Why no video camera for the iPod touch?

Jeff Bertolucci
11 September, 2009
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Wednesday’s Apple Music Event may not have unveiled any astounding or amazing products. But if you’re a fan of the iPod touch, as I am, you may have felt a bit miffed that Apple’s multi-talented media player didn’t get a video camera.

That’s right: The iPod nano got a video cam, but the iPod touch didn’t. If you ask me, the touch, with its built-in Wi-Fi, gaming capabilities, and larger display, would be a natural for a vid cam. And since the iPhone 3GS, the touch’s mobile phone sibling, already has a camera, adding said feature to the touch wouldn’t exactly be a feat of complex engineering.

Why the snub? On the surface, it appears as if Apple is striving to draw a clearer distinction between the 16GB iPod nano, 8GB iPod touch, and the 8GB iPhone 3GS.

But if true, does this distinction truly benefit Apple? NPD Group analyst Ross Rubin says it’s “strange” that Apple would add a video camera to the nano, but not to the touch. But unlike me, he doesn’t see the camera-less touch as an attempt by Apple to “avoid more direct competition with the iPhone.”

“Clearly Apple added Open GL capabilities to make the iPod touch a more robust platform,” says Rubin. The 32GB and 64GB iPod touch models are now 50-percent faster, according to Apple, and feature support for the Open GL|ES 2.0 graphics API.

Given these capabilities, a camera-equipped touch would have benefited Apple, particularly as it gears up to compete with inexpensive consumer camcorders like Pure Digital’s Flip UltraHD. “The addition of a camera, combined with Wi-Fi would have given Apple more of an advantage in terms of uploading video versus, say, the Flip,” Rubin says.

Another theory. Another explanation for a video-cam equipped nano is that it gives Apple’s venerable MP3 player a shot in the arm. A recent study by stock market day trader Andy Zaky shows that iPod sales revenues are falling as consumers upgrade to smartphones and more sophisticated media players (like the iPod touch)—devices that do a lot more than play tracks. It’s likely that a nano that also shoots video would appeal to value-focused shoppers as the holiday season approaches.

Says Rubin: “The Nano has been a very strong seller during the holidays. It’s small and portable. Offering the camera on it is more of a way to differentiate it from other media playback devices that are competing in the midrange of the market.”

Still, the iPod touch deserves a camera. Perhaps next year?

[Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.]

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