The only thing I wanted for Christmas this year was an iPod touch.

Why did I want an iPod touch? One, I recently upgrade my old Palm Treo to a Samsung Exclaim, and it turned out to be a downgrade. The Samsung Exclaim is a nice phone, but it’s just not a PDA phone. That’s when I realized that I missed having a PDA that was not attached to a phone. My old PDAs were standalone Palm-based PDAs.

I also wanted a device that could double as an e-book reader. I don’t intend to do a lot of e-reading, but I do want to do some, especially electronic versions of fiction magazines. I did not want a dedicated e-reading device. I needed a device that could be multi-functional. One of my dearest online friends, Lisa Nevin raved about being able to read do some beta reading on her iPhone for our mutual friend, Kristy Baxter. Ever since then, I wanted the iPhone’s poor cousin, the iPod touch.

Now that you know my reasons for buying an iPod touch, you should know that I do not use this for music. I have plenty of room on my 8 gig version because I only have apps and novels on it, plus my contact data, my calendar, and everything else you’d expect from a PDA.

The iPod touch is both visually and texturally appealing. It has some nice heft without being heavy. It comes with a charging synchronization cable (which is rather short) and a set of earplugs (which I’ve never used). When you set it up, you have to download the iTunes desktop application in order to sync. I don’t have a lot of experience with Apple-based applications, so some of the things the iTunes application did wasn’t exactly intuitive for me. For example, it turned out to be much easier to purchase any apps from the iTunes store directly from the iPod using WiFi, and then letting it download a backup version of the app when I sync later.

We used our router’s WiFi feature for the first time with this device (and belatedly realized we could have used it all this time with our Wii), and naturally, I love it. I knew that the iPods were capable of WiFi, but I had not imagined all the possibilities. Nowadays, I browse my RSS feeds from Google Reader using my iPod. It’s great.

Setting up contacts, calendar and mail was a little involved, but in the end I used a combination of gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts. (I went with this route rather than Exchange because my work’s version of Exchange was not playing nicely with my devices when I set it up. I’ve since restored my Exchange on my Samsung Exclaim, and I decided to keep things as they are on my iPod) I use the Google Calander Sync to sync between my Exchange and my Google Calendars, and then my iPod downloads the calendar. This allows me to get to both my family calendar and my work calendar in the same app. Handy. Updating contacts is a bit more involved. I email a vcard for the contact to my gmail account, where I can open it and add it to my contacts with just a few taps.

Here’s some quick app reviews:

Stanza. This is a free e-book application that was recommended to me by my iPod touch-using sister. It doesn’t reflow .pdf files very well (it ignores paragraph breaks), but it nicely turns the pages of properly formatted ebooks. I would like to find a .pdf reader than can handle reflowing text while preserving paragraph breaks. But for ebooks, Stanza seems hard to beat.

Docs to Go. I paid money for this. I use this to edit my stories. No more am I tied to a computer while editing! Any heavy-duty text entry has to wait until I’m at my computer (or I can use my Neo), but if I have an initial draft, I can easily use my iPod to do some fairly intense editing.

Although I was able to create Word documents from scratch, Excel spreadsheets turned out to be much more difficult. In the end, I created the spreadsheet from my PC, and I do all my major edits there, but I am able to use it from my iPod.

Planets. This is a free app showing the constellations and the locations of the major planets. It also gave my exact latitude. All of this is important for stargazing, so the last time I took out the telescope, I had my iPod with me. The 3D Sky feature is wonderful. However, somewhat vexatiously, all the planets are now clustered around the sun, leaving only Mars and Saturn in the night sky.

Safari. This comes pre-installed, but I wanted to mention it because I really like the way it handles multiple browser windows. It was all very intuitive — even when working with other applications. However, it appears that Apple is flexing its muscles and will not allow competing browsers — such as my beloved Firefox — to grace the iPhone store. (Boo! Hiss! And besides, how Microsoft-like!)

I have also downloaded the mobile versions of Echofon (for Twitter-ing), WordPress, Amazon, and Facebook, all of which are free, and all of which are well-realized versions of the desktop application. I also got the Constitution, Bible and My Gov apps, plus a lot more (two screens full so far.)

A complaint? The accessories are very expensive. I still have not found a reasonably priced charger, even at Wal-Mart. Most of the chargers are designed to hold multiple i-devices. And we only have one in the house. I don’t want a car charger. Even the plastic covers for the screen cost more than I expected. Since the iPod is not exactly a new device anymore, I really can’t expect the prices to come down by very much.

Another complaint is only one application “runs” at a time. However, they sometimes work together very well. When I open a webpage from Echofon, it opens Safari quite nicely, and returns to Echofon when I close the browser window. The email client isn’t that friendly, because I have to open the email back up once I close down the browser.

My verdict? I love it. There truly is an app for almost everything, and I’ve even toyed with the idea of developing a completely useless application just to see if I could make money off of it. Kind of like the many lightsaber applications, or an app that weighs jewelery, or an app that tells you whether or not you are a moron. Now maybe one day I’ll actually put music on it.