I originally bought an iPod touch to use as an electronic dictionary for Japanese. I’ve been quite satisfied with Kotoba, a free Japanese-English dictionary application. Ever since I moved to Japan, I’ve been keeping my iPod touch in my pocket at all times to help with all the Japanese around me. Due to the fact that I’ve always had it with me, I ended up putting it to use in more ways than I originally expected. This made me realize that the iPod touch fulfils a need that I didn’t know I had.
It’s a computer that fits in your pocket and it can be used easily with one hand. This means that I can be productive almost any time my attention is free. I can study while standing on the subway with one hand gripping the railing or holding a bag. And I can look up words in my Japanese dictionary in one hand while typing a text message in Japanese on my cell phone in the other hand. You can’t do these things with a laptop or even an iPad.
I’ve also gotten a lot of use out of my iPod touch while waiting for my friends who were running late, which seems to be always. I just start studying and then I don’t really care too much how late they are because I would be doing the same thing if I was at home. Now I feel that having a hand-held pocket computer is an invaluable asset. Below are my favorite uses for the iPod touch that work anywhere because they don’t require internet access.
- Studying Japanese with Anki. As mentioned in How to Study Japanese, I use Anki ($25) to study Japanese vocabulary and kanji whenever I have a little bit of extra time. Even if it’s only a minute, I can log a few words and accomplish something.
- Reading books with Kindle. When I have larger chunks of free time, I like to read books. The iPod touch’s screen is definitely smaller than a typical page of a book, but I find it manageable. You can also transfer the Kindle books to a Kindle device or PC to read on a larger screen at no extra cost.
- Watching Photoshop video tutorial podcasts. Lately I’ve been studying photography and Photoshop quite a bit, so I subscribed to some podcasts that teach you how to use Photoshop with step-by-step video tutorials. I like PhotoWalkthrough, Photoshop User TV, and Pixel Perfect. It’s really nice to have this option for when your focus is weak since video is a very powerful medium for engaging focus. I’m also on the lookout for some really good audio podcasts though.
- Storing PDF reference documents in iBooks. I bought a new camera recently and it came with a pretty thick manual. I definitely didn’t want to carry it around, but I also didn’t want to miss a good shot because I didn’t know how to operate the camera. So I downloaded the PDF for the manual from the internet and uploaded it to iBooks and now I can reference it anytime I need to.
- Navigating with Google Maps screenshots. Although it would be nice to have internet access for navigation, if you know where you are going ahead of time, you can map out your route from home and save screenshots for each of the steps. To take a screenshot, press and hold the power button and press the home button. The screenshot will be saved to the “Saved Photos” folder of the Photos app. By stepping through all the steps on the route and saving a screenshot for each of them, you will have all the information you need.
- Storing passwords with MyKeePass. Most of my passwords are only necessary for my computer, but I like having my debit card pin numbers and locker combinations available anywhere. I use an app called MyKeePass ($1) to access the password database that I normally access from my desktop using the KeePass program.
- Showing photos to friends. The iPod touch has a nice screen to show my recent photos to friends. And the pinch-to-zoom feature is a real crowd-pleaser.
There are also a few accessories that I would recommend. The most important is probably a case. I really like the Incipio Silicrylic X Polycarbonate Case (for 2nd or 3rd generation iPod touch, 4th generation is here). I’ve dropped mine a few times and I still can’t notice any visible damage. I also occasionally use a backup battery, for example during flights and train rides. The Energezier XP2000 is extremely small and has the ability to recharge the iPod touch’s battery two times. This unit also works for any USB device – it charges from USB and outputs to USB. Finally, I would recommend a compact USB power adapter like the Apple USB Power Adapter. Again, this will work with any USB device.
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