Q: I want to buy my dad an older iPod just for his car drives, but I want it to be podcast compatible. What is the oldest/cheapest model I could buy for this purpose?
A: Technically speaking, Podcast support was first introduced in iTunes 4.9 and as a firmware update for the fourth-generation iPod about three years ago. Very limited podcast support was added to the third-generation iPod, which in reality was just iTunes organizing podcasts into a “Podcasts” playlist on the iPod itself.
Therefore, the minimum iPod model with full podcast support would be the fourth-generation (4G) iPod. The iPod mini also had limited podcasting support, although features like bookmarking of podcasts did not work reliably on the iPod mini itself.
Depending upon the number of podcasts and other music tracks that your father intends to store and listen to, however, it may worth looking at an early-generation iPod nano as opposed to the larger hard-drive based models.
Podcasts are relatively small since they are generally spoken-word audio and therefore encoded at much lower bit-rates than music. Further, since the iPod nano is flash-based, you’re much less likely to run into technical problems related to the hard drive.
Even a low-capacity (1GB/2GB) iPod nano should easily be able to store hundreds of podcast episodes, and still leave room for a handful of CDs.