The iPod Touch--Phoneless Phone, PDA, or What?

So exactly what sort of beast is the iPod Touch going to be when it surfaces later this month? When he unveiled it last week, Steve Jobs made it sound like an phoneless iPhone, but it now appears it will be rather less than that, more like an iPod with a browser but in any event, a new category of device.

In addition to the phone itself, the Touch lacks Bluetooth. Eventually, the iPhone will get software that will support the use of Bluetooth with wireless stereo headphones—it currently offers only voice-quality sound—but Touch users will be stuck with wires. One reason for this may be cost. A bigger one is probably to preclude any possibility of the Touch being used as a Wi-Fi phone. As long as you can’t get audio into the touch, there’s no way it can be used as a phone, but Bluetooth plus a bit of hacking might make that possible.

Engadget also reports confirmation from Apple that while Touch users can load iCal or Outlook calendars into their devices, they will not be able to add or edit appointments. That makes it rather less than a PDA.

The application most conspicuously missing from the Touch, though, is mail. With the same hardware and software guts as the iPhone and a Wi-Fi connection, there's no reason the Touch couldn't be used as a mobile e-mail terminal, except that it appears the Apple doesn't want you to use it that way.

The good news is that, as the iPhone has already proved, Apple's efforts to lock down the Touch will quickly be defeated by hackers. The bad news is that this approach makes it much, much harder for non-techie users to get the full benefit of a product whose capabilities appear to exceed what Apple is willing to let it do.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.