The second iteration of the iPod touch equals or improves upon its predecessor in almost every physical facet. Slimmer, lighter and more functional, the v.2 also gets new volume control buttons, full Nike+ integration and a built-in loudspeaker. It's not a radical change, but it's better.
First, the volume switch on the side is a fantastic addition. Having used the original iPod touch almost every day for the past year, I immediately loved how easy it was to turn the volume up or down without having to think about it. The other reason this feature is so big is for apps. Some apps, like Aurora Feint didn't add a soft volume slider on screen, so when headphones are plugged in on the iPod touch, it's unbearably loud and can't be adjusted.
The second key feature is the built-in speaker. Sometimes, you wanna show a friend a video or new song without forcing them to use your dirty earbuds. This remedies that. It's not terribly loud, and will never replace your headphones, but its good for the aforementioned scenarios. But it also means we're all likely to end upnext to some asshole on the train who refuses to use his headphones.
The new general shape of the iPod touch v.2 is nice, with the bezel and back all being one piece—looking like its carved from the same DNA as the iPhone 3G—but I could live without the shiny chrome. It gets smudgy and scratched up and gross looking. You could get a case for it, but effectively negates its anorexic shape, not to mention its aesthetic value. This is a minor complaint, but compared to the orignal iPod touch, the home button feels kind of cheap. It's less springy, more plasticky, and noisier (on a relative scale). Obviously, that doesn't make or break the device. But its something you use enough to notice.
It should also be noted that the screen on the new iPod touch looks the same as the iPhone 3G — which is to say it has an intentional yellow tint. While some may not like that, I prefer it to the blue hued screen on the original.
The final thing to discuss is iPod Software 2.1.1. Available for both the original iPod touch and the new one, 2.1.1 introduces Genius playlists to the device, as well as complete Nike+ integration (to be reviewed on another day). Genius playlists are easy to use and work reasonably well. You can create a Genius list one of two ways — in the playlist menu, you can browse through your songs in a list. Or you can hit the Genius icon under the play button on the Now Playing screen. Once you do that, a new list comes up with the "Genius" picks. The Genius list is automatically stored with your other playlists until you create a new one.
All in all, iPod touch Version 2 doesn't do anything worse than the previous iPod, and it does a few things better. Current iPod touch owners probably won't find enough new here to make the switch (truth be told, this is more like iPod touch v1.5). But those previously on the fence about whether or not to buy have even more reasons to consider it now.