Available in several versions including the "classic," the touch-screen "iTouch" and the smaller "nano" and "shuffle" models, Apple's iPod is a portable MP3 player that allows you to take literally thousands of songs with you wherever you go. The iPod is not your only option when shopping for an MP3 player -- the Microsoft Zune and Sony Walkman are competing products -- but understanding key features of the iPod when shopping around will help you make the best decision.
Determine how much storage you need on your MP3 player. Apple's iPod offerings come in a wide range of capacities, from iPod shuffles with a mere 2 gigabytes to classics holding 160 GB and iTouch devices featuring up to 64 GB of storage space. Compare the storage capacity against the MP3 player you are thinking about buying.
Make a list of all additional features you want. While the iPod shuffle can play only sound files, the other iPods can display picture slideshows, play video clips and, capacity permitting, play full-length movies. The iTouch is equipped with a built-in Wi-Fi adapter that provides access to the Internet -- and a bevy of multimedia applications -- wherever a wireless connection is available.
Compare the music store you will use for the competing device to Apple's iTunes Store, which offers one-touch downloading through iTunes, the program that syncs your iPod to update its content. Browse songs on the competing music store to get a rough idea of track, album and artist availability for comparison purposes.
Use price as a deciding factor only after you've considered the importance of all the other distinctions important to you. An MP3 player is an investment that will last you for several years. A $100 difference in the initial cost spread out over just one year amounts to less than 40 cents a day.
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