Planning ahead for Christmas: Which iPod is right for you?

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Are you already thinking about Christmas? My daughter mentioned Christmas shopping to me the other day and I scoffed because it was still early. She responded, "I only have 4 paydays between now and Christmas. I have to spread things out." With the economy in a nerve-wracking slump, maybe you are ready to start thinking about shopping early, too.

If you're shopping for tech gifts, specifically an iPod, I'm planning a series of iPod related article that will help you choose one and give you some tips on using it in your car, with multiple users in iTunes, and where you can get free music legally.

The iPod plays music, video, movies, audio books, TV shows, podcasts, and games. Some of them connect to the Internet. As a tech gadget, they are way up there in terms of desirability. The basic question once you decide you want to give someone an iPod is to decide which one. There's a lot of lingo involved, and that doesn't make it easy, as Moogie's World discovered. For lingo clarification, if you want the latest and greatest, iPods are up to the 4th generation now.

I'll give you a breakdown by price, from least expensive to most expensive.

Every model comes in several colors. If you buy from the Apple store you can get free engraving. Places like Amazon or the local Sam's Club may cost a bit less than what's you'd pay at the Apple store, but don't offer the engraving free.

The iPod shuffle is the least expensive option. These start at $49 for a 1GB model that will hold 240 songs. The 2GB model holds 500 songs and goes for $69. The shuffle is small with no screen–just the controller or click wheel. You cannot pick the play order or the songs you want to hear, you can only reset the shuffle. There's a nice clip-on that makes it easy to hook to your clothing. The iPod shuffle might be a perfect choice for a youngster who hasn't yet built up a big music library. The iPod shuffle might also be perfect as a sort of single-use device. By that I mean you might load it with only upbeat music for the gym or classical baroque for writing—those situation where tempo is what matters more than choice and shuffle keeps things varied.

The slender iPod nano starts at $149 for an 8GB model that will hold 2000 songs. The 16GB model holds 4000 songs and costs $199. The iPod nano has a screen, which means you can select any song from your music list, you can watch music videos and movies. The upper part of the nano is a high resolution screen, the lower part is the click wheel controller. It can be flipped sideways to scroll through album covers using Apple's very cool Cover Flow. You give it a shake to make it shuffle to a different song. You have the advantage of choice with a nano. You can pick and choose your music and set up playlists for various situations: the workout, the kids songs for the car, the thinking music for when you're working, and so on. Don't let the fact that you have a choice about what you want to hear make you stop paying attention to where you're going, though. Remember what happened to one of the women from Serial Drama.

The iPod touch comes in three prices. For $229 you get 8GB, for $299 you get 16GB, and for $399 you get 32GB, which would hold 7000 songs and 40 hours of video. That's enough video to fly to Singapore and back without having to repeat a single video. The iPod touch is all touch screen with no click wheel. It plays music, videos, movies and games. The games and the cool touch screen interface may put the iPod touch high up on your kids' wish lists. But the iPod touch also connects to the Internet and does email, surfs the web, checks maps, plays YouTube, and can be expanded with apps from the Apple App Store. It looks and acts very much like an iPhone, but without the phone. The email and Internet features may put it high up on the grown ups' wish lists. (OK. The games, too.)

For more on iPhone apps, see Paid iPhone Apps I Adore and Free iPhone Applications I Love.

Finally we come to the whopper, the hold everything model. The iPod classic has a 120GB capacity that will hold 30,000 songs and 150 hours of video and costs $249. It is configured with the screen at the top and the click wheel under it. It comes with Cover Flow. My classic has thousands of songs, videos, podcasts, photographs, and movies on it and it isn't even half full yet.

Future articles in the iPod series will tell you about accessories, working with iTunes, using an iPod in your car and more.

Virginia DeBolt
BlogHer Technology Contributing Editor
Web Teacher
First 50 Words


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