Q: I received a new iPod for Christmas, but I’m not sure if it’s really the model I wanted. If I wanted to exchange it for another type of iPod, what are the differences between the current models?
A: We strongly recommend that you check out our 2008 iPod + iPhone Buyers’ Guide right away—it’s filled with easy visual and other comparisons to help you make your pick. A quick summary is that there are four current iPod models: The iPod classic, the iPod nano, the iPod touch and the iPod shuffle.
The iPod classic, available in 80GB and 160GB sizes, is the sequel to Apple’s first iPod and currently the only hard drive-based model. This means that it contains a hard drive similar to the one found in your computer. This model supports audio playback, video playback, photo display, games, and basic PDA features (read-only calendar, contacts, and notes). The large capacity is very well-suited to those who want to carry around a lot of music or video content, but the size of the device and the presence of a moving hard drive means it is may not be the best fit for someone with an active lifestyle.
The iPod nano, available in 4GB and 8GB sizes is Apple’s smallest iPod with a screen. Unlike previous generations of iPod nano, the 2007 iPod nano (video) supports all of the same features as its larger sibling, and in fact sports a virtually identical user interface. This means that the only practical difference between the iPod nano and iPod classic is the physical size and capacity. Of course, the smaller screen makes it slightly less desirable for watching video content, but the smaller form-factor and flash memory means that it’s very well-suited for those who want an iPod for working out. Although almost all iPod accessories work with both the iPod classic and iPod nano equally well, the iPod nano is the only model that is compatible with the popular Nike + iPod Sport Kit.
The iPod touch is a completely different type of device from the traditional iPod. Available in 8GB and 16GB capacities, it has more in common with the iPhone than the other iPod models. Instead of the Click Wheel interface, the iPod touch uses a touch screen for almost all navigation and playback control. The large screen makes it ideal for video playback, although the 16GB capacity will limit the amount of video you can carry. The iPod touch supports audio playback, video playback, and photo slideshows, provides an editable calendar and contact list (with two-way sync to your computer), and includes WiFi support, an Internet browser, and even a YouTube application. It does not provide any support for iPod Games (beyond those which can be played through the web browser in range of a wireless access point). The iPod touch is a more versatile device, but the most important distinction from the traditional iPod models is that there are no hard-button controls, even for things like volume. This means you pretty much have to take the device out of your pocket and look at it in order to do something as simple as adjust the volume. Further, the iPod touch does not provide any kind of “disk mode” support, so unlike the other iPod models, you cannot use it as a portable hard disk to transport other types of data.
All three iPod models provide the ability to output video to a TV via the Apple Composite or Component AV cables. Almost every other video-out accessory currently on the market is not compatible with these devices.
The fourth model, the iPod shuffle, tends to fit in a category of its own, since it has no screen, and provides support for nothing other than sequential or random audio playback. It’s a small and ultra-portable iPod for somebody who just wants to listen to a fixed (and relatively small) collection of music, and can also be well-suited for workouts. The iPod shuffle may be a fit for some users as a “companion” to an iPod classic or iPod touch for users who want a smaller device for working out, but still want the other features of the classic or touch.