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What are all the differences between the iPhone 3GS and the iPod touch 2nd Gen?
Please note that these models have been discontinued. However, this Q&A has been updated with the latest about iOS support and more.
Quickly review Everyi.com's comparison of the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS, and it is readily apparent that although there are notable differences between models, the iPhone 3GS is an evolutionary upgrade. Consequently, as one would expect, most of the iPhone 3G to iPod touch 2nd Gen comparison is applicable when comparing the iPhone 3GS to the iPod touch 2nd Gen, as well.
In the same way that one can think of the iPod touch 2nd Gen on basic terms as an iPhone 3G with some of the capabilities "removed", one can think of it as an iPhone 3GS with much of the same iPod and handheld computing functionality but without the "phone", mobile phone networking (3G/EDGE), GPS-A support, integrated still/video camera, voice accessibility features (VoiceOver), voice control functionality, and digital compass. Both have integrated Nike+iPod support.
On first glance, the iPod touch 2nd Gen even looks about the same as the iPhone 3GS.
Left - iPod touch 2nd Gen, Right - iPhone 3GS - Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.
However, turn the iPod touch 2nd Gen and iPhone 3GS around and the external material differences become obvious. The iPod touch 2nd Gen has a chromed steel rear case with an oval shaped plastic "window" for the wi-fi antenna (802.11b/g) and the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models use either black or white plastic for the rear case which allows data and voice signals to penetrate the housing.
Left - iPod touch 2nd Gen, Center & Right - iPhone 3G - Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.
Although the size differences are rather inconsequential, the iPod touch 2nd Gen is slightly shorter (0.2 inches), thinner (0.15 inches), and lighter (0.75 ounces) than the iPhone 3GS.
As the designs are quite different, there is little reason to mistake the iPod touch 2nd Gen and the iPhone 3GS for one another. However, it is easy to mistake either for another iPod touch or iPhone, and consequently, it is helpful to know the model number printed in small type on the back of each device for external identification purposes.
The iPod touch 2nd Gen -- and 8 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen, which essentially is the same -- is model number A1288, the iPhone 3GS is model number A1303 and the China-only iPhone 3GS that does not have wi-fi is model number A1325.
However, as the model number is particularly hard to read on the iPod touch models, it may be easier to lookup either by order number -- at least if the device will boot -- with Everyi.com's Ultimate iLookup feature or the EveryMac app. Apple refers to the order number as "Model" in software. To find the "Model" select the "Settings" app and then click General > About > and scroll down until the field is visible.
Feature & Internal Differences
Both the iPod touch 2nd Gen and iPhone 3GS have "multi-touch" sensitive 3.5" displays with 320x480 resolution, an accelerometer that allows the device to "know" whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode and switch automatically, and an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness. Like the iPhone 3G before it, the iPhone 3GS also has two "proximity sensors" to turn the display off when it is held to the face for a phone call, but the iPhone 3GS display has a new "oleophobic" oil repellent coating.
Internally, the differences between the iPod touch 2nd Gen and iPhone 3GS are notable. In addition to the aforementioned "phone", mobile phone networking (3G/EDGE), GPS-A support, integrated still/video camera, and digital compass, the iPhone 3GS has a faster processor (600 MHz compared to 533 MHz) and an improved graphics processor as well. The iPod touch is offered with 8 GB, 16 GB, or 32 GB of internal storage whereas the iPhone 3GS originally only was offered with 16 GB or 32 GB but on June 7, 2010, Apple instead began offering the iPhone 3GS with 8 GB of storage at a lower price point.
Performance & Battery Life Differences
The processor and graphics performance difference is perhaps best demonstrated by the following video courtesy of the always excellent iLounge (the iPod touch 2nd Gen is on the left and the iPhone 3GS is on the right):
Although battery life is similar, Apple formally estimates that the iPod touch 2nd Gen provides better battery life for music and the iPhone 3GS provides better battery life for video playback. The iPod touch 2nd Gen is estimated to provide 36 hours of music playback and 6 hours of video playback, compared to 30 hours and 10 hours, respectively, for the iPhone 3GS.
iOS Support Differences
Both devices are capable of running iPhone OS 3.0, which added cut, copy, and paste, as well as "more than 100" other features, albeit iPod touch 2nd Gen devices shipped prior to the release of the iPhone 3GS annoyingly required a US$9.95 upgrade fee whereas all iPhone models can be upgraded at no extra cost.
Support for subsequent versions of the iOS is different, however. The iPhone 3GS fully supports iOS 4 and the iPod touch 2nd Gen only partially supports the operating system. The iPhone 3GS also fully supports iOS 5 and partially supports iOS 6 -- it does not support the turn-by-turn navigation, Flyover, Siri, FaceTime, Offline Reading List, or Panorama features -- whereas the iPod touch 2nd Gen does not support versions of the operating system beyond iOS 4 at all.
As introduced, upfront pricing for the iPod touch 2nd Gen -- US$229, US$299 and US$399 for 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB of storage, respectively, compared to just US$199 or US$299 for 16 GB of 32 GB of storage for the iPhone 3GS. On June 7, 2010, Apple introduced an 8 GB "low end" configuration of the iPhone 3GS for US$99 and and October 4, 2011, Apple dropped the price of this 8 GB iPhone 3GS to free. Apple discontinued the iPhone 3GS entirely on September 12, 2012.
However, the iPod touch 2nd Gen was offered with no strings attached as one is not obligated to tie themselves to an expensive mobile phone contract for two years either. The iPhone 3GS, on the other hand, was tied to a two-year AT&T contract in the US to qualify for these prices.
For your convenience, the primary differences between the iPod touch 2nd Gen and the iPhone 3GS are summarized below:
iPod touch 2nd Gen
|Primary Functionality:||Music Playback
Wi-Fi & 3G/EDGE
Still & Video Camera
|Data Networks:||Wi-Fi||EDGE (2G), 3G & Wi-Fi|
|Storage Size:||8, 16, 32 GB||8, 16, 32 GB†|
|Talk Time (3G):||N/A||5 Hours|
|Talk Time (2G):||N/A||12 Hours|
|Battery Life (Music):||36 Hours||30 Hours|
|Battery Life (Video):||6 Hours||10 Hours|
|Shake to Shuffle:||Yes||Yes|
|Nike + iPod Support:||Yes||Yes|
|Back Exterior Finish:||Chrome||Black or White Plastic|
|Original iOS:||iPhone OS 2.1 (5F138)||iPhone OS 3.0|
|iOS 4 Support:||Partial||Complete|
|iOS 5 Support:||None||Complete|
|iOS 6 Support:||None||Partial|
|Dimensions (Inches):||4.3 x 2.4 x 0.33||4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48|
|Weight (Ounces):||4.05 oz. (115 g)||4.8 oz. (135 g)|
|Original Price:||US$229, US$299, US$399§||US$199, US$299†|
* The iPod touch 2nd Gen has a built-in Broadcom BCM4325 "Bluetooth" chip that provides the Nike + iPod Sport Kit support. It does not otherwise support Bluetooth connectivity.
** The iPod touch 2nd Gen does not have an internal microphone, but it supports the external Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic and some third-party products.
§ The 8 GB iPod touch 2nd Gen was offered for US$229, the 16 GB was US$299, and the 32 GB was US$399.
† These prices were only for new AT&T Wireless customers when introduced. Originally, for non-qualified customers, including existing AT&T customers who wanted to upgrade from another phone or replace an iPhone 3G, the price with a new two-year agreement was US$599 or US$699. On June 7, 2010, Apple introduced an 8 GB "low end" configuration of the iPhone 3GS for US$99 with a two-year agreement. On October 4, 2011, Apple dropped the price of the 8 GB iPhone 3GS to free, but again, with a two-year agreement. Finally, on September 12, 2012, Apple discontinued the iPhone 3GS altogether.