Which New iPod is Right for You?

With Apple’s new line-up of iPods shipping soon, it’s likely that a lot of people with older models may want to upgrade. Since I write about the iPod a lot, I have to keep up with most new models, so I’m buying two of them. But for most people, a single iPod is sufficient. Here’s a look at the new iPod line-up, with suggestions for which one might suit you best. (All links below are to Amazon.com, whose prices are slightly lower than Apple’s.)

Together with your new iPod, you might want to get a copy of my ebook Take Control if iTunes 10: The FAQ, which covers the just-released version of iTunes.

iPod touch

The new iPod touch isn’t very different from the previous model, with the exception of the new retina display (much higher resolution than before), and the dual camera, for shooting videos, and for holding Face Time video chats with owners of the iPhone 4 or the new iPod touch.

The main attractions of the touch are its ability to run the many apps available for the device. Apple is playing down the fact that it’s a music player, highlighting instead its video recording and gameplay features. It is a great device for playing games, especially when you look at the cost of games as compared to those sold in cartridges. But I’m not a gamer, and I’m getting mine for music, and a handful of apps I use.

Personally, I’m choosing the 32 GB iPod touch, because the current one I have, with only 16 GB, is a bit limiting. I have much more music than that, but only put what I listen to regularly, or my newest music, on my iPod, so 32 GB will be fine. It is also available in a paltry 8 GB version (very limited in capacity; don’t get this unless you really can’t afford more), and a 64 GB version, for those who want to carry around more music, videos and photos.

iPod nano

The iPod nano has changed its form factor many times over the years, and the newest version is certainly the strangest. With a small touch screen, it’s not clear how usable this will be. But it has a clip, and is great for people who want a small, light music player to use on the go. It’s got much more capacity than the iPod shuffle, and it handles playlists better, and offers far more music playing features. But, it’s more expensive too: I’m going for a 16 GB model, in blue, because 8 GB seems a bit stingy. It’s available in may colors, and in those two capacities. Get the nano if you want a small, light music-only device.

iPod shuffle

I really hated the last version of the iPod shuffle, which has no buttons and must be controlled from little buttons on the earbud wires (or by voice). I still have the previous generation model, with the round button, just like the new one. It’s a bit wider than this year’s model, but for something that small, who cares? I’m not upgrading my shuffle, because there are no compelling features, and my 2-year old model still works fine. But the shuffle concept is great for someone who wants a simple, low-cost media player that plays music at random (it can also play playlists), and it’s especially good to use when you’re working out, running, etc. If I were to buy one, I’d probably choose the silver model, but my older blue shuffle will do me fine. (Note: a blind reader pointed out that the shuffle, with its voice control, is a very good device for blind people. I hadn’t thought of that.)

iPod classic

While Apple didn’t update the iPod classic, or even talk about it, it’s still available in a 160 GB version. You’ll want a classic if you have a lot of music, and don’t care about using apps on an iPod touch. In fact, the classic is really the best iPod for those with big music libraries, because it’s by far the largest capacity. But it won’t last long; I doubt Apple will be updating it again, and the iPod touch will probably get 128 GB in the near future. So if you don’t have a classic and want one, don’t wait too long.