Five Practical Uses for an iPod touch

The iPod touch has been proclaimed one of the most successful portable media and gaming devices on the market, and for good reason. Powered by iOS, the iPod touch has virtually all the features of an iPhone in a relatively inexpensive and equally pocketable form. What confuses me, after having owned two of them, is why exactly they’re being marketed as predominantly gaming devices when their usefulness and functionality spans a much broader horizon.

Essentially, an iPod touch is a portable computer that gives you an immense amount of power at your fingertips. It often gets a bad rap for being an iPhone wannabe, or a baby iPad, but the iPod touch is actually one of the most functional and impressive multipurpose portable computing devices on the market. Imagine being able to use the same device to form your grocery list as you would to control your media center at home. You don’t need to worry about dropping out of contact with the world if the battery dies, and battery life on the iPod touch is actually quite impressive.

During my time owning both the first generation and fourth generation iPod touch, I was surprised at just how many different things — things that I didn’t want burdening my iPhone — I could accomplish with it. Frankly, not everyone has the luxury of being able to afford the costly plans that come with owning a smartphone. The iPod touch is a perfect solution for anyone who wants the computing power of iOS without the hassle of a two-year commitment.

You’ve probably seen the iPod touch being used in many different situations. At bars, in stores, and even at the workplace, the iPod touch definitely has made an impact on how business is done for many companies across the globe. Here are five alternative uses for an iPod touch.

VoIP Phone

The iPod touch isn’t a phone in and of itself, though it can perform the same basic function with the right apps. Skype, SIP, Vonage, and other VoIP (voice over IP) options are available through apps on the iPod touch. If you have a fourth generation iPod touch, you can also take part in one of the many video conferencing apps available for iOS just as if you were on your iPhone. FaceTime works like a charm, and with a solid Wi-Fi connection you can do a multitude of different things to keep you connected with your friends, family, and coworkers during your day-to-day work.

At one time, the iPod touch was my primary communications device. I was able to stay connected using a Clear mobile hotspot when I wasn’t at home or at the office, and calls came in through Skype thanks to a forwarding feature from Google Voice. For the most part, everything worked exactly as I would expect any phone to, but there are a few setbacks.

For example, if you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection, you won’t be sending or receiving any calls. There is no 3G option, though you can get a mobile hotspot to keep you connected. These hotspots are expensive in and of themselves, making it a pricey (yet still financially sensible) solution for communications. If you intend to rely on your iPod as your primary communications device, you may want to invest in a cheap prepaid phone for calls you absolutely need to make, reliably.

Point of Sale (POS) Device

The iPod touch has made a remarkable impact on the business world as a point of sale (POS) device. While it does require a Wi-Fi connection to communicate with the store’s server, it can give your staff a quick and easy way to take orders and process transactions. With the assistance of a Square device, your iPod touch can be easily transformed into a portable cash register.

Restaurants have also been given a big boost in efficiency thanks to technologies built around the iOS platform. POSLavu is an intelligent POS that communicates directly with iOS devices, enabling waitstaff to take orders without having to jot notes by hand. Everything is put in with a few taps of the screen and sent directly to the kitchen where chefs and cooks receive tickets in an easy to track and understand fashion.

The Apple Store is another place where you can see an iPod touch being put to wise business use. In addition to tracking customers’ places in line, the iPod touch is used to order and process transactions on the floor. You’ll never find a cash register at an Apple Store, and it’s because of the PDA qualities of the iPod touch that this is possible.

Remote Control

All right, so you have more components in your home theater than you know what to do with. Perhaps you have a half-dozen remotes laying around on the couch and coffee table that you can never remember what exactly it is they do. Your iPod touch can take on the role of universal remote thanks to the abundance of various remote control apps on the iTunes App Store; you can easily convert your iPod touch into a universal remote control that works with virtually anything in your entertainment center.

Wireless Mouse

Mobile Mouse Pro is an app made for the iPod touch and iPhone that transforms your iOS device into a virtual trackpad for your computer. In addition to standard trackpad functionality, you can switch between applications and perform basic functions simply by utilizing various features of the app.

I wouldn’t say this is the most intuitive trackpad solution, but it does work when you’re in a pinch and your primary mouse has either died or is otherwise unavailable to you.

Remote Desktop Client

Another way to accomplish this is through a remote desktop system like Splashtop, which enables you to remotely control your desktop using an iOS device. Essentially, your iPod touch becomes a smaller version of your larger desktop, giving you the ability to control it from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. This is especially handy if you’re out and about and need a file that exists only on your home system sent somewhere right away. You can email things to yourself, and even play media files remotely. I’ve used my iPhone in this way to get access to my music collection from a hotel room halfway across the country.

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