When the iPod touch was announced, I preordered one immediately — I didn't jump on the iPhone bandwagon because I didn't hate my cell provider, and I disliked the idea of being bound to ATT — I thought I wanted an iPhone without the phone. They said the touch would ship in late September, so I preordered and thought I had a few weeks to think about it.
September 17, 2007
Last Thursday I decided to cancel the order – the thing that most excited me about the iPod Touch was the ability to install 3rd party applications, not the 16 megabytes of storage, which is the only advantage over the iPhone, on the other side, it lacks a camera, speaker and microphone. Then, thinking more, I thought that the iPhone's "hacking scene" was going to stay more vibrant than the iPod touch's, mostly due to the challenge of carrier lock-in. The final straw was when I thought of a way to get a cheaper plan than the $110/month "family plan" that was the minimum one Apple or ATT offered with the iPhone: which is to get a normal cheap AT&T family plan, then, as an existing customer, add an iPhone for $20. So, for $10 more per month than we were paying T-Mobile, I get unlimited data with my iPhone.
I picked up the phone at the AT&T store, then went to the Apple store to check out the accessories. What do I see there on the counter of the genius bar? A stack of iPod Touches! Boy am I glad I canceled my order — they were probably about to ship mine! Worse still (or better, given my decision), it would seem the "jailbreak" operation that allows you to install 3rd party applications on the iPhone does not just work on the Touch. Zoinks would I have been frustrated.
On the other hand, doing the jailbreak on my iPod wasn't a walk in the park. I found couldn't just do it by following directions — John L. could plug mine into his machine and do it, so I knew I had a shot, but it took a while. I finally had to delete iTunes and reinstall it from the .dmg file to reset the weird state my machine was in.
Now I'm a happy 3rd-party-application-running iPhone owner.
My favorites so far:
AppTapp installer (the bootstrapping operation to get stuff on, and a very nice package manager)
Lights off – a gorgeous logic game. Apple could have designed it.
FiveDice – a very nice implementation of Yahtzee.
Term-vt100 – the best terminal app, silly, but also very cool.
NES – an NES emulator. Not perfect, and the touch-screen controls are tricky, but shows lots of promise. M.U.L.E.! Solar Jetman doesn't work on it yet — I'll donate something to the project.
Summerboard – once you have this many applications, summerboard lets you flick through your applications.
There's a lot of not so good things out there too — proof of concepts, and "gee, look what I can do" — kind of like the early Macintosh games. But the above titles give me hope that this platform will last for a while.