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The Simple Dollar

What I really, really want: the iPod Touch replacement, revisited

Big purchases deserve careful, reasoned consideration. What did I really get out of my iPod Touch, and how can I replace those traits most inexpensively?

By Guest blogger / October 25, 2010

An Apple employee holds a new Apple iPod Nano, upper right, with the new iPod Shuffle, bottom right, and iPod Touch, left, on Sept. 1 in San Francisco. When buying an expensive indulgence, carefully distinguish between what you want and what you need.

Paul Sakuma / AP / File

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Two days ago, I wrote an article discussing the damage done to my often-used iPod Touch and my decision-making process when it comes to a replacement for it. A great many of you encouraged me to straight-up replace my iPod Touch with a new one, and I appreciate the comments. I thought I’d walk a bit more thoroughly through my replacement decision and discuss what I ended up replacing it with.

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How I’ve Used My iPod Touch in the Past
As I mentioned, I originally received one as a gift in 2008. I used the item extensively (averaging multiple hours a day, I’d bet) over the past two years. Here’s a list of the nine significant uses I’ve found for the item (in no particular order).

1. I’ve used it as a pocket notebook.
2. I’ve used it as a podcast and music player during thrice-weekly exercise.
3. I’ve used it as an exercise tracker as it records my distance and pace via Nike+.
4. I’ve used it to check email and reply to it.
5. I’ve used it to entertain my children, particularly on car trips.
6. I’ve used it for music in the car on long car trips.
7. I’ve used it to quickly record lots of small pieces of data here and there.
8. I’ve used it to check some internet services (Facebook, Twitter).
9. I’ve used it to keep my listened and unlistened podcasts synchronised.

Are These Uses Now Met By Other Devices?
Now that I’m in a situation where I need to replace the item, I need to ask myself if each of these significant uses is met by another device at this point. So, let’s walk through each of them.

1. I’ve used it as a pocket notebook.
I often use the free program Evernote to jot down notes using the iPod Touch. However, I do find myself alternating between using Evernote and simply using a pocket notebook, mostly because the input on the pocket notebook is so much more efficient (though I do sometimes end up re-recording the note in Evernote when I’m at my computer, it is very easy to type it in). Moving just to a pocket notebook isn’t a major loss to me.

2. I’ve used it as a podcast and music player during thrice-weekly exercise.
This is an existing need that isn’t replaced by anything I have.

3. I’ve used it as an exercise tracker as it records my distance and pace via Nike+.
This is an existing need that isn’t replaced by anything I have.

4. I’ve used it to check email and reply to it.
I can now do this on my cell phone with similar efficiency to the iPod Touch.

5. I’ve used it to entertain my children, particularly on car trips.
The “entertainment” that it used to provide was the ability to watch a children’s movie on it, like WALL-E, on a long road trip. For Christmas this past year, we received an in-car DVD player as a gift, which pretty much eliminates the entertainment aspects of the iPod Touch.

6. I’ve used it for music and podcasts in the car on long car trips.
Other than the dodginess of radio, this is an existing need that isn’t replaced by anything I have.

7. I’ve used it to quickly record lots of small pieces of data here and there.
This is a similar situation to the pocket notebook. It’s far easier in the moment to just record the information on my pocket notebook, but I have the additional burden of often having to re-record it. I think moving fully back to a pocket notebook isn’t a major loss.

8. I’ve used it to check some internet services (Facebook, Twitter).
I can now do this on my cell phone with similar efficiency to the iPod Touch.

9. I’ve used it to keep my listened and unlistened podcasts synchronised.
This is an existing (minor) need that isn’t replaced by anything I have.

What Are My Usage Needs for an iPod Touch Replacement?
This leaves the following factors as features that I want a replacement for.

1. I’ve used it as a podcast and music player during thrice-weekly exercise.
2. I’ve used it as an exercise tracker as it records my distance and pace via Nike+.
3. I’ve used it for music and podcasts in the car on long car trips.
4. I’ve used it to keep my listened and unlistened podcasts synchronised.

In other words, I’m looking for a device (or devices) that can do the above things.

It’s easy to find a device that handles 1 and 3 – pretty much any mp3 player will do that. The trick comes in with the other options.

I could simply buy a good pedometer or exercise watch to take care of the second option to some extent.

The fourth choice is very tricky. From what I’ve seen, the only devices that manage to pull this off well are iPods and Microsoft’s Zune device.

So, to put it simply, I can buy a low-end device (like the Sansa) that will handle just needs 1 and 3, and I can pick up a good pedometer ($30) to somewhat handle need 2 or a good exercise watch ($100 or so) to really handle need 2. This leaves the fourth need in the realm of some sort of additional manual management, which can be a pain.

Also, I could buy a Zune for $95 that would handle all but the exercise uses. Or, I could buy an iPod Nano for $135 that would handle all four needs in one device.

Of course, I could spend $200 on the iPod Touch replacement, which would also nail everything but mostly give me redundant features compared to the Nano and the items I already have.

My Decision
I picked up a Nano – and it works like a charm. I saved $65 over just replacing my Touch and I’m not missing out on any important needs.

Why So Much Effort?
In truth, this thought process took much less time than it did for me to write it – and probably for you to read it. I spent, all told, about 45 minutes actively evaluating what my real needs and wants were and what the various options were.

The easy choice would have been to just directly replace the Touch. However, spending some time really looking at my needs added up to a $65 savings, money that can certainly be well-used elsewhere in my life.

Why write it out in such detail? It shows, quite clearly, the value of thinking about whether you actually have a real use for something, what those real uses are, and what you can buy that meets those real uses. I cut away the fat to show what I actually used the iPod Touch for, then I looked at what other things I have already take care of those needs, then I just looked at the factors that were left. Doing that helped me to buy a lower-cost player, a decision that saved me $65 over just buying without thinking.

That’s what I call a win.

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