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Steve Jobs has a lot to celebrate.  As Chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc. Jobs has directed the company’s remarkable growth from niche-market computing to introducing a revolutionary new phone and dominating the mp3 player market. Since therelease of the iPod mp3 player in October 2001, the unit – and it’s many variations (including the Shuffle, Nano, and Mini) – has gone on to sell over 173 million worldwide, becoming the best-selling digital player in history.

Apple hasn’t stopped innovating even though with its market dominance the firm could afford to take a break.  After the runaway popularity of the AT&T-exclusive iPod phone, developers started to work on how to combine the user-friendly interface of the phone with the proven features of the iPod.  Available in 8, 16, and 32 GB models, theiPod Touch integrates touch-screen and digital player technology with internet access – giving consumers the ability to access email accounts, the iTunes store, current weather, and even a GPS-synced maps application. And it plays music too.

It can take a little while to adapt to life without the ‘click-wheel’ – the iPod design feature that distanced the player from the rest of the products on the market.  Intuitive and elegant, the ‘click-wheel’ has become such an essential part of the device that I almost wish they had included a ‘virtual’ wheel option.  After its initial set-up (which generally takes under an hour), and the slightly more time-consuming learning curve, the iPod Touch has proven itself to be, no surprise here, an excellent gadget – but one that less useful for its music-playing abilities and more for its add-ons.

As a music player, the Touch is a perfect evolution from the earlier iterations – high quality audio meets smart, sleek design (although for the stalwart, the iPod Classic is still available – with larger storage than ever before). From the home screen, your music collection is easily accessible with one touch, and there are several ways to view your library. The large, crisp album art is also a welcome addition for those of us who can still vividly recall the age when record packaging was as important as the music. And there is no longer the need to scroll through your entire collection when looking for a song or artist, as one touch on the right side of the screen will take you directly to the corresponding letter.

However, the Touch is just as compelling for all its other functions. The addition of wi-fi has transformed the product from a one-trick pony, into a versatile, on-the-go machine. I can access my web-based email, surf the web, update my calendar, watch YouTube videos and even check stock prices. And, with direct access to the iTunes store, you can download purchased music and video directly to the device, saving the step of syncing with your home computer. (Syncing music and files can sometimes be problematic fi you don’t stay up to date with the latest iTunes software.)

And, taking advantage of another iPhone feature, Touch users can also access the App store – which has an application (or app) for everything from city searches, to learning a new language. Some of the apps can only be used with the specific functions of the iPhone (i.e. the camera), but given the wide range of both free and paid programs, you’ll no doubt be able to find the right app for the job.

iPod Touch fan commercial

Like most Apple products, the iPod Touch is not cheap – all that brilliant design and name recognition comes with a price. For a 2nd Generation iPod Touch, you’ll pay from $229 for the 8GB version, to $399 for 32GB of storage. But on the whole, this product is well worth it, especially if you have not yet made the leap from simple cell phone to a smartphone that can handle the various portals of communication we use today. From responding to emails on the fly, to viewing the latest viral videos, the iPod Touch can (almost) do it all.