Updated on 09.17.14

Degrees of Want

Trent Hamm

Revisiting the iPod Touch Replacement

I don't want you standing here...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.

How I Use My iPod Touch

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.

Can Other Devices Replace iPod Touch Functions?

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. Podcast and music player during thrice-weekly exercise
2. Exercise tracker
3. Music and podcasts in the car on long car trips
4. Keeping 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.

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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  1. Did you bring your broken Touch with you? Last I checked, Apple gives you 10% off your purchase if you turn in a broken iPod when you buy a new one.

  2. Claudia says:

    I’m so glad you revisited this topic!
    I can’t believe how many people said “you DESERVE the new touch”. It’s that philosophy by which people get themselves into their debt messes. I hope everyone can take away your underlying message here rather than the superficial “Ipod or not” one.

    Thank you!

  3. Saagar says:

    What’s the point of the whole earnings, and posting on this blog and going through the whole debt reduction program, when you can’t buy an item that you actually used and it proved to be your good companion!!

  4. Annie Jones says:

    I think you touched on the main reason that my husband and I haven’t even considered getting smart phones, Blackberries or any other “do it all” devices. They would be redundant in our lives and we would use most features infrequently or not at all.

    I’m glad you were able to make a decision that truly meets your needs.

  5. cv says:

    @#3 Saagar, it sounds like Trent has gotten some new devices since he got the iPod Touch, like a smartphone and a portable DVD player. Given that, it makes sense to think about which features he’s looking for in a new device and which are now duplicated by other devices he already owns.

  6. angie says:

    One question… it sounds like you got a really nice gift (dvd player) for Christmas… so do you reciprocate in kind, or does that person get a jar of homemade jelly, or homemade soap, etc? It would be really hard for me not to “step up” my gift to that person, but maybe this is someone who you already give something of more monetary value to?

  7. Katie says:

    Does the nano have an exercise tracker/pedometer? I didn’t know that.

  8. Michelle says:

    It’s good that you went through all the steps. My touch broke about 6 months ago, and I bought a new one. Of course, I use mine for different things than you do, and the things I use mine for aren’t really available on other (cheaper) devices. I was concerned that you might think you didn’t need a new one, buy a cheaper mp3 player, only to have to buy a new touch in a month or so. That’s what would have happened to me, it looks like you will probably avoid that.

  9. Stella says:

    Interesting. I went through a similar process almost a year ago when my beloved nano (2nd gen.) started to die. I also needed to upgrade my cell phone, so I choose an Android smartphone that I can also store and play music on. Which, as it turns out, is what I use it most for.

  10. Patrick says:

    I still think….your analysis misses so many of the pluses of the new iPod touch. And the convergence aspect especially.

    But even without that, it is a magic screen. Small children can use it without instruction, and actually learn from it. Simply amazing for the price.

    I still respectfully disagree with your choice. I would pay double what it cost me, if I had to. And I use mine less than 5 hours per week! (but it is still worth it, for me).

    Thanks for your analysis Trent, even though I don’t agree with it.

  11. Luke says:

    I don’t get it…You really, REALLY enjoyed the Touch, used its many features and for $65 you get half (literally and figuratively) an iPod. You DO DESERVE a replacement Touch! You work hard and deserve a $200 unit that use seemingly used all-the-time!

  12. Will says:

    I am an advocate of frugality. Heck, I learned it from you, Trent!

    Respectfully, I would have made a different choice. You got far more than your money’s worth out of your first Touch. You know it’s a product you used and loved. For $65 more you could have the same enjoyment for at least another year. Yet you chose to spread the use out over several different (and less convenient) devices.

    How much room in your budget do you have for wants?

  13. kristine says:

    I just do not see the fascination with these devices. It’s lifestyle upgrade. Since I work at a place with a computer, and live at a place with a computer, (I teach computer design for a living) I figure I can go to the store or on vacation without one. Call me a Luddite, but I have a 20 dollar phone with a 15 dollar family plan sim card. It appears that only the last of all the reasons listed is not a redundancy of other devices. And honestly, once children are a bit older, and can read, I think it is just fine for children to get bored-it forces them to use their imagination to fill the time. We kept our kids car occupied for 6 years trying to spot a license plate from all 50 states. Hawaii was the hardest. We had a list we took on every trip. That and MadLibs, and drawing.

  14. Katie says:

    Kristine, I don’t think “lifestyle upgrade” is an inherent negative. Indoor plumbing was once a “lifestyle upgrade.” It makes sense to examine whether you’ll really use and enjoy the features of something, and whether you can afford it, but just the fact that it improves your quality of life and you didn’t have it before does not make it automatically a bad thing.

  15. Ryan says:

    As I was reading this, the thought “He should just get an iPhone” popped into my head a dozen times.

    But I do remember Trent saying way back that none of the major carriers have service at his home, so I guess that would be a no-go.

    Regardless, the point of thinking before buying is well put.

  16. SwingCheese says:

    “lifestyle upgrade” is certainly not an inherent negative, but neither is eschewing technology, in my opinion. Too often, people buy the latest and greatest without thinking about their needs.

    But I am also wary (or weary, heh heh!) of the lack of downtime in society, and while I am not a luddite, I’m also not the standard.

  17. lurker carl says:

    The acquisition of indoor plumbing (and electricity and telephone) when I was a teenager certainly was a lifestyle upgrade. An iPod? Not so much.

    Let’s be serious, iPods are little more than pricey portable entertainment devices that can not withstand the perils of being portable. Another outstanding Madison Avenue marketing success story.

  18. As a general comment, when you can find this many uses and conveniences for one of these electronic devices, I not only think that they are well worth the money, but a good investment of your money.

    I’d never buy an Ipod, but if I could find this many uses in my life for an Ipod touch, then I’d certianly pull the trigger

  19. Katie says:

    Let’s be serious, iPods are little more than pricey portable entertainment devices that can not withstand the perils of being portable. Another outstanding Madison Avenue marketing success story.

    Speak for yourself. I didn’t buy an ipod for a long time (because of the price), and then I didn’t upgrade it for even longer (because I was wary of the constant connectivity issues people mention here). But, for me personally, having all my music to carry around with me in a portable package has been a real benefit to my life in a lot of ways. Is that true for everyone? Of course not. But nor are the benefits I’ve realized illusory and I a dupe of the company just because someone else doesn’t really want an ipod.

  20. Cheese's Mom says:

    You only NEED food, clothing and shelter….everything else is a want……you don’t NEED a pedometer…you just wanted one….

  21. Brian says:

    I’m curious about what kind of cell phone you have, Trent. I remember you were going to be looking at prepaid options. Did you find one that allows you to do email/internet browsing?

  22. Jonathan says:

    It sounds like the Nano is a suitable replacement for the Touch given Trent’s needs. I don’t understand why so many people seem to believe the Touch is a better option for Trent, if the Nano does everything he needs it to do.

  23. Tressa says:

    @Angie #6. Geez, you seem to not get the whole idea of the homemade gifts. It isn’t about the cost of the gift, its about the time and “love” put into each gift. I have children and grandchildren and there is no comparison to the homemade gifts my kids and grandkids have given me and the more expensive store bought ones they have given me. I really think that most people would RATHER have gifts lovingly hand made by their loved ones than expensive store bought ones. I know I would!! Maybe a very materialistic person would compare just the cost–but I don’t think most people would.

  24. KC says:

    I used to think these were lifestyle upgrades (ipods, iphones, etc) then I got an iphone. I don’t pay for this phone or service – my husband gets it for free for participating in a research project and since he already has a blackberry provided from work he gave me this phone to use. Otherwise I’d probably still be on my $25/quarter Virgin mobile prepay.

    First of all I’ve sold my GPS unit…don’t need it anymore – iphone does it with constant free upgrades and free traffic service. I was considering buying a laptop to compliment our desktop computer since we have a fairly large house. Don’t need it. I can do everything on my iphone I would do on my desktop (or a laptop). I read the NYTimes daily for free instead of buying a copy as I used to do, ditto for USA Today. It has replaced my MP3 player. As others have mentioned I use it as a note service so I am never stuck at a store without a list. I’ve used the LED light as a flashlight. I’ve used the phone as a leveler. And, of course it makes phone calls and texts.

    I don’t think I’ve even tapped the surface of the things my phone can do. This thing is amazing. And since I have no debt other than a mortgage. Max out all retirement options and still manage to save 30% of household income on top of this I feel this is a lifestyle upgrade I can easily afford. Isn’t that the point of reaching this point in your life – the ability to buy affordable things you want?

    I’m not criticizing Trent’s well thought out decision about buying the Nano. If it suits all his needs for less money then he’s made a wise decision even if he has tons of extra money to spend. If I could find something cheaper than my iphone I’d certainly explore the use of it. But to consider this lifestyle inflation is just not true when the main tenets of saving are being met.

  25. CJ says:

    I completely follow and agree with your methodology Trent.

    I would likely have made exactly the opposite choice, however, and spent the extra $65 for a replacement iPod Touch.

    It isn’t a “lifestyle upgrade” for me as some others have suggested this type of device is.

    I don’t have a great memory – I’m a divergent thinker. I come up with good ideas but I need a place to keep them.

    A mobile device with the ability to record and organize data helps me organize my work, my hobbies and my personal time.

    So, for me, it’s necessary. I keep a notepad handy but tools like DropBox and EverNote let me do more with my time and not misplace information.

    “Nosce te ipsum.” Know thyself. Clearly Trent does and has made a choice that fits with his lifestyle.

  26. michael bash says:

    Trent is no Luddite. I plan to ask for a new quill pen for Christmas by the way.

  27. Jeanette says:

    Having gone thru various stages of lusting after an iTouch (I’m not even remotely interested in the iPhone; I’ll happily wait for Androids in the prepaid market as I don’t use my cell phone all that much at the moment.), I can understand why folks are urging Trent to just get a new one as a replacement. After really thinking it thru, I’ve yet to buy one, even with the improvements in the latest generation.

    For professional reasons, I’m interested in the iTouch apps. And I like the idea of being able to get WiFi on the fly (and also make calls via Skype), which you can do with the iTouch, without having to pay high fees each month for a phone contract.

    But there are other considerations in purchasing besides desired and necessary functionality. I have real issues with a company like Apple and the way it controls how and what you can download onto its products. The fact that I have tons of MP3 music that I would NOT be able to load onto the iTouch annoys me beyond belief (I’ve tried on a friend’s unit). Why should I be forced to pay for the same stuff via iTunes? So there goes the MP3 function.

    The iTouch is definitely sexier in design than MP3 players and various droid small tablets. And frankly, a lot of people do succumb to it without really analyzing how they use it. To be honest, if someone gave it to me, I’d use it, too. But I would not buy it. Same situation trent is actually in.

    Kudos to Trent for resisting the “easy” solution and really thinking about what he needs.

    If we were all more honest, we’d admit that far too many of our electronics and tech purchases are about having the “cool” toys and not just what we want or “need.” (Need is relative. If you work in certain industries and don’t have a smartphone or even an iPhone, you seriously reduce your credibility. it’s the same with the whole Blackberry vs iPhone stuff. Depending on where you work, all this matters. It shouldn’t but it does.)

    At this juncture, I’m one of those waiting for the next round of smaller (say 7-inch) Android tablets. I’m tired of small keyboards and small screens on smart phones. They don’t work well for me. If the new models have the updated Android system and Android apps keep increasing, I know where my $ are going. In the meantime, I listen to music, podcasts, and make recordings as needed on my SanDisk MP3 player. It also holds pix and though it supposedly plays videos, there have been ongoing problems with the software and I still can’t get it to work (It doesn’t help that I’ve got a 64-bit Win 7 OS that Sansa does not support; it doesn’t even work on my old Vista laptop either.)

    But I paid something like $30, so I’m not complaining.

  28. Carlos says:

    You probably could have purchased a used iPod touch for the same price as your new nano. Same amount spent, same features. Problem solved.

  29. Katie says:

    Jeanette, what were you not able to load on the ipod? I have MP3s from all sorts of sources, legal and, ahem, otherwise, and have not had a single one that I couldn’t get on my ipod. It required importing the file to the itunes library, but after that there wasn’t an issue.

  30. Angie says:

    Please don’t “geez” me. I get Trent’s arguments on homemade gifts… but if someone gave me something rather expensive, I would feel a little bad giving them jam, no matter how much love I put into it.

  31. Ryan says:

    Jeanette, the only reason why any music files you have wouldn’t work on an iPod touch is if you purchased DRM protected ones from say Rhapsody or Microsoft’s Zune music store. Apple doesn’t control that at all.

    Not that this will change your mind, but just thought you should know.

  32. Heather says:

    I have learned so much about frugality from you Trent. I was quite surprised about the choice you made in the first post. It is this continued ability to practice what you preach (asking yourself the real uses for any item)that keeps me coming back to your site.

    I too had been wrestling with the decision to get an iphone when my contract expires. I am now doing a more detailed review of my uses.

    Thank you for this more comprehensive post.

  33. Luke says:

    You listed 9-ways you used your Touch in the past. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 & 8 are not a possibility with the Nano.

    I don’t understand (don’t really need to I guess) the decision making process. You list a host of uses on the Touch that you seemingly couldn’t live without and for a measly $65 you said it was too expensive. And to boot, you were given a FREE Touch and used it for nearly three years! The new one you could purchase would last another three years and for $229, you would have 6-years of Touch use!

    Like someone else mentioned, why not consider buying used with Apple care warranty left for the same price as a Nano (or LESS!)? Even so, since you have kids and the new Touch does HD video, wouldn’t that have made you want to spend the extra $65?

    It is a flat-out DOWNGRADE to a Nano and you will either figure that out soon with all of the Nano’s inadequacies and your three years of using a device that did a ton more.

  34. littlepitcher says:

    Duplicating features really isn’t economical.
    Trent has bills you and I may not have, including 3 children. He knows his own consumption and use patterns better than we do.
    I could be called extravagant for purchasing a new Touch on my low wages. Consider, though: I walk to work, wear 50-cent clothes on the job, have no dependents, my dumbphone is paid by my employer, I use apps constantly, and I’m away from a computer for much of the day. The Nano works great for people who spend all day on a computer, have a smartphone, and who utilize a minimal number of apps. That’s why they make two or three models and not just the high-end.

  35. Luke says:

    This isn’t about buying the touch. It’s about the process beforehand of buying the touch I wonder about. Doesn’t make much sense. If it was all about the money, you could buy a second hand Nano or Touch.

    To not consider the major improvements of the new Touch or consider buying a used one for less than a new Nano, but to consider buying an MP3 player, a watch and a pedometer seems a bit 1987 to me….

    To each his own…

  36. lmoot says:

    Oh wow, thank god I’m not a techy (read: knows NOTHING about technology). I guess not knowing what you are “missing” is a cheaper, less agonizing experience. I am so constantly around a tv, computer, and music that I don’t require those to be portable. I listen to cd’s in the morning while getting ready for work. Check email on my puter before leaving. I listen to the radio in the car on the way to work. I use the computer at work. Listen to the radio on the way back. Check my email again or netsurf on my lap top. It’s truly a blessing the few times I have to not be talking to someone, downloading something, listening to music, watching tv. I got a camera phone for the first time ever this year, which came with my phone plan(only because they no longer make a phone without one that comes with the plan). Without stepping on toes (because I understand that just because tech. is not my thing that it isn’t useful or joyful for others), technology for me personally would be the worst attraction (a never-ending acquisition). And these last few posts on the subject details why. It’s like trying to play a game that you just couldn’t possible win. I mean just reading these comments I feel like I am witnessing a chess tourney. It seems the over all goal of technology companies is to package and upgrade items in a way that forces you to spend more for things you wouldn’t use, except for the fact that it’s built in (and so is the price). And don’t think that they are not in cahoots with each other. Just last week when I bought Beauty and the Beast for my niece, I was forced to buy not one, but two BlueRay Discs that came with it. And it was $30. You literally could not just buy the dvd. No one in our family even has blue ray! I still have my vhs combo because I have perfectly good vhs’s that I am not willing to throwaway and replace with dvds just because technology says so. And good thing I didn’t because I’ve always used my laptops for any dvd’s I wanted to play, but it appears now that soon we will all have to go out and buy blue-ray players, and get new laptops (or modify them) to play blue-ray. It’s a race I am not motivated to enter lets just say. I’ll stick with my vintage furniture and home decor. I enjoy the idea of something I’ll likely use for most of my life and that is more likely to increase value with age.

  37. Bee says:

    I’ll give it six months tops before Trent caves and buys a new iPod Touch. Plus, if price is such a factor why not simply buy a secondhand one (probably for the price of the new Nano)?.

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