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iPod Q&A - Updated October 10, 2011

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Which iPods are currently shipping? How many songs does each iPod hold? What are the "pros and cons" of each iPod? Which should I buy?

This year, Apple brought "new features" to existing iPod models and lowered the prices rather than releasing completely new ones.

Consequently, iPod models released in 2011 are a revised "4.5" Generation iPod touch -- available in white as well as black -- and a 6th Generation iPod nano with updated software. In addition, Apple sells an unchanged from last year iPod shuffle (4th Gen) and the still available iPod classic (Late 2009).


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.

In the above 2010 promo photo -- which Apple decided to use again in 2011 -- the iPod shuffle 4th Gen, the iPod nano 6th Gen and iPod touch 4th Gen stand side-by-side from left to right. The iPod classic is not pictured.

The major differences between these iPods are summarized below:

 
shuffle 4th

nano 6th

touch "4.5"

classic 2nd
Storage Capacity: 2 GB 8, 16 GB 8, 32, 64 GB 160 GB
Song Capacity: 500* 2000, 4000* 1750, 7K, 14K* 40,000
Photo Capacity: None 7000, 14,000* 10K, 40K, 90K* 25,000
Video Capacity: None None 10, 40, 80 Hrs* 200 Hours
Case Colors: Colors† Colors†† Black, White Silver, Black
Display Size: None 240x240 960x640 320x240
Max Battery Life: 15 Hours 24 Hours 36 Hours 36 Hours
Multi-touch: No Yes Yes No
Accelerometer: No Yes Yes No
Shake to Shuffle: No Yes Yes No
Genius Support: Yes Yes Yes Yes
Voice Control: No No Yes No
VoiceOver: Yes§ Yes§ Yes§ No
Microphone: No No Yes No
Speaker: No No Yes No
Video Camera: No No Yes No
Still Camera: No No Yes No
FaceTime: No No Yes No
FM Radio: No Yes No No
Pedometer: No Yes No No
Nike Support: No Yes Yes No
Wi-Fi: No No Yes No
iOS Apps: No No Yes No
Model No: A1373 A1366 A1367 A1238
Retail Price: US$49 US$129
US$149
US$199
US$299
US$399
US$249

* Apple no longer provides "official" estimates for song capacity, photo capacity and video capacity. However, as overall capacities of these models are unchanged from the previous models, these estimates still are worthwhile to get a general idea of storage capacity.

† The iPod shuffle 4th Generation models are offered in silver (which has a black "ring") and blue, green, orange and pink (which have white "rings").

†† The iPod nano 6th Generation models are are offered in silver, graphite, blue, green, orange, pink and red. All colors are available in both 8 GB and 16 GB capacities.

§ Note that the "VoiceOver" technology provided by the iPod touch is a sophisticated "gesture-based screen reader" and the "VoiceOver" technology provided by the iPod nano and shuffle models simply reads the names of songs, artists, playlists, battery life and other related info.

The above chart provides many of the "pros and cons" of each model compared to each other, but you may find the below summary to be useful as well.


iPod shuffle 4th Gen

Pros:

  • Tiny, compact design with easy-to-use buttons.
  • VoiceOver for hearing the names of songs, artists, playlists and more.
  • Convenient clip to attach the iPod shuffle to a pocket or sleeve.
  • Least expensive new iPod model.

Cons:

  • No display (and consequently, no support for photos, video, or games).
  • Limited capacity.


iPod nano 6th Gen

Pros:

  • Adequate storage capacity for modest music collections.
  • Convenient clip design, as well as the display, pedometer and Nike support make it ideal for working out.
  • VoiceOver and "Shake to shuffle" support.
  • Some users may prefer the slick multitouch interface to the older "ClickWheel" design.
  • Built-in FM radio.
  • Supports photos as well as music (and video out for displaying photos on a television).
  • New "clock faces" software addition is fun (and Apple generously is providing it for free to those who purchased the iPod nano last year, too).
  • Relatively inexpensive.

Cons:

  • Small, square display is less than ideal for displaying photos, no support for video (apart from displaying the "key frame" and playing the audio file).
  • No video camera, speaker, or microphone like the previous iPod nano 5th Generation model.
  • Some users may find the multitouch interface awkward and "gimmicky" compared to the classic "ClickWheel" design.
  • No games, no iOS apps support.
  • Cannot charge via Firewire, incompatible with many Firewire-based accessories.


iPod touch "4.5" Gen

Pros:

  • Thin, sleek design and the largest display available on an iPod.
  • Clever multi-touch interface works well on the high-resolution 960x640 "Retina" display.
  • FaceTime videoconferencing support with dual video cameras.
  • Built-in microphone and speaker makes it (finally!) truly suitable for Skype/VOIP calls.
  • Only iPod with support for wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) as well as the thousands of iOS applications and games.
  • Sophisticated "VoiceOver" gesture-based screen reader for the visually impaired.
  • The best battery life of any iPod model for music playback.
  • No monthly service plan required for similar upfront pricing as the iPhone.

Cons:

  • Only 256 MB of RAM (recent iPhone models have 512 MB of RAM).
  • 960x640 "Retina" display does not have IPS technology and is lower quality than the one used by the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.
  • Rear camera is approximately one megapixel, considerably lower quality than the five megapixel camera provided by the iPhone 4 and eight megapixel camera provided by the iPhone 4S. It does not have an optical zoom either.
  • No GPS or digital compass.
  • Cannot charge via Firewire, incompatible with many Firewire-based accessories.
  • More expensive than the iPod classic per megabyte of storage.


iPod classic 2nd Gen

Pros:

  • Largest capacity available, holds the most songs and video.
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Firewire charging supported, compatible with many older Firewire-based devices.
  • Lowest cost per megabyte of storage.

Cons:

  • Smaller display than the iPod touch.
  • Internal hard drive, rather than flash memory, is more prone to accidental damage.
  • Interface is not as sophisticated as the more modern iPod touch and iPod nano models.

Which iPod should I buy?

To determine which iPod you should buy, if you "should" buy an iPod at all, it is necessary to first decide which aspect of the purchase is most important to you.

If price is the most important consideration and you only need music playback capabilities and only need to play a modest collection of music at one time, consider the least expensive iPod shuffle (4th Gen) model. You also may wish to consider purchasing a used iPod or saving money until you can purchase an iPod with more features, again, assuming that you would be able to put the additional features to good use.

If music playback and working out are your main intended uses -- and you have no need for video playback, a camera, games, or video chat -- the iPod nano (6th Gen) would suit you well. If you are on a tight budget, the iPod shuffle also could meet your needs, but note it lacks a display, pedometer and Nike support.

If you want a full-fledged handheld computer with essentially complete access to the library of iOS applications and games, video chat functionality, Skype/VOIP capability, music and video playback, and more, the "4.5" Generation iPod touch is for you.

Finally, last but not least, if storage is your top priority -- you have a huge collection of music and movies that you want to be able to carry around at one time -- the increasingly vintage iPod classic (Late 2009) may be your best option. You also will want to weigh whether or not the additional features provided by a 64 GB iPod touch are more important to you than the 160 GB of storage provided by the iPod classic.

Ultimately, only you can decide which iPod is best for your needs, but by evaluating the "pros and cons" of each and which aspect of the purchase is most important to you you can make an excellent choice.

Site sponsor PowerMax has a large selection of new and used iPods available for sale free of sales tax.

To dynamically compare any of these iPod models to all other iPod, iPhone, and iPad models -- new and old -- please see Everyi.com's Ultimate iComparison feature.

Also see:

  • What are the differences between the iPod touch 4th Generation and the iPod touch 3rd Generation?
  • What are the differences between the iPod nano 6th Generation models and the iPod nano 5th Generation models they replaced? Which is best for me?
  • What are the differences between the iPod shuffle 4th Generation and the earlier iPod shuffle 3rd Generation? How does the 4th Generation model compare to the 2nd Generation one?


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