11 ways iPod Touch beats the Newton

By popular demand (“popular” being the two comments I received on my original “Newton-vs.-iPhone” post a week ago), today we’ll explore how an iPod Touch beats the Newton MessagePad in a war of handheld Apple devices.

This kind of thing has been done before, but never have the iPod Touch and Newton gone head-to-head in a clash of styles and features. Clearly the iPod Touch has advantages, thanks to modern touch-screen technology and miniturization, that were but a gleam in the Newton’s monochrome eye in the late ’90s.

There will be the die-hards out there that won’t believe a word here. But the march of progress goes on. Here we present the top 11 ways the iPod Touch beats the Newton to a smashed-circuit-board pulp:

  1. It’s smaller. No duh, right? But really, Steve Jobs’s obsession with smaller-is-better comes to life in the iPod Touch. It’s thinner, lighter, and smaller than the classic “iBrick” Newton, and holds enough computing power to put a 1997-era Mac to shame. You can fit it in your pocket, and it rests comfortably in your palm.
  2. Web browsing is better. Much better. In fact, besides Flash and Javascript, the iPod Touch’s MobileSafari browser is just about all you’d ever need. Browsers like NewtScape can’t hold a candle, or a CSS file, to the iPod Touch. Try checking your Facebook profile on your Newt. ‘Nuff said.
  3. It’s the best music player out there. Yes, it’s possible to listen to music on your Newton. But give it a try on your next 3-hour plane ride and you might wish for an old fashioned Sony Walkman. The iPod Touch is the most interactive music player out there. Plus it plays videos, movies, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  4. The games are way cooler. While there are tons of games available for your MessagePad, the iPod Touch offers those games and more. Browse through Touch Arcade sometime and you’ll come to realize that, with your iPod Touch, you’re holding a PS2-capable machine in your hands.
  5. Easier syncing with modern Macs. There are ways to sync your Newton with OS X, but it’s kind of a project. With the iPod Touch, you just plug it in and – BAM! – your Address Book, iCal, and Safari info is magically synced with your Macintosh.
  6. App writing is easier. That’s at least party true these days. Find a NewtonScript manual, boot up your text file, and start slashing away at a Newton app. Now do the same with an iPod Touch 2.0 app. Which is easier? Which has the biggest learning curve? Chances are, you’ll enjoy yourself a bit more with the iPod’s SDK. With the Apple App Store, people can find your app easier, too (though UNNA is a godsend to Newton users). Plus you don’t have to hunt down long-gone registration keys and long-dead software companies.
  7. It’s sexier. This one’s more subjective (like the “underground” argument I made in the Newton-beats-iPhone post), but it stands to reason: the slick metal and glass is many times more lickable than the Newton. “Slickness” is an adjective that has come to define Ive-designed Apple products these days. The argument could be made for the eMate, but since no new product designs have come from the MessagePad camp, this one’s an easy win for the iPod family.
  8. Wifi comes standard. Putting Wifi on the Newton takes some work. Not so on the iPod Touch. Wifi is in everything these days.
  9. Two words: full color. A cheap-shot, but the iPod Touch’s gorgeous full-color screen is a beauty. We can check e-mail in color, browse the web in color, and see all our contacts in full, gleaming, rainbow-splattered color. The Newton’s 320 x 480 antique black-and-green screen held its own back in the day.
  10. Two more words: more memory. Those flash memory cards sure were handy. But 32 gigs? Who can compete with that? I could store 90% of my music collection on an iPod Touch. Fitting two or three songs on a Newton, however, would be pushing it.
  11. It’s the future. Let’s face it: there are no more Newtons in development. There may be Newton-like projects in the works, but most likely we’ll never see another Newton MessagePad. Ever. iPods? They come out every friggin’ year. And they keep getting better. There are only so many hacks you can perform on a MessagePad, and it’s a losing fight. Apple pays people to design new iPods. Newton hackers? Not so much.

So there you have it. The critics can be happy now that I’ve given the iPod Touch – a device some would argue most deserves the Newton mantle – it’s proper credit, we can bow before the modern Apple machine. The Newton, being ten years older, doesn’t stand a chance in this fight.

I say all this with a lack of passion. What Newton user can blame me? I like to stick up for the Big Green Machine whenever I can, especially when the fight isn’t fair, and I learned that the Newton brings with it a community of passionate users. The iPod Touch? Any 15 year old can go to a Wal-Mart and buy one. Where’s the passion in that?


  1. Time for the standard “you’re so wrong” complaint…

    I have never used an iPod Touch outside of the Apple Store, but I own an iPhone, and quite honestly, it is a crap music player. Sure, its shiny and Cover Flow is beautiful, but on terms of music playing, nothing has yet come close to the iPod Classic. The iPhone/iPod Touch is much better for videos given its larger screen, and I find that the iPod App is much more suited to videos than music. The Classic may not be the best video player, but in my opinion, it is a much better music player than the iPhone/iPod Touch. I mean, what self respecting MP3 player has only 8-32gb of storage? My Classic is 80gb and they don’t even make that model anymore.

  2. I wouldn’t give up my 30 GB classic iPod either, Sam – the ability to keep my entire music collection in my pocket can’t be beat.

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