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How well does the iPod touch 4th Generation work as a VOIP/Skype phone in "real-world" use?
If you were thrilled that the iPod touch 4th Gen model have both an integrated speaker and an integrated microphone on the device itself -- a first for the iPod touch line -- and that it supports FaceTime you no doubt were not alone. All subsequent iPod touch models have an integrated speaker and integrated microphone, too.
Based on e-mail received, many also were immediately excited about the potential use of the iPod touch 4th Gen as an ideal Skype phone over a Wi-Fi network.
Real-World Test Results
With the microphone on the back of the device, only "real-world" test results could confirm whether or not it works sufficiently well as a Skype phone.
With the new iPod touch you can make [Skype/VOIP] calls without a headset. Even though the mic is on the back of the iPod, it's sensitive enough to pick up your voice. And the speaker is audible enough to carry on a conversation.
One thing to note about FaceTime on the touch -- on our device the volume seemed extremely low even when cranked up (in keeping with our experience for music playback).
The only mic on the device is on the back of the phone, next to the rear camera - on the other side of where you'll be speaking. Thankfully this proved to be a non-issue in my office but I can see it being a problem in a more crowded/noisy environment. . .
The major issue I had was with the external speaker volume. I noted a 12dB difference in sound pressure between the iPhone 4's speakerphone and what you get with the iPod touch while playing music, with voice alone the gap peaks at around 20dB. The iPod touch's external speaker just isn't loud enough for FaceTime in my opinion. If you're in a very quiet room it's not a problem, but have a computer or two running and it's uncomfortably quiet.
Naturally, whether or not the iPod touch 4th Gen is loud enough for you to use Skype without a headset largely depends on your own hearing and the noise level in the room or rooms that you intend to use the device.
However, based on hands-on use, EveryiPod.com has found that the iPod touch 4th Gen is in fact quieter than the iPhone 4 but still quite sufficient for Skype voice use in a bedroom, living room, or relatively quiet office. It definitely is not loud enough to use outside walking down a modestly busy street -- even should you be lucky enough to have a walkable street bathed in a steady Wi-Fi signal -- but for most users it should work well inside.
iPod touch 4th Gen Skype Summary
Ultimately, the iPod touch 4th Gen is a solid Skype phone. It allows one to use Skype in a far more convenient manner than the iPod touch 3rd Gen models before it -- which could be comparatively awkward with headsets -- and it does a much better job than often buggy dedicated Skype phones as well.
If you intend to use an iPod touch 4th Gen with Skype (as well as FaceTime), odds are good that you will be pleased with the results. Nevertheless, like all decisions based on personal preference, it would be wise to evaluate the iPod touch 4th Gen in person prior to purchase to ensure that it meets your individual needs for Skype/VOIP use.