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What are the differences between the iPod touch 3rd Gen (Late 2009) and the iPod touch 2nd Gen?
Please note that all iPods mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The iPod touch 3rd Gen was replaced by the iPod touch 4th Gen on September 1, 2010.
When initially released, Apple quietly referred to these models as the "Late 2009" line rather than use the company's traditional "generational" nomenclature to prevent potential confusion with "3G" networking but later changed the subfamily name to "3rd Gen."
External & Feature Differences
Both the iPod touch 2nd Gen and 3rd Gen feature a "multi-touch" sensitive 3.5" display with 320x480 resolution (163 ppi), an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness, built-in support for Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), "shake to shuffle" support, integrated support for Nike + iPod, and flash memory storage (of differing capacity -- 8, 16, or 32 GB for the 2nd Gen and 8, 32, or 64 GB for the 3rd Gen).
The 32 GB and 64 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen models also add "Voice Control" navigation capability and a "VoiceOver" screen reader -- the "world’s first gesture-based screen reader" -- but the 8 GB model is not powerful enough to support either feature nor is the iPod touch 2nd Gen line.
For all practical purposes, in fact, the 8 GB configuration of the iPod touch "3rd Gen" series is a re-issue of the 8 GB configuration of the iPod touch 2nd Gen that came before it, just sold for US$199 instead of US$229.
Although they are sold as a single line with 8 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of storage -- and marketed with greater emphasis on gaming than previous models touted more as an "iPhone without the phone" -- the 32 GB and 64 GB models are significantly different internally from the 8 GB one.
The iPod touch 2nd Gen and 8 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen -- which essentially is the same -- share model number A1288 and the the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen are model number A1318.
Internally, the 32 GB of 64 GB models have more in common with the iPhone 3GS with advertised "50% faster performance" -- courtesy of the same 800 MHz Samsung ARM processor that powers the iPhone 3GS -- and OpenGL ES 2.0 support for superior graphics performance as well as 256 MB of RAM. The 8 GB model, on the other hand, uses the same 533 MHz Samsung ARM as the iPod touch 2nd Gen models and 128 MB of RAM.
Third-party teardowns also have discovered that the Broadcom BCM4329 chip that provides 802.11b/g in the 32 GB and 64 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen configurations is capable of 802.11n as well, but this is not an advertised capability, nor is it supported in software.
Battery life officially has been reduced by the iPod touch 3rd Gen models for music playback -- 30 hours down from 36 hours -- but the iPod touch 2nd Gen and 3rd Gen models all formally provide 6 hours of video playback.
As a more minor point of product differentiation, the 32 GB and 64 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen models shipped with a pair of "Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic", whereas the 8 GB model simply has a standard set of earbuds. For those really interested in minutiae, the polishing cloth provided by the iPod touch 2nd Gen also was no longer included with the 3rd Gen line.
iOS Support Differences
The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen models are fully compatible with both iOS 4 and iOS 5.
By contrast, the iPod touch 2nd Gen and 8 GB configuration of the iPod touch 3rd Gen are not fully compatible with iOS 4 and cannot run iOS 5 at all.
For your convenience, the primary differences between the iPod touch 2nd Gen and the iPod touch 3rd Gen are summarized below:
iPod touch 2nd Gen
iPod touch 3rd Gen
|Processor Speed:||533 MHz||800 MHz*|
|Graphics Support:||OpenGL ES 1.1||OpenGL ES 2.0*|
|RAM:||128 MB||256 MB*|
|Storage Size:||8, 16, 32 GB||8, 32, 64 GB|
|Song Capacity:||1750, 3500, 7000||1750, 7000, 14,000|
|Photo Capacity:||10,000, 20,000, 25,000||10,000, 40,000, 90,000|
|Video Capacity:||10, 20, 40 Hours||10, 40, 80 Hours|
|Battery Life (Music):||36 Hours||30 Hours|
|Battery Life (Video):||6 Hours||6 Hours|
|Battery Life (Web):||4 Hours||4 Hours|
|Shake to Shuffle:||Yes||Yes|
|Nike + iPod Support:||Yes||Yes|
|iOS 4 Support:||Partial||Partial/Complete*|
|iOS 5 Support:||No||No/Yes*|
|Dimensions (Inches):||4.3 x 2.4 x 0.33||4.3 x 2.4 x 0.33|
|Weight (Ounces):||4.05 oz. (115 g)||4.05 oz. (115 g)|
|Price (As Introduced):||US$229, US$299, US$399§||US$199, US$299, US$399§|
* The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen have an 800 MHz processor, a graphics processor capable of supporting OpenGL ES 2.0, and 256 MB of RAM. The 8 GB model has a 533 MHz processor, a graphics processor capable of supporting OpenGL ES 1.1, and 128 MB of RAM. The 8 GB model is capable of partially supporting iOS 4 and incapable of supporting iOS 5.
** 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 and 3rd Gen models support an external microphone via the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic (and some third-party products as well). Note that the 8 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen configuration ships with standard earbuds rather than the Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic.
†† The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen support Voice Control navigation and the VoiceOver screen reader, the 8 GB model does not.
§ The 8 GB iPod touch 2nd Gen was sold for US$229, the 16 GB for US$299, and the 32 GB for US$399. The iPod touch 3rd Gen models -- with 8 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB of storage -- were introduced for US$199, US$299, and US$399, respectively.
Photo courtesy of Apple, Inc.