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What are the differences between the iPod touch 4th Generation, the iPhone 4 and the original iPad? Which one is right for my needs?
Please note that this Q&A compares the iPod touch 4th Generation with the iPhone 4 and the original iPad which were available at the time this iPod touch was introduced. The original iPad has been discontinued. For the most current version of this Q&A, please see "What are all the differences between the iPod touch 4th Generation (2011), the iPhone 4S, and the iPad 2? Which one is right for my needs?"
It is obvious that the original iPad is larger than the iPod touch 4th Generation and the iPhone 4. However, one could easily mistake the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Generation with just a passing glance, and there are a variety of differences that merit close evaluation for all three devices. There are different contractual requirements as well.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Wi-Fi Only iPad - Front, Back, & Side)
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 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 - 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 uses a matte aluminum case (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 white or black glass back that matches its front in material as well and the iPod touch 4th Gen has a "mirror" reflective chromed steel rear case with a tapered rather than flat back.
For the benefit of future readers, when such identifying information may be useful, the iPads have model numbers A1219 or A1337 on the back, for the Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi/3G models, respectively. Flip over the iPhone 4 and you will find model number A1332 on the back and for the iPod touch 4th Gen you will find model number A1367.
The iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen both run iOS 4 and the iPad runs iOS 3.2 with iOS 4 support forthcoming. 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 (and spreadsheets and presentations as well). It also is worth mentioning that a version of iWork -- Pages, Numbers, and Keynote -- is exclusively available for the iPad and a version of iMovie is available for the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen (iWork cannot run on the iPhone 4 or iPod touch 4th Gen and iMovie cannot run on the iPad).
The iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4th Gen both have two cameras. The front-mounted cameras on each are of similar quality -- both 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 are of considerably different quality, as the iPhone 4's is 5 megapixels and the iPod touch 4th Gen's is roughly a paltry 0.7 megapixels (960x720 stills). The iPhone 4 also has an LED flash and autofocus support whereas the iPod touch 4th Gen does not. The iPad does not have a camera at all.
All three have accelerometers that allow each to "know" whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode and switch automatically and an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness. 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.
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, a three-axis gyroscope, and voice control functionality. The 4th Generation iPod touch has voice control and a three-axis gyroscope but lacks the remaining features (phone, 3G, GPS-A, and the digital compass). iPad models do not have mobile phone voice capability, voice control, cameras, or a gyroscope, but do include a digital compass. High-end iPad models (US$629-US$829) have 3G networking and A-GPS as well.
Internally, all of these devices are powered by an Apple A4 processor, but 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 4th Gen iPod touch and iPad have no contractual strings attached. As of the date published, wireless plans for iPad models equipped with 3G connectivity are available without a contract for US$15/month with a 200 MB data transfer limit and US$25/month with a 2 GB of data limit via AT&T Wireless in the US. The iPhone 4, on the other hand, requires a two-year contract with AT&T Wireless in the US at a minimum cost of US$54.99/month.
The primary differences between the iPad, iPod touch 4th Generation and the iPhone 4 are summarized below:
iPod touch 4
|Primary Functionality:||Fullscreen Web
3G & GPS*
Basic Video Editing
Wi-Fi & 3G/EDGE
Basic Video Editing
|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:||1 GHz||~800 MHz||~800 MHz|
|RAM:||256 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:||No||0.7 Megapixels||5.0 Megapixels|
|Camera Flash:||No Camera||No||Yes|
|Camera Autofocus:||No Camera||No||Yes|
|Shake to Shuffle:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Nike + iPod:||No||Yes||Yes|
|Dimensions (In):||9.56 x 7.47 x 0.5||4.4 x 2.3 x 0.28||4.5 x 2.31 x 0.37|
|Weight:||1.5 or 1.6 lbs||3.56 oz. (101 g)||4.8 oz. (137 g)|
* Only high-end iPad models (US$629-US$829) have 2G/3G networking and A-GPS.
** Apple doesn't break out individual tasks for the battery life of the iPad. For more info, see "What is the battery life of the iPad in 'real-world' tests? Can you replace the battery?"
† Unlike earlier iPod touch models, the iPod touch 4th Gen has an integrated speaker and microphone which also makes Skype/VOIP calls without a headset a viable option (at least in a quiet room, as first detailed by the always excellent AnandTech).
†† The iPad 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 3G 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 advertised only for "qualified" AT&T Wireless customers. For "non-qualified" customers or those "who wish to buy iPhone as a gift," the price of these devices with a new two-year agreement is US$599 or US$699.
Which one is right for my needs?
Ultimately, 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 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 applications and a full-size keyboard "dock". 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.