Apple introduced the iPod in 2001 as a digital music player with a simplified, user-friendly interface. Since then, the device has grown to ubiquitous levels of popularity. Apple now makes several types of iPods, each with their own evolutions beyond the original MP3 player. In fact, the iPod Touch's function as an MP3 player has become secondary to the other possibilities available through a nearly endless list of specially designed apps.
Every iPod's primary feature is its built-in MP3 player. The primary musical difference between each model has nothing to do with quality. Instead, each variety of iPod has a different hard drive capacity --- this means that each variety can hold a certain amount of music at once. The latest version of the tiny iPod Shuffle can store about two gigabytes of music, while the newest iPod Nanos have a capacity of either 8 or 16 GB as of early 2011. The largest version of the multi-purpose iPod Touch can hold up to 64 GB of music. That space, however, is not solely reserved for music; installing apps and recording video will take up space as well. The latest iPod Classic has the biggest capacity, boasting 160 GB of storage space for music and video. In general, 1 GB of music translates to about 7.5 hours worth of listening.
The original iPods used a click wheel that doubled as a touch-sensitive scroll for the device's menus; each modern iPod operates with some variation on that design. iPod Classics utilize almost an identical layout, with a different casing and a new screen updated to support video playback. The iPod Touch and sixth-generation iPod Nano both use a touch-screen interface, with external buttons to adjust volume and "sleep" the screen. The latest iPod Shuffle uses a button wheel similar to the original iPod. Since this model has abandoned the screen in favor of a compact design, however, the wheel does not scroll. Instead, the user clicks the buttons to skip through the playlist, and the title, artist name, playlist menu and battery status are accessible through a VoiceOver feature (wherein the titles are read aloud through the headphones).
The iPod's audio output is most easily connected from the device's 1/8-inch jack to a pair of headphones or earbuds. A variety of larger, external options are available as well. Users can connect a car cassette adapter to the device's 1/8-inch jack to play music through any working cassette player. Many FM transmitters work through the same jack, broadcasting a local signal from the iPod to be received by your car or home stereo's FM radio. Other FM transmitters and dock devices allow you to directly connect through the wide slot on the bottom of the iPod. Even simpler, any cable with an 1/8-inch plug can be used with the iPod --- a 1/8-inch to RCA cable can directly connect your device to most home stereos. Additionally, the iPod Touch houses an internal speaker for playback, but the other iPods will remain silent without anything connected.
The aforementioned VoiceOver function is unique to the iPod Shuffle because it suits its ultra-compact design. Both the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle are built with attached clips for the convenience of workout listeners. The latest version of the iPod Nano also introduced an FM radio and a pedometer to the device. The iPod Classic offers video playback (unlike the Nano and Shuffle) in addition to audio playback. In addition to video playback, however, the fourth-generation iPod Touch houses an HD video camera that can record and stream like a webcam through the formerly iPhone 4-exclusive FaceTime feature. The iPod Touch also has access to Wi-Fi networks and nearly everything sold in Apple's App Store, including a new specialized GameCenter to play with your friends.
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