Martyn Casserly’s guide will help you find the best iPod
If you’re looking to buy an iPod, which one should you choose? The 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 nano is also a capable device, but small enough to carry anywhere, while the shuffle is simple, inexpensive, and tough – perfect for the gym.
Choosing the best iPod is not an easy decision, although Apple has simplified matters somewhat with the quiet retirement of the 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.
iPods have come a long way since the initial musiconly 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.
In many ways the shuffle is probably the most true to that original iPod, as it focuses 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 a lottery. Now, with the impressive Voice Over feature, the shuffle will read the name of the track, podcast, audiobook, or playlist to you and let you
choose the one you want to listen to with nary a touchscreen in sight. This means you can have multiple playlists on the device without having to return to your iTunes library. It’s a simple addition, but it makes the shuffle a far more capable device than past iterations.
The most obvious feature that differentiates the nano and the shuffle is the 2.5in multi-touch display. This enables the 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 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 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 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.
In the battle of the features, the touch is in a different category to its smaller siblings. As the only iPod to run a full version of iOS, the 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 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.
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 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.
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 128kb/s, 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.
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 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 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 eight hours.
Interestingly, while Apple is claiming the 2015 iPod touch offers improved battery life the figures are exactly the same as previously.
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 slowmo 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 Wi-Fi. 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.
Both the iPod touch and the nano can play video, but the 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 touch, on the other hand, can stream from the iTunes Store or play video via any app you have.
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 128kb/s.
The 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).
All three types of iPod come in the following colours: Silver, Gold, Space Grey, Pink, Blue, Red (for the PRODUCT RED charity).
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 2GB shuffle is a very tempting option at £49.
Moving up to a nano will give you a few more advanced features and eight times the storage, but the price jumps up to £149.
For iPod royalty, you’ll find four models of touch priced at £179 for 16GB, £229 for 32GB, £279 for 64GB and £379 for 128GB.
iPad & iPhone User’s buying advice
Having explored the various advantages and compromises that each model offers, hopefully we’ve shed a little more light on the subject. 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.
We think 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 VoiceOver feature, and of course people who don’t want to spend a lot on a music player.
Due to its size and sandboxed nature the 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 touch will give you a good percentage of that experience, including a Retina screen, for a bit 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.