Remember when anything with a tape player and headphones was called a Walkman? The Apple iPod has reached such a level of success that people use the term iPod to refer to any portable mp3 player. There is a good reason for its success, however — it is a great product. It's easy to use, works great and, like most Apple products, it's stylish. If you are in the market for an actual iPod, there are a few things to consider before choosing what model to buy and where to buy it.
- Choose a model. This years model, or I should say, this generation of iPods comes in three different flavors.
- First, the iPod itself. This is the mothership, the queen bee. Gone are the monochrome screens of past generations and the choice of photo or video models — this does everything. The 60 gig version will hold and playback 15,000 songs, 25,000 pictures or 150 hours of video. The 30 gig holds approximately half of those numbers. Of course this all depends on the size of files and how many of each you have on your iPod, but it's a good approximation of the iPod's capabilities. The 60 gig will run you about $399 and the 30 gig costs around $299, so you do have to think about how much space you need. Personally, I say the bigger, the better. If it's just $100 to double the size, consider doing it — you may thank me 5 years from now when you are 40 gigs in with no end in sight to your frivolous downloading. But I digress.
- Your second option is the baby brother of iPod, the Nano. This is almost a miniature iPod without the video playback capability. It'll slip into a shirt pocket and not even make a bulge. It comes in three sizes: the 1 gig that holds 240 songs at $149, the 2 gig (500 songs) at $199, or the 4 gig (1000 songs) at $249. Once again the $100 difference shouldn't scare you for going bigger here, but the 2 gig is a pretty good value for casual music lovers who don't need to put every song they ever heard on an MP3 player.
- Lastly, there is the Shuffle. This little device is cool in that you can plug it directly into your computer with no cables, it's the size of a pack of gum (thin gum, at that) and it's using flash memory instead of a hard drive like other iPods. It comes in two sizes: the 512mb model that holds 120 songs and will run you $69, and the 1gig (240 songs, $99).
You may wonder why the Nano comes in a 1 gig form for $50 more. Well, it has a full-color screen, the battery life is longer and it has none of the compatibility problems that the Shuffle has with newer Mac products. Also the Shuffle seems to have problems with certain files that were not originally imported through iTunes.
- There is also the iPod Mini, which preceded the Nano. It comes in a variety of colors and two sizes (4 gig and 6 gig). These are not currently in production, so look to pay $200 on average.
- Where to buy. This actually isn't too difficult to explain. Whether online or in a store, they are basically the same price everywhere you go. You may find a rebate here and there on them like I did online at Circuit City, but for the most part the prices are the same as stated above.
Apple is a good place to start, with plenty of demos and technical specs if you like that information. All the major electronic stores like Best Buy and Circuit City stock iPods, as do the biggies like Wal-Mart and Target. This is a good thing, because when you go out and get one you won't have that buyer's remorse when you see it in another store. Same price everywhere.
- Look for used deals. There are millions of iPods out there and they are always available at good prices used. Check out the electronics section of Craigslist for good local deals. Try Amazon, Half.com and eBay for tons of good deals and steals. You could be looking at 50% savings on some models going this route.
Remember: a few things, always err on the side of caution and get the most memory you can afford and it's the same prices everywhere so don't make yourself crazy shopping around. Good luck!