I had been anticipating some software updates around the time that the 3G iPhone was released on 11 July and I knew that the iTunes 7.7 update was one. There were reports that developers of iPhone applications had been using a pre-release copy for testing. When this update appeared, I put it on the iMac first, rather than my everyday machine, the MacBookPro.
When I started iTunes and clicked on the Music Store icon, a page displayed offering me a choice of stores to access. As I scanned the list of map icons -- I use the US store for checking podcasts -- I noticed Malaysia which I had not expected to see; then Thailand.
The online shops for this region are shown as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. We now have access to the "App Shop", which is part of the online store, without being able currently to buy music or videos.
In January Steve Jobs announced updates to the iPhone and iPod touch which were only available via the iTunes store and to account holders. This excluded users in many countries who had bought the first version of the touch. In a chat with an Apple Asia executive I suggested then that, as music and videos were unlikely to become available to users in the region, a two-tier approach might work. I am going to file this idea under, "Great minds think alike."
When iTunes was updated on my MacBookPro, the store panel displayed the US access as usual. The tab at the bottom, which previously showed some 30 countries, now has 62 listed. Accessing Thailand brought up a panel asking me to register. I used my Apple login details then entered credit card details (Visa, Mastercard, American Express are listed). Once confirmed, local users can browse the applications and make purchases including the software update to the iPod touch. The price was $9.95 (330 baht). The January update was $20.
To examine the podcasts, or even the music and videos online at the iTunes shop, we must switch to one of the main online stores (such as US or UK), using the button in the iTunes store panel.
The update was released on Friday evening. The servers could not cope with demand, described as "huge" and "unprecedented" and many felt this should have been anticipated.
I tried several times Friday evening and Saturday morning. Sometimes the update was shown, but access to the iTunes shop was not possible; or the 1.1.4 software was shown as current. Of course, everyone clicking and reclicking the buttons added to the server load. Much frustration was expressed online in various forums. On Saturday afternoon a new panel showed that the update was available. After entering some information it downloaded and the upgrade took place.
As with that January update, a quick look at the iPod touch screen shows the new icons, most notably the App Shop. When online, this provides a link to lists of apps. They can be bought and downloaded via a WiFi connection. Another check is to click on the calculator. When the iPod touch (or iPhone) is turned on its side, the new version turns into a scientific calculator. Another change is to the Settings panel and a new "Push" feature has been added, for mail and Mobile Me.
Downloaded apps are deleted by pressing on any icon first for about a second, which causes them all to dance (they can be moved around the screen when this happens). A white cross appears at the top left of all icons except installed Apple utilities. Touching the cross deletes the icon.
Apple was initially showing some 500 apps but even during the first day, various online sources reported that more were being released. The top download on Friday was Barchester Towers: a text version of the novel by Trollope, at 99 cents. A quick look at the downloads, showed a number of novels in the same format. By Saturday, the top download was Apple's own, Remote App, a free 1MB download that allows remote control of iTunes on a computer (Mac or PC) or Apple TV.
Cube Runner, iMaze, Yes/No and Molecules
To test the way the iPod touch works with such apps, I downloaded five of the free applications: MathQuick, a basic math test utility; YesNo, a random decision maker; Molecules, which displays 3D images of molecule strings, like DNA; iMaze and Cube Runner, which are games that make use of the accelerometers to steer through hazards.
Downloaded apps listed in iTunes
One important application that was updated, for Macs, PCs, iPhones and the iPod touch, is Mobile Me, the cloud computing evolution of .Mac which features push email, calendars and contacts. When I registered, I noticed that the pages had a list of Thailand's provinces in a pull-down menu. However, this service was also suffering from user-overload in the first days causing log-in problems and I have not been able to examine it as yet.
Google Maps and Safari
Note: screenshots are now possible on the iPod touch (and iPhone). Hold the Home button and press the on/off switch once. The screen will flash. Images are saved in Photos > Saved Photos. These can be exported using the icon on the bottom left of the screen. Attach the iPod to a Mac and they can also be imported into iPhoto (or Aperture).