What Is an iPod? How Does the iPod Work?

What is an iPod? How does the iPod Work?

An iPod is a portable media player, and tech phenomenon, designed and marketed by Apple. The device was another link in Apple’s pop-tech chain, starting with the cute and lovable iMac and ending, most recently, with the release of the iPad tablet device.

The iPod was the first mega popular mp3 player, the “gotta have it” gift for several years in a row now, and was no doubt responsible in some way for the transition from CDs to digital music. Apple’s line-up is now split into four models — the iPod Classic (with an internal hard drive), the iPod Touch (featuring a touchscreen), the iPod Nano, and the tiny one known as the Shuffle.

New models are as common in the fall as high school football. It seems like we hear word of a new model every fall. From the first release in October of 2001 to rumors of a new version this coming October, you’d think the guys at Apple had some sort of reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is an iPod?

But back to the point — how does the iPod store and play media? All models use some formĀ of memory to hold onto your data. Most models, all except for the Classic, use flash memory instead of an internal drive. When the iPod Mini was still being built, it also used an internal drive, name a Microdrive mini hard drive. Other than that, expect nothing but flash memory. This tactic helps to shrink the device. For a while it looked like all Apple cared about was making tinier and tinier gizmos, but the popularity of the iPod Classic means that model may change.

What do you do with it?

The most obvious answer is — listen to music. Depending on the model you own, you can store anywhere from 2 GB up to 160 GB of music. Many models don’t just deal in music files. Just like many other .mp3 or digital music playing devices, you can use your iPod to store all sorts of data. A few models can play video and perform other functions. What you can do with your iPod has more to do with which model you choose.

See this article about How to Use an iPod for more information.

What are the different models?

iPod Classic

Features: A massive amount of memory and a long battery life make this perfect for travellers.

Storage: 160 GB

Good for: music, movies, television shows, videos, audio books, podcasts, photos

iPod Touch

Features: Multitouch screen, camera, HD video recording, and all the bells and whistles.

Storage: 8 GB, 32 GB, or 64GB

Good for: music, movies, television shows, videos, games, applications, eBooks, audiobooks, podcasts, photos, web browsing, maps, video recording and editing.

iPod Nano

Features: The Nano includes, oddly enough, a pedometer for exercising. The multitouch screen means the Nano is basically a lightweight iPod Touch.

Storage: 8 or 16 GB

Good for: music, audiobooks, podcasts, photos, FM radio,

iPod Shuffle

Features: The Shuffle is made for people on the go. This is a very small device, “wearable” during exercise, and uses a button interface instead of a scroll wheel.

Storage: 2 GB

Good for: music, audiobooks, podcasts

How do I put music on my iPod?

You have to use Apple’s iTunes software to manage your iPod. The software is free, and it is really easy to transfer music and other files from computers directly to your iPod. Having said that, there are a few “open source” methods of transferring files to and from your iPod. Programs like Floola and Senuit allow you to move your data around without using iTunes, if you so choose.

You can use iTunes or any other compatible data transfer software to move photos, videos, calendars, games, contact information, e-mail settings, and Internet bookmarks to your iPod as long as those features are available on your device.

How much does the iPod cost?

Depending on what model you buy, you can spend less than $50 or as much as $400.

The iPod Shuffle is retailing for $49 as of this writing. The most expensive models of the Classic go for about $400. All other models are “mid-range”, from $149 to $299.


Your iPod will charge using a special USB cable that fits your specific model. You simply plug it into a computer and let the battery charge. The amount of time it takes to charge the battery is between three and four hours for a full charge, but iPods can do a “quick” charge (up to 80% power) in just two hours.

The display screen size varies by model — the iPod Shuffle has no display screen, the Classic has a 3.5 inch “widescreen”, and the other two models of iPod use either a 1.5 or 2.5 inch screen. All displays are either multitouch or LED backlit.

The Classic uses the old “click wheel” model, hence the name “Classic”, but the Nano and Touch models use a touch screen format. The iPod Shuffle uses buttons similar to what you’d find on the iPod Classic.


The brand is rife with add-ons and tools you can use to make your experience more enjoyable.


You can upgrade your iPod with a pair of headphones that includes a mic (for video shooting and editing), headphones designed by celebrities (like Dr. Dre’s “Beat” headphones for optimum bass sound). You can add colorful “bud covers” for your earbuds, buy a set of Bose noise canceling headphones, and even buy a pair of waterproof earbuds at the Apple store and at electronics retailers.


People want to protect their precious iPod, and Apple (and other companies) give them lots of ways to do that. Apple’s newest line of cases are made to look like socks. You can also find anti-glare film, leather folios, and all kinds of other jackets and shields for your new iPod.


If you can think of an accessory or gizmo for the iPod, it probably exists. There are USB power adapters that let you charge your iPod from a regular electric plug, splitters so two people can listen at once, and “travel kits” to optimize your iPod’s performance on the road.

This is part of a series of posts we’re doing about various gizmos and gadgets. The other posts include: