The Software: The "January Software Upgrade" for the iPod touch, including Mail, Google Maps, Weather, Stocks and Notes. Mind you, this is not to be confused with the totally free 1.1.3 system upgrade, which brings the player up to date on iTunes 7.6 for rentals, etc., but has no apps of its own.
The Price: $US19.99 plus tax (so for me, $21.46)
The Verdict: Worth it.
I know, everyone's mad at Apple for charging $20 for an upgrade that only brings the iPod touch up to speed with the original iPhone (minus the phone, of course), but it seems to me, anyone who paid $549 for a first-gen 16GB touch especially can spring for the extra Jackson. Besides, I think Apple learned a thing or two about overcharging and then regretting it with the iPhone—because of that, the chances are slim that the company will change its mind and turn this into a free download. It would cause additional outrage that Apple doesn't want.
The good news is that the upgrade works great. We added two accounts to Mail within minutes, sending e-mails with a cute little "Sent from iPod" sig file. The Maps program uses Wi-Fi triangulation to identify the general vicinity and it works within a minute, and completely indoors (obviously). I'm not thrilled with the directions app, and a reliance on Wi-Fi for the map makes it hard to envision using as a real guide in the car, but it's a good start. Stocks, Weather, Notes and the web clip option in Safari are all what they are, but all in all it's a welcome improvement over the paltry Calendar, Contacts, Clock and Calculator that were there initially. (Didn't Apple once rip on PCs for bragging about a Calculator?)
Some things to keep in mind: When you upgrade, remember that it's two separate iPod touch updates. First, after you've upgraded your iTunes to 7.6, connect the touch and click "Check for Updates." You'll get 1.1.3, but things won't look any different than they did before. You then need to go to iTunes, click on the "January Software Upgrade" offer and buy it.
Once purchased, you go to your iPod Summary page and click Sync. If things don't work out just right, don't panic (like we did). Instead, uncheck "Manually manage music and videos"—you might get an error message saying it can't sync all 1 billion of your MP3s, but still, it will sync the new apps and they'll be visible in seconds. [Apple]