-end iPad 3rd Gen models -- the iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE AT&T/GPS) and iPad 3rd Gen (Wi-Fi/4G LTE Verizon/GPS) -- have even faster 4G LTE networking (as well as 3G) and GPS as well.
The iPad 3rd Gen is powered by a dual core Apple A5X processor, the iPhone 4S is powered by a dual core Apple A5 processor and the iPod touch 4.5 is powered by a slower, single core Apple A4 processor. Storage capacities also are different -- 16 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB for the iPhone 4S, 8 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB for the iPod touch 4.5, and 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB for the iPad 3rd Gen.
Upfront pricing for the iPod touch 4.5 and iPad 3rd Gen have no contractual strings attached. The iPad 3rd Gen models that are equipped with 4G LTE capability are available without a contract. The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, can be purchased "unlocked and contract-free," but most likely will choose a contractual obligation with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon.
The primary differences between the iPad 3rd Gen, iPod touch 4.5 and the iPhone 4S are summarized below:
iPad 3rd Gen
iPod touch 4.5
|Primary Functionality:||Fullscreen Web
Siri (iOS 6+ Only)
Basic Video Editing
Basic Music Editing
Basic Video Editing
Basic Music Editing
Siri (iOS 5+)
|Display Size:||9.7" (2048x1536)||3.5" (960x640)||3.5" (960x640)|
|Display PPI:||264 ppi||326 ppi||326 ppi|
|Oleophobic Coating:||Front||None||Front & Back|
|Housing Material:||Glass & Aluminum||Glass & Steel||Glass & Steel|
|Processor Speed:||1 GHz||1 GHz||1 GHz|
|Processor Type:||Apple A5X||Apple A4||Apple A5|
|RAM:||1 GB||256 MB||512 MB|
|Data Networks:||4G* & Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi||2G/3G & Wi-Fi|
|Storage Size:||16, 32, 64 GB||8, 32, 64 GB||16, 32, 64 GB|
|Talk Time (3G):||N/A||N/A||8 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:||5.0 Megapixels||0.7 Megapixels||8.0 Megapixels|
|Voice Control:||No||Yes||Yes+ (Siri)|
|Shake to Shuffle:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Nike + iPod:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Dimensions (In):||9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37||4.4 x 2.3 x 0.28||4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37|
|Weight:||1.44, 1.46 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 3rd Gen but estimates that it provides 10 hours of runtime over Wi-Fi and 9 hours of runtime over 4G LTE.
† The iPad 3rd Gen 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 4G LTE and A-GPS in addition to Wi-Fi costs US$629, US$729, and US$829.
†† The 8 GB iPod touch 4.5 is offered for US$199, the 32 GB is US$299, and the 64 GB is US$399.
§ With a two-year contract with AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, the iPhone 4S is US$199, US$299 or US$399 for 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB, respectively. Unlocked and contract-free, the same capacities are US$649, US$749, and US$849.
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 since Everyi.com first answered this question years ago.
The iPod touch 4.5 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 4S 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, a much better rear camera and convenient Siri support.
The iPad 3rd Gen 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 basic productivity and other applications as well as 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 Everyi.com's Ultimate iComparison feature.