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Hands on with the new iPod Touch

The iPod Touch is Apple's stealth bomber. An iPhone without the phone, the Touch serves tens of millions of people who want to run hundreds of thousands of iOS apps (especially games) without signing up for a phone contract. Many of these people are kids; many use simpler or cheaper phones to make calls, and use their iPod Touch to play.

The new iPod Touch is a much-needed upgrade, and I got to spend some time with it at this week’s big launch event. But within all its new features lies a little bit of danger for the existing iPod Touch buyer, which may be part of the reason why Apple kept the earlier Touch in its line-up rather than retiring the device.

The new iPod Touch, like the iPhone 5 and the iPod Nano (see our hands on with the Nano here), has been completely redesigned. The new Touch comes in five colours (yellow, red, white, blue, and black) and it uses the same stretched, 1,136 x 640, 4in screen as the new iPhone 5. As with the new iPhone, all of Apple's apps use the whole screen; older third-party apps that aren't rewritten for the new device will show up with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

I'm loving Apple's new practice of cladding everything in anodised aluminium, which has a soft, comfortable, warm feel to it. It's certainly better than glass or plastic, and it's one of the best things about HTC's phones, too. The Touch feels insanely thin (and it is, at 6mm) and the aluminium wraps around the edges to give the front just a glint of colour. The new Lightning connector, headphone jack, and the single speaker are on the bottom.

On the back of the Touch, you'll find its improved 5-megapixel camera (above). It's still not as good as the 8-megapixel shooter on the back of the iPhone 5, but it's a step up from the less-than-1-megapixel camera on last year's iPod Touch.

A little silvery dot in the corner of the device pops out to become a wrist strap attachment (and the Touch ships with a wrist strap). Apple's going after the digital camera market here, and as the Touch's camera appears to work just like the one on board the iPhone 4S, the company is going to win over some casual snappers here.

The Touch has the new iPhone 5's screen but the CPU from the old iPhone 4S, which is an interesting mix. It shouldn't cause problems, though, and the Touch's interface was perfectly smooth. I ran several apps, including the web browser, Apple's new Passbook, and Apple's interesting but largely unknown greeting card app, and everything loaded just as it would on an iPhone – without the phone.

Ultimately that's the iPod Touch's selling point. Just as with the previous models, the iPod Touch is the best way to play iPhone games and run iPhone apps without paying for a phone service, and the new screen on the refreshed Touch makes it compatible with apps for the new iPhone 5.

The iPod Touch will cost £249 for the 32GB model, and £329 for 64GB version when it goes on sale next month.