What's the best iPod? Which iPod should I choose? Which iPod do I have?
At a glance:
- iPod Shuffle - Small, compact size, no display, inexpensive
- iPod Nano - Small, slightly more pricey, touchscreen
- iPod Touch - Larger screen, great for gaming, connectivity options, expensive
- iPod Classic - Discontinued, large capacity
If you’re looking to buy an iPod, which one should you choose? The iPod touch offers far more than just a simple music player, coming equipped with essentially all the features of a fully fledged iPhone bar the call capabilities. The iPod nano is also a capable device, but small enough to carry anywhere, while the iPod shuffle is simple, inexpensive, and tough - perfect for taking to the gym.
Choosing the best iPod is not an easy decision, although Apple has simplified matters somewhat with the quiet retirement of the iPod Classic in 2014, after seven years of faithful service. In this guide we will compare the various features of each iPod - such as capacity, price, and battery life - to determine which iPod is the one best suited for your needs.
Read our iPod reviews including:
- iPod classic review
- iPod touch 16GB review – Apple’s cheapest iPod touch
- iPod touch 5th generation review
- iPod nano review
iPod buying guide: How the iPods compare and how to identify between models
iPods have come a long way since the initial music-only device that magically appeared from Steve Jobs’ jeans pocket in October 2001. Now you can buy models that have full access to the internet, play movies, and even make video calls using Apple’s Facetime technology. All iPods are not created equal though, so here we round up the various features of each model.
iPod shuffle: In many ways the Shuffle is probably the most true to that original iPod, as it focusses solely on playing audio. The lack of a screen has meant that in the past you had to remember what was on the device, and switching between tracks was something of a lottery. Now, with the impressive Voice Over feature, the iPod Shuffle will read the name of the track, podcast, audiobook, or playlist to you and allow you to choose the one you want to listen to with nary a touchscreen in sight. This means that you can have multiple playlists on the device without having to return to your iTunes library. It’s a simple addition, but it really does make the Shuffle a far more capable device than past iterations.
iPod nano: The most obvious feature that differentiates the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle is the 2.5in multi-touch display. This enable the iPod Nano to have a range of included apps that broaden its appeal. Music is, of course, still the primary function, with the cool ability to create Genius mixes on the fly by tapping a button while a song is playing; the device will then automatically generate a playlist from your library based around that track. A screen also means video, with the iPod Nano happily playing any media synced to it from your iTunes account. It’s admittedly not the biggest display for Hollywood blockbusters, but for quick fixes on the go, or to entertain the little ones, it does the job.
You can also store photos on the iPod Nano, and a built-in FM radio app makes it easy to keep up with the latest music, news or sporting events. If you are a Nike Fitness user then you’ll find the bespoke app on the iPod Nano a handy addition, as the device doubles as a fitness tracker that can sync up to your NikePlus account with details of your workouts. Bluetooth is also a useful feature, as you can listen to your tunes wirelessly on bluetooth headphones, or connect to a number of home and car speakers. Unfortunately it won't work with Apple Music.
iPod touch: In the battle of the features, the iPod Touch is in a different category to its smaller siblings. As the only iPod to run a full version of iOS, the iPod Touch has access to the full App Store, with all the games, productivity tools, social media, and camera apps that you’d expect to find on an iPhone. The iPod Touch is also a fully functional internet device, so browsing, chatting, and shopping are all available via its 4in Retina screen. The built in camera, while not quite up to the iPhone quality, still offers great shots that will go well on Instagram or Facebook - both of which are also available. It’s easily the most advanced iPod there’s ever been, and with the category declining due to the proliferation of smartphones, it may also be one of the last.
iPod buying guide: Which iPod is right for you?
The first question you should ask yourself when considering a technology purchase is this - what do I want from the device? It’s all well and good buying the latest and greatest gadget, but this will be a waste of money if you only intend to use a fraction of its capabilities. If all you want is some musical accompaniment while you work out at the gym, the iPod touch is probably overkill - although now that it includes the M8 chip for fitness monitoring it might be exactly what you are looking for.
Conversely the shuffle can become a very frustrating device if you like to change the music you are listening to often as it's not very flexible - essentially shuffling the tracks you listen to.
To lay out some of the more basic capabilities of the various iPods available we’ll start with the storage capacities of each model.
iPod buying guide: Storage
With the iPod classic now a distant memory those wanting a large amount of storage on their iPod will find the options rather limiting.
The iPod shuffle is available with a rather humble 2GB of storage, while the iPod nano boasts a more spacious 16GB. It’s worth bearing in mind that this means the shuffle can hold around 450 songs encoded at 128kbps, with the nano’s 16GB topping out at around the 4,000 mark.
The only model to go higher than 16GB is the iPod touch which is available in 16, 32, 64, and 128GB variants. While it’s not quite the mammoth 160GB capacity of the iPod classic, it should still offer enough room for the vast majority of user, plus as you will see if you read on, it has a lot more to offer than the classic ever did.
And bear in mind that the true storage capacity of an iOS device such as the iPod touch is less than the advertised capacity.
iPod buying guide: Where to buy the iPod classic
Of course if you really need that extra space then it’s worth seeking out the second hand market for the classic. Take a look on Amazon here, on eBay here and on Gumtree here. You might be surprised at how high their price tags are though - which means if you've got a classic to sell you could fetch a decent sum of money for the old iPod.
iPod buying guide: Battery Life
iPods may not have the same always-on nature of smartphones, but battery life is still an important factor for any electronic device. You might think that the iPod shuffle would win this category due to the lack of a power-sapping screen, its diminutive size though means that it lasts for only 15 hours. This loses out to the nano which goes for around 30 hours, and the iPod touch - which houses the largest battery in the range - holding out for a massive 40 hours of listening time.
If you watch video though, things immediately change, with the nano affording 3.5 hours and the touch reducing to 8 hours.
Interestingly, while Apple is claiming the 2015 iPod touch offers improved battery life the figures are exactly the same as previously.
iPod buying guide: Camera
Only the iPod touch offers a camera. This is an 8MP camera similar to that inside the iPhone. You'll get the same camera features such as slow-mo video and burst mode shooting (you won't get time lapse though).
There's also a forward facing FaceTime camera for making video calls, or taking selfies. As cameras go it's a good option, allowing you to edit pictures and share them to Facebook or similar as long as you have access to WiFi. And because you can download any apps from the App Store you can make use of any photography apps you like. The iPod touch can also record video.
iPod buying guide: Video
Both the iPod touch and the iPod nano can play video, but the iPod touch offers a lot more flexibility, and a bigger screen.
To watch video on the nano you will need to copy episodes of your favourite TV shows or films on to the device. The iPod touch, on the other hand, can stream from the iTunes Store or play video via any app you have.
iPod buying guide: Music
The iPod nano offers an FM radio and will play up to 4,000 tunes you have loaded onto it. The shuffle can store 450 songs encoded at 128kbps.
The iPod touch has the added benefit of access to the iTunes Music Store, which means you can download tracks onto the iPod, and even stream them from Apple Music (free for the first three months, then a subscription of £9.99 a month).
iPod buying guide: Colours
All three types of iPod come in the following colours: Silver, Gold, Space Grey, Pink, Blue, Red (for the PRODUCT RED charity).
iPod buying guide: Price
An important part of any buying decision is knowing your budget. If you really aren’t looking to spend a lot on a device, and don’t mind a limited set of functions, then the Shuffle is a very tempting option at £40.
Moving up to a Nano will give you a few more advanced features and eight times the storage, but the price jumps up to £129.
For iPod royalty, you’ll find the three models of iPod Touch priced at £159 (16GB), £199 (32GB), £249 (64GB) and £329 for the 128GB version.
iPod buying guide: Summary
Having explored the various advantages and compromises that each model offers, hopefully we’ve shed a little more light on the subject. Inevitably there will be some crossover between devices, but we feel that each is distinct enough to occupy its own place on the menu. With that in mind here are a few final conclusions regarding who might benefit most from the various iPods available.
iPod Shuffle - We think that this one is the best for sports enthusiasts, due to the fact it’s cheap, hardy, and can clip onto anything. Those with smaller music libraries will also see the value of an inexpensive device that is still powerful thanks to the Voice Over feature, and of course people who don’t want to spend a lot on a music player.
iPod Nano - Due to its size and sandboxed nature the iPod Nano would make an excellent iPod for younger children. Those who generally want a svelte device with more capacity than a Shuffle will also find the little iPod a very attractive option, and if you do already use the NikePlus fitness service, then the integrated app might well prove a tipping point.
iPod Touch - The Touch is a very impressive device, but it has a price tag to match. In many ways it strays a bit too close to the smartphone world to make it an actually compelling device for those who already own an iPhone. If you do want an internet capable, iOS device but find iPads a bit on the large size, then the iPod Touch will give you a good percentage of that experience, including a Retina screen, for about £60 less than the iPad Mini 2. One area where it really shines though is as an entry point to the Apple world for teenagers that want to communicate with friends, watch the latest YouTube videos, listen to their music, and not have ongoing bills for their parents to pay. And the newest models bring a better camera and faster processor. This is also the only iPod that will let you make use of your subscription to Apple Music.
iPod buying guide: Is it worth owning an iPod these days?
After having written the article, we also thought to ask ourselves if buying an iPod is actually worth it these days. Previously, people would buy an iPod because of its massive storage capabilities. With music libraries ever increasing in size, we find 2-16GB a little insufficient for music storage. Considering around 1,000 songs takes around 8GB, people with multiple different albums will find that a Shuffle and Nano doesn't provide them with enough storage space.
Moving up to the iPod Touch, it's clear we have more storage capabilities, such as the 32GB (£199), 64GB (£249) and 128GB (£329) options, but they also come at a hefty price tag. An iPhone might be a worthy option, but they are much more expensive and a 128GB size can only be found on the iPhone 6s which costs a hefty £699.
There are other options out there, which don't run on iOS, such as the FiiO X5 which can be found for around £290 and be used alongside two 128GB microSD cards to boost its storage up to a massive 256GB. We understand this isn't the best of solutions for those who like the iOS platform, but considering the price and actual use of the iPods, it makes a lot more sense to have a player that's cheaper, offers more functionality and most importantly has more storage capabilities for your music.
Therefore, to answer the question, we don't feel an iPod can be fully justified, given the competition they have. However, if you're looking for a device that doesn't hold much space, such as the iPod Shuffle, then we still feel the iPods is still a good music source.
If you currently have an iPod and have a separate phone, it's worth keeping hold of it, as it can provide you with that additional storage needed for your music library.
We will have to see what Apple decide to do with the iPod line, but we feel that either Apple with phase out the iPod line, or add extra storage capabilities for those looking for a better value-for-money buy.
iPod buying guide: Will Apple be releasing new iPods in 2016?
Prior to the launch of the new iPod touch and new colours for the iPod nano and iPod shuffle in July last year, the iPods hadn't seen a refresh since September 2013, so we think it could be a rather long wait for new iPods from Apple - and that's if Apple decides to continue refreshing them at all.
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