Apple released a subtly refreshed iPod Touch this week, and as usual, we tore it apart looking for undisclosed changes. Our findings wouldn’t fill a full-length teardown post, but we still think this device is kinda fascinating. So here’s a peek inside what may be the last of a vanishing breed: the pocketable, headphone-jack-equipped iOS device.
On the surface, the only change we spotted from the last (sixth generation) iPod Touch was a new model number—A2178. We cracked it open with the same heat-and-suction method as before, which is just a wee bit disappointing. Given that the Touch looks a lot like an iPhone, we hoped for a more iPhone-esque opening procedure, maybe involving some screws. Alas, this is a fussy combination of clips and glue.
The battery model number and capacity is unchanged, and it remains a wacky, Jekyll-and-Hyde affair—still secured with stretch-release adhesive for apparently easy removal, until you realize that one of the pull tabs is trapped under the logic board, which itself is soldered to the battery. Check and mate. Repairability-wise, the whole thing is just weird and we’ve given up trying to make sense of it. We pulled out the first adhesive strip as designed, carefully neutralized the second with isopropyl alcohol, and flipped the battery aside for the next part of the puzzle.
About that headphone jack. We’re grateful it’s still here. It’s still soldered onto one big assembly that includes the speaker and Lightning port, which itself is soldered to the logic board—so, modular and cheap to repair it is not. It exists, and our praise ends there. We’d love to see Apple take a cue from Samsung for once and include a beautiful modular headphone jack. (We’re mostly not fans of Samsung’s glued-together designs, but the headphone jack is one thing they’ve pretty consistently nailed.)
At this point we still hadn’t actually removed anything from the iPod. The logic board lives under a few screws, but with the battery and I/O assembly soldered to the top and everything else clipped to the bottom, you just about have to stand on your head to get it out. If you want the complete blow-by-blow, check out our iPod Touch 5th Generation repair guides—the procedure is basically unchanged.
Looking at the board, we’re mildly surprised to see Apple’s nearly-three-year-old A10 Fusion SoC pressed into service here. Is it up to the job? Sure, probably—but when you’re only refreshing a device every four years or so, it seems odd to start with something several generations old to begin with. An A12 might have been overkill, but with Apple’s new gaming service launching this fall, it seems like a little more power couldn’t hurt. We’re guessing this one boils down to cost.
Regarding repairability—since the Touch is a popular pre-smartphone device for younglings, it would make sense for it to be more durable and repairable for the accident-prone. We’re relieved there’s no glass back to crack, but underwhelmed by the opening procedure and the lack of modular parts. It’s especially confounding from Apple, which has more repair-friendly iPhone designs to pull from. Our guess is that most of the design decisions in this $199 device were made for profitability rather than repair—cutting costs in the short term, by moving long-term repair costs to the consumer.
We don’t believe in changing the design of a device just to make it look new—and to Apple’s credit, they haven’t done that here. Many parts look re-used from the prior model, which could be a boon for repair. And, somewhat selfishly, we’re glad our existing repair guides will cover most aspects of this new Touch, just like they did when Apple last refreshed it way back in 2015.
And the score? This iteration of the iPod Touch inherits all the strengths and frustrations of its predecessor, earning a 4 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair). That’s far from the worst we’ve seen from Apple recently—but given Cupertino’s demonstrated ability to crank out repairable iPhones in a similar form factor, we think they could have done better. Will they try again? Maybe we’ll find out in another four years.