Apple begins to abandon the iPod Touch with hobbled £199 16GB version

This week, Apple launched a brand new entry-level model in its fifth generation iPod touch line. While the price has dropped to £199, the meagre 16GB of flash memory and the lack of a rear camera make this a very hard sell. Considering WWDC is only a week away, it’s possible that this is simply laying the groundwork for the next generation of iPod touch devices.

Last September, Apple launched the fifth generation iPod touch line with a 4in display, an A5 chip, a wrist strap, a selection of colours, and a starting price of £249. At the same time, it kept the previous generation around to keep the barrier to entry well under the £200 mark. Eight months later, the fourth-gen iPod touch is gone in favour of a black 16GB fifth-gen sans the wrist strap and rear-facing camera.

After Apple made such a big deal about how wonderful the rear-facing “iSight” camera was when the fifth-gen launched, it’s incredibly disappointing to see it selling a model with that feature unceremoniously excised. Is the iPod touch supposed to be a digital camera replacement or not, Apple? App developers are undoubtedly frustrated as well since they can no longer expect all fifth-gen iPod touch users to have access to a rear-facing camera. This creates confusion about the iPod touch brand, and makes it much less appealing on the whole.

So, why is Apple releasing this now? First of all, Cupertino wants to hasten the demise of the 3.5in screen. It’s stuck supporting 3.5in iPhones for a few more years thanks to the reality of mobile contracts, but the old and clunky fourth-gen iPod touch with its A4 processor and tiny screen won’t be missed. Secondly, WWDC is right around the corner, and Apple will likely announce something new and exciting there. Even if we don’t see new hardware at the event itself, Apple doesn’t want to waste time on stage announcing a cheap version of its aging iPod touch line.

The worst part of this product isn’t its missing features, though – it’s the asking price. This model only shaves £50 off the price of the £249 32GB model, and it’s substantially worse. If this model was in the £100-£150 price range, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad deal. Considering you can grab a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD for £159, Apple’s mark-up on this iPod is just too exorbitant. Apple obviously wants to keep the profit margins high, and dropping components from the model was the easiest way to do that.

If the iPod touch had near-parity with the iPhone’s feature set, a premium price would be justified. Sadly, it just straddles this uncomfortable line between low-end and high-end, and it comes out seeming like a bit of a rip-off. The dated internals and comparatively high price make it very hard to recommend to anyone.