If you can't get an iPhone due to the new stringencies placed on the new models (requiring that you sign up with an authorized service provider to get one), and like the idea of touch screens and what is essentially a supersophisticated PDA slash MP3 player, you might consider an iPod Touch, especially if you're headed to the United States this summer, where you can take advantage of the stillweak dollar. If you do, may I suggest you buy one at an Apple Store, if there's one in the parts you'll be frequenting. I did just that on a recent trip to the US - even though there were plenty of stores around selling the iPod Touch a little cheaper ($249 for the 8 GB version, versus $299 at the Apple Store). But you don't get the Apple Store experience when you shop at a reseller - the glamour, the glitz, the Genius Bar, the long lines of people waiting to buy iPhones. It's all there at the genuine, bona fide, authorized Apple Store! What if you don't want to spend all that airfare just for a shopping experience? Well, pretty soon you won't have to: Israel is set to get its own Apple Store around the beginning of September, according to an Apple rep I spoke to this week. But like so many things here, the local version is just different enough from the "real thing" to be - well, different. According to Michal, who represented iDigital (Apple's local licensee in Israel) in our conversation, the Apple Store Israel "will give customers the full Apple Store experience," although the store will not be operated by Apple, as Apple Stores elsewhere are. The store will feature a genius bar - where you can pick the brains of an expert on Apple products or software. The store, to be located at the Ramat Aviv Mall, will have a layout and product display similar to Apple Stores around the world. But the Apple Store Israel is a project of iDigital. Not that that's a bad thing; iDigital has been getting a lot of good buzz in the local Mac community for its standards of service and its willingness to serve the customer (unlike those "other guys" who used to run the local Apple shop). And, according to Michal, many of the services to be offered by Apple Store Israel - such as training, product demonstrations, etc. - will be directed and authorized by Apple. (By the way: If you're a "MacHead" or i-gadget whiz, the Apple Store Israel wants you! iDigital is on a hiring campaign, looking for the right people to work its Genius Bar and other customer interfaces. If you're up to the challenge, just surf to iDigital's site (http://idigital.co.il/) and drop them a line.) Note that Israel is actually going to be ahead of the Apple Store game than most of Europe is, come September. True, our Apple Store won't be one of those bona-fide Apple Stores, but other than the the UK, there currently aren't too many of those Apple Stores outside the US and the UK, although a number are opening later this year, in Switzerland, Germany and other locations. One thing they won't have at the new Apple Store Israel is an iPhone waiting line - because iPhones still won't be available. According to Michal, iDigital is doing everything in its power to persuade Apple to work out a deal with a local cellphone service provider. For various technical reasons, such an arrangement has not been made yet, but she's "hopeful." One Apple retail feature that is available right now is the iTunes store - except you can't download any tunes from it! Here we come to the thorny problem of how to manage the digital rights of copyrighted works in international settings, a problem the most brilliant legal minds on the planet have been working tirelessly to come up with a solution for. But to no avail yet. So what can you do at the iTunes Store Israel? You can buy and download apps for your iPod Touch; technically, you can do so for your pirated "old school" iPhone, but you run the risk of having your device disabled by an iPhone software update (there are contradicting rumors - http://tinyurl.com/2np5es - on whether or not this is true; erring on the side of caution is probably wise). Note that here, too, Israel is not being singled out; Apple last month opened iTunes stores in more than 40 countries, most of which are selling applications and not music. Which brings us back to the iPod Touch, the current top-ofthe-line, advanced Apple handheld device we can get our hands on and actually use, at least currently. As it's name implies, it's got a touch screen, Wifi, a video player and access to the the iPhone App Store, with dozens of free and cheap productivity programs, games, entertainment, etc. It's got the Accelerometer, which keeps the picture on the screen "straight" no matter which way you turn the device. And it's also got the ambient light sensor, which automatically adjusts screen brightness, depending on the light where you are. Many of the applications give the Touch a PDA-like usefulness, so if you're looking for a replacement for your old Palm Pilot, the Touch is a great choice. Snap review from my teenage kids: It's the coolest device they have ever seen. But it's not an iPhone - which means that it can't be your single, all-around communication device, since you'll have to shlep around a cellphone for conversations and messaging. So it's a partial solution - sort of like the new local iTunes store, and apparently, the upcoming local Apple Store. http://digital.newzgeek.