First of all, I haven't tried to jailbreak it; I've just been running the stock 1.1.3 firmware, with the $20 application upgrade. My hope is of course that the SDK leads to third-party apps even remotely as awesome as what the homebrew/jailbreak community has come up with. (Hopefully Apple won't go out of their way to prevent people from being able to build and run their own apps on their own devices, for example. I can see them perhaps preventing apps from downloading other apps into the /Applications folder though, which would at the very least make it a little less convenient to have something like Installer.app.)
Anyway. The GPS-less maps are pretty okay, though obviously that's not so useful if you're wandering around in an area without a lot of free WiFi to actually communicate with the Google Maps servers with; fortunately, San Francisco is getting pretty rapidly blanketed with it thanks to Meraki and sonic.net. I think that while driving (yeah, I know) the J2ME Google Maps UI is still a bit better, if only because you can step through the directions by feel (which is a general problem with the Touch interface). I'd say that typing addresses is pretty much the same between the Touch and J2ME; on J2ME you have the slowness of T9 (which at least learns commonly-used street names pretty quickly), but on the Touch you have the fiddliness of the touchscreen keyboard, and the autocorrection doesn't seem to work effectively in Google Maps.
For email, the Touch is a clear winner. I actually used to think that the Sony Ericsson mail application was by far the best mobile mail app (barely edging out Palm's in a few respects), but the iPod one completely blows it away. It actually has really good multiple-account support (even better than S-E's and Palm's), and full IMAP folder hierarchy support (which neither S-E nor Palm support at all). And of course, in a context where the onscreen keyboard's autocorrect function works, typing is quite nice. I was able to get my typing speed pretty high fairly quickly.
Safari has good and bad points. It's nice how it tries to give a full Web experience, but it actually falls short in a lot of places. Its "zoom to fit" layout cheat doesn't really work that well, especially on a lot of sites which have very wide blocks (for example, every phpBB instance on the planet), and it'd be nice if there were an alternate stylesheet which just tried to reformat things like a more traditional mobile browser. On the plus side, its equivalent to tabbed browsing is quite excellent.
Obviously since there's no official support for ssh, AIM, etc. I can't really speak to them, but I have messed around with ssh on my coworker's jailbroken Touch and it was pretty decent, and there are web-based AIM clients which at least give a feel for how it might work out (and of course there's already a Pidgin port for those who have jailbroken theirs).
Interestingly, I find its weather widget to be much more convenient to deal with than the one on Dashboard, especially if I've already packed up my laptop or whatever.
And of course I have a bit of an interest in ebooks. Right now there's no really good way to load your own ebooks on the device for offline reading, although you can get a passable experience by just emailing a book to yourself in HTML, plain text, or PDF format and reading them from Mail. Unfortunately, there's no bookmark capability that way, and I haven't noticed any way of doing search, either. Hopefully the SDK will bring a proper ebook reader fairly quickly.
As far as email-based formats go, I've gotten the best results by printing a webpage to PDF formatted to be 4" wide with minimal margins. It's still got some cruft (like arbitrary page breaks), but at least it displays pretty well in the PDF attachment viewer, images and all. However, one of the first PDFs I prepared was a portable version of Wikitravel's phrasebook (since it's likely I may be traveling to Japan in the near future) and apparently there's no Japanese fonts on the iPod Touch.
So, okay, after messing around with the functionality I bought it for, I figured I'd might as well try it as a media player, seeing as how it's an iPod, right? Well, really it's only an iPod in name; its media playback stuff rather sucks, at least for music, for two reasons:
- No shuffle-by-album (unless you set up a pre-shuffled smart playlist in iTunes and play from that — which I have, since that's how I deal with syncing to my phone)
- No way to control it just by touch (ironic, considering the name)
As a video player (for podcasts and TV shows) it does somewhat better, although it's still annoying to have to bring wired headphones with me, and it's also got some other weirdnesses. For example, videos only play in landscape view but the selection UI only works in portrait, so it's a bit cumbersome to work with when just resting it on a stand (as I like to do when I'm at my desk, watching cooking podcasts while taking a typing break or whatever). Also, there doesn't seem to be any way to deal with various aspect ratios; everything just gets stretched to fill the screen, which is somewhere between 4:3 and 16:9 so nothing actually looks quite right (though at least nothing looks terribly wrong, either, and podcasts encoded specifically for iPhone are at least formatted correctly).
So, basically, the iPod Touch is iPod in name only; it really is just a phoneless iPhone, and the iPhone is no iPod. I can't really see the Touch as being central to my portable media experience (aside from video podcasts); however, as an Internet tablet which just so happens to also have decent video playback and a sorta-okay music experience, it's pretty good, and it should be much better when the SDK officially comes out.