Which iPod should I buy?

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Recently, Apple has increased the number of models that it sells. While this offers more options, it can make it harder to decide which Apple product is right for you, especially for newcomers to the Apple platform.

Contents

Release Cycle

Before considering a certain model, checking MacRumor's buyer's guide is highly recommended. The buyer's guide estimates when a model will be updated by using past release cycle data, therefore letting you know when is the best time to buy.

Overview

iPod shuffleOne of the smallest MP3 players on the market. As it lacks a screen, it relies on the shuffle feature to play songs in a random order. Users can also choose playlist mode to play songs in a user-defined sequence.
iPod nanoThe world's bestselling iPod now does video. Small, yet feature packed, the iPod nano represents amazing value for money.
iPod classicOnce their flagship iPod, the 6th Generation iPod is now simply called the iPod classic with the flash-based iPod touch now being Apple's flagship model. However, Hard Disk Drives still have a definite advantage over flash when it comes to capacity and price. It's now offered in a single configuration of 160 GBs.
iPod touchSimply put, its an iPhone without the phone. What you're left with is arguably Apple's best iPod yet, with touch-screen controls, basic PDA functions and access to the Internet through Wi-Fi.

Comparison - Features

iPod shuffleiPod nano iPod classiciPod touch
1 GB2 GB8 GB16 GB160 GB8 GB32 GB64 GB
Price (USD)$49$69$149$179$249$199$299$399
Songs (128 kbps)250 songs500 songs2000 songs4000 songs40000 songs1750 songs7000 songs14000 songs
Songs (256 kbps)125 songs250 songs1000 songs2000 songs20000 songs875 songs3500 songs7000 songs
Video (Quoted from Apple)N/A8 hours16 hours200 hours10 hours40 hours80 hours
Video (640x480 optimized)16 hours32 hours300 hours20 hours80 hours160 hours
DisplayNone2.2 inches at 376x240 (204 ppi)2.5 inches at 320x240 (163 ppi)Multi-touch, 3.5 inches at 480x320 (163ppi)
InterfaceScreenless. Slider to choose between shuffle and playlist mode."Traditional" style, with a clickwheel and accelerometer controlled coverflow.Touch-screen interface designed for iPhone and iPod touch
ExtrasNoneThe iPod nano and classic have basic extras and lack any ability to edit information on the iPod itself.The iPod touch, like the iPhone, has many additional useful features which may justify its higher price tag for some. Wi-Fi enables users to access the internet wirelessly. The iPod touch also includes note and calendar editing functions as well as features like mail and Google maps that other iPods lack.

An iPod's primary function is simply to play music. The bit rate you encode in will differ the quality and size of the audio file. Most people using the standard iPod earphones won't be able to tell the difference between 128kbps AAC files and the original recording, but people with above average hearing or high quality earphones or headphones may notice artifacts and distortion. We recommend that you experiment yourself to find the best bit rate for you. It should be noted that re-encoding an audio file from iTunes plus or any Mp3 or AAC file to a higher bit rate will not increase quality but will increase size. It is like pouring a glass of water into a bigger glass. It is still the same amount of water. Note that the iPod touch can hold less songs. This is due to the fact that the iPod touch has a more complicated interface which uses more memory.

There are many factors which influence the size of a video. Therefore Apple underestimates by a large margin how much video can be placed on the iPod. The quote for the iPod touch is unusual as the 8 GB iPod touch has less useful capacity than the 8 GB iPod nano yet according to Apple, the iPod touch can hold more video.

Currently, the iPod shuffle is the only iPod lacking a screen. Instead it relies on shuffling songs or using a single playlist set by the user on their computer. All other iPods are capable of playing video. While the iPod nano's high pixel density adds extra crispness to the display, it may be difficult to see the full benefit of the resolution, particularly for people with weaker eyesight. The iPod touch includes a widescreen (15:10) multi-touch sensitive display similar to the iPhone. The iPod touch can also display 4:3 videos at resolutions such as 320x240 or 640x480 with black bars or upscaled.

Both the iPod nano and iPod classic share the same interface. The iPod classics larger clickwheel may offer some users better control in the interface and games. The iPod touch uses an interface designed with its touch-screen in mind. While the iPod nano and iPod classic can be operated without looking thanks to physical buttons, you will need to be in a position to view the iPod touch screen to operate it reliably.

Comparison - Portability

iPod shuffleiPod nano iPod classiciPod touch
1 GB2 GB8 GB16 GB120 GB8 GB16 GB32 GB
Price (USD)$49$69$149$179$249$199$299$399
Audio playback - Battery Life12 hours24 hours36 hours
Video playback - Battery LifeN/A4 hours6 hours
Length41.2 mm/ 1.62"90.7 mm/ 3.6"103.5 mm/ 4.1"110 mm/ 4.3"
Width27.3 mm / 1.07"38.7 mm / 1.5"61.8 mm / 2.4"
Thickness10.5 mm / 0.41"6.2 mm / 0.24"10.5 mm / 0.41"8.5 mm / 0.33"
Weight15.6 g/ 0.55 oz36.8 g / 1.3 oz140 g / 4.9 oz115 g / 4.05 oz
Storage mediumFlash memory1.8" Hard DriveFlash memory

Apple usually slightly underestimates battery life to account for user interaction. These tests are performed by using playlists at 50% volume with minimal interaction. The more you interact with your iPod, the lower your battery life will be. Using playlists, no EQ, short backlight times and a relatively low volume (or using sound-isolating earphones or headphones), will extend the battery life. Apple also slightly underestimates video playback time. Tests used iTunes videos looping endlessly at 50% brightness.

For those planning on using their iPod for activities such as running, a smaller, flash based iPod is advised as it has no moving parts. Hard drives can be more fragile than flash memory. Occasionally, when the iPod needs to search for data (booting up, starting a playlist, after playing several songs in a row etc.) the hard drive spins. If the hard drive is impacted at any time while spinning there is a chance the hard disk may be scratched, rendering some data corrupt or even killing the hard drive in a worst case scenario. Therefore, flash equipped iPods are recommended for sporting activities.

iPhone

The Apple iPhone also has iPod facilities built in. In this respect functionally it is identical to a 8 GB or 16 GB iPod Touch, except that it has side mounted volume controls. To use the iPhone you will have to take out a contract of between 12 and 36 months (depending on where you live) to use the iPhone.

See Also