• Battle of the iPods
  • Battle of the iPods
    Written by battye
    Sat Mar 21, 2009 4:14 pm

    There are now 4 major types of iPod: the Classic, Nano, Shuffle and Touch. Since 2006 I've owned a 30gb iPod Video, which is essentially the same as a Classic now, and an iPhone 3G which is comparable, in pure music terms, to the iPod Touch. I've used the 2nd generation iPod Shuffle and 3rd generation iPod Nano on occasion although I don't own either. But overall I reckon I've had enough experience with the different products to talk about their advantages and disadvantages.

    Like many people, my first Apple product was an iPod - I was a Windows user. I used my iPod Video for about 2 years from 2006-2008 and it was the catalyst that converted me to using a Mac computer in late 2007.

    The iPod Video was a fantastic device, which has since suffered from hard-drive failure. Probably the biggest shortcoming of the device was indeed the hard-drive. Players with flash memory tend to be quicker and more reliable, but the trade-off is that they aren't as large in size. This is forever changing though - a 128mb USB thumb drive was a decent size in the early part of this decade. Now 16gb USB drives are making their way into the market, while 2gb and 4gb drives are very common. In fact, Apple has a stranglehold over the flash memory market which make it hard for the USB drive manufacturers. When Apple were only making 4gb and 8gb flash iPod's, then it was really only 2gb and 1gb (or less) drives that were readily available. As Apple started to make less smaller memory devices and moved into 16gb and 32gb iPod's, then the market suddenly had an influx of 8gb and 16gb USB drives. No doubt this will be a trend that continues into the future.

    The iPod Video was the first iPod to play video, and this is a feature I made great use of. It was a nice luxury to choose what I wanted to watch on a flight from a list of TV shows and movies I actually liked! While most airlines have in-flight back-seat entertainment they have yet to perfect a system of "on-demand" shows and movies. It might have changed, but so far I have found American Airlines to be the closest to achieving this with a turnaround time of around 20 minutes between airings, which isn't too long to wait.

    On the music front, it was like any modern day iPod - user friendly and quick to use.

    I never had too many problems finding a case for it, luckily it seemed that the 30gb iPod Videos were well catered for in that market. The other variant, the 80gb, not so much it seemed.

    The iPod Nano I have had a bit of experience with, but as I have never owned one or used one day-in-day-out I won't be able to give as good a review as others. The 3rd generation Nano was shortlived as it had an unusual form factor to previous (and future!) Nano's. The reasoning for the change was to allow for the wider screen, which was video-ready. Is the screen too small to watch a movie? No. You have to bear in mind the use for such a feature. Are you going to use your Nano to watch a movie when you are sitting on the couch in your living room? No, of course not - you would stick a DVD in for that scenario. But sitting on a plane, waiting on a bus, etc - yes, watching a movie or a video podcast respectively in those situations is appropriate, in which case the small screen is acceptable.

    But the Nano has always been about the music, and its pricing makes it affordable to most people. It's small size makes it perfect to carry around in your pocket. It's not bulky like the iPod Video/Classic/Touch, and still has decent storage to get you through - at least - a few days of non-stop listening. But for most people with large music libraries, then every so often when the iPod is synced the music can be changed, which makes sense if you are on the go and want something different.

    The iPod Shuffle is a more extreme example of this though; instead of every so often, one might want new music "every few days". It is shuffle in every sense of the word though, it's meant to be random as you sync, random as you listen. The Shuffle is a great iPod in terms of its simplicity. There are only a handful of buttons, it's about the size of a coin (50 cent Australian coin let's say) and it's very light. I think it's best use would be in the car to avoid the radio, but another good use is in the garden due to it being lightweight and "clippable", there isn't that fear it will fall out of your pocket and under the lawn mower. They are also the cheapest of the iPod brand, at around $60 for a base model they are great for presents and for introducing newcomers to the world of Apple and portable music. The 5 major buttons mean there is no learning curve to using the device once the music has been synced to it. Due to Apple's high standards for usability the same could be said of all of their iPod's - the hardest part for a novice would probably be adjusting to iTunes and transferring the music across.

    And that leads me to the final, and most expensive, of the iPod varieties - the iPod Touch. I use an iPhone, but the software is all but identical. The iPod Touches are thinner, because they don't have to fit phone related hardware inside the device, like 3G chips and microphones.

    Steve Jobs proclaimed that the iPhone (announced before the iPod Touch) was the best iPod ever. That is quite a good assessment. Having come from an iPod Video, it was difficult to get used to the iPhone's version of the iPod. Mainly due to the lack of a scroll wheel and the addition of the touch screen. My main concern was that if I wanted to change a song, then it would waste battery continually turning the screen on to do so. I have since found out the best way to do this - if you use them - is to double click the button on the headphones, which skips to the next track without waking up the screen/turning on the screen.

    Even now, the touch screen frustrates me for two things: changing the volume, and skipping to a certain time within a song/movie. With a scroll wheel, you could get it pretty well exactly where you wanted it on both counts. With your finger, it's a case of "close enough is good enough".

    The iPhone is fantastic for videos due to its wide screen. But what is best about the device overall is the features for things that you traditionally don't associate with an iPod - mobile Safari, Youtube, email, etc. This applies to both the iPhone and the iPod Touch, as the latter has wi-fi capability. And of course, the App Store means you can customise the device in whichever way you want. For some people, this means as a gaming platform while many others like to use social networking devices on the go.

    As far as battery life goes, I've found the iPhone to be the best of the iPod's. Obviously this is because Apple know the need for a phone to have good battery life. I'm guessing the iPod Touch - due to the lack of a cellular network - would last even longer. I have pushed my iPhone, with normal(-ish, probably limited internet) usage, to around 18-20 hours but I am confident one could get more by listening to the iPod without using other features. My iPod Video never really got the 16 hours which was sometimes mooted by Apple as being possible, although I think I did get at least 10 hours on quite a few occasions - one such occasion included a few hours of video, and the rest being music.

    I can't comment on the iPod Shuffle or Nano because I have never used one for such an extended period, but I am quite sure both would easily reach the 10 hour mark.

    So how would I rank them? I wouldn't - not for the purposes of this article anyway. Each suits a different type of person and their requirements. I hope if you are thinking about buying an iPod, this article will help you decide.
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