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What is an iPod?

By Damir Wallener
Updated May 16, 2024
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An iPod is a portable device for storing and playing digital media files, and it is designed and produced by the computer company Apple Inc. There are several variations of iPods that are different sizes, have different purposes and use different technologies. For example, some smaller versions are mainly for playing music files through headphones. Other versions have video screens and can play movie files. Some even have touchscreens, can provide Internet access via wireless technology and can double as personal digital assistants (PDAs). Updated versions, or generations, of the various types of iPods are frequently released as the technology and designs improve.


Released in 2001, the original iPod came with a body of white acrylic glass and chrome. Three years later, Apple released the iPod Mini, which was about one-third the size of the original device and encased in a variety of shiny metallic colors. The Mini was discontinued after a little more than one year and replaced by the iPod Nano. The smallest member of this family of devices, the Shuffle, which was released in 2005, reduced the size to that of a package of stick gum and looked very much like the original. Unlike the original version, the Mini and the Nano, the Shuffle does not have a display screen.

The most versatile version of this device, the iPod Touch, was released in 2007 and features a touchscreen. In addition to being a media player, it functions as a PDA and wireless Internet device. It also can be used as a handheld console for video games.


Original versions of the iPod — more recent generations use the name iPod Classic — could store 5 gigabytes (GB) of digital files, which was the equivalent of about 1,000 digital music files. Other versions of this line of devices have a range of storage capacities, from as small as 2 GB to more than 150 GB. The Classic and Mini use tiny hard drives for memory, and the Shuffle, Nano and Touch use flash memory.

Content Management

An iPod's content is managed using Apple's proprietary software called iTunes. The device can be connected to a computer, and the owner can use iTunes to transfer media files from the computer to the device and then organize those filed. The Touch can connect to the iTunes Store through the Internet to download media files, most of which are available for a small price, although some might be free. It also can download applications from Apple's App Store, also either for a price or free.

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Discussion Comments

By anon147539 — On Jan 29, 2011

What type of "plan" do you need in order to access Safari, the web, and email on an IPOD Touch?

By anon143333 — On Jan 15, 2011

Can my mp3's that don't have the copyright on them be played on the ipod?

By anon59665 — On Jan 09, 2010

Can you stop listening to the audiobook and start listening to music and then come back to the book at the same place you left off?

Also, how do you get data off the ipod? When you sync do you get the data from the computer to the ipod and from the ipod to the computer or just one direction?

By anon45206 — On Sep 14, 2009

can I connect speakers to an ipod or mp3 player to create a music system at home? I don't have a stereo at home, and would like to listen to music in different rooms. all I have now is a 50" plasma tv where I turn to the music channels and listen to music that way, but I'd like some kind of music system without having to have an ugly stereo box and speakers around my living room. I'd like to get the hidden/invisible ceiling mounted speakers and connect to something that I can store all my music on like an ipod or mp3 player or something. Any ideas?

By anon34582 — On Jun 24, 2009

Got an ipod years ago for my wife, now the battery is losing it's ability to hold a charge. How do I replace the battery?

By gizmo — On May 24, 2009

I have a Spanish language course downloaded on my computer. The package says "Transfer MP3 files to your iPod, Palm, BlackBerry & cell phone". Can I download the course to an MP3 player or do I have to have an iPod, Palm, etc. instead? I don't have any of these devices at the moment, but I would like to buy an MP3 player, rather than an iPod.

By dyllan — On Mar 12, 2009

Is it possible to download "radio talk shows" to an i-pod or just music?

By anon16346 — On Aug 03, 2008

i am finding it hard to understand still what the difference is between the ipod nano or the ipod video. which one should i buy? please reply!

By anon15521 — On Jul 14, 2008

"I found I was spending more time converting files to the machine's special format" converting to what? most files that people get or rip from CD are in MP3 or WMA format. If you want to be hampered by DRM, if you don't want the freedom to add remove share your files without any proprietary software, like crap quality sound, be like all the other sheep, then buy yourself an ipod. There is no such thing as a podcast, its a downloadable audio file that you listen to after its been served up.

Apple didn't invent mp3s players nor the format.

By anon12567 — On May 09, 2008

Can I connect and play my IPod through my DJ equipment?

By anon11316 — On Apr 13, 2008

I accidentally bought a Ipod docking station thinking that it was also a dvd player. Now I know nothing about an Ipod. I have an MP3 player which I am still trying to figure out. But My big question is, and this is obviously a stupid one, but Mp3's don't do videos and and Ipods can, Right? and how do you go about downloading videos to your ipod and can you change them often and without a lot of headache.

Are they user friendly or is someone that is over 50 going to have a melt down trying to figure it out? I would just like to find out some basic information regarding them before I go out and spend over $200.00 0n one. I bought the docking station on line through a magazine (that's how I made the mistake that is was a dvd player too). Can you please help this old lady figure this out. Please.

Honolulu, Hawaii

By gill45 — On Apr 12, 2008

Okay I think I get it, any music already on my pc can be put on ipod via software. If I get songs from itunes themselves how much does it cost? What about these video ipods what do they do, where do I get video from, can I put dvds from home on via pc or what sites do I go to and for how much?

By anon9823 — On Mar 14, 2008

RE: Jayman

An iPod IS basically an mp3 player, it's just Apple Computers name for their mp3 player! So an iPod is no more advanced, in its basic idea, as the mp3 player you already have.

I'm not saying you should buy an iPod, but it isn't the only mp3 player on the market, so you should research this before committing to an iPod just because they are the most well known. There are other very good players just as good for your purpose on the market, just google "mp3 players" and look for some reviews.

On the subject of getting your radio programs onto a player, the software which will come with the player, for example iTunes or Windows Media Player, will be able to import the songs to your mp3 player. Again, just google for instructions once you know what player you want to use

But be warned, if your radio programmes are large files, you will need a large memory capacity player, such as a 40Gb iPod or Zune. A lot of other players such as the Sony NWZ-818 or the iPod Nano will not have enough capacity for many programmes, so take this into consideration too

I hope this helps!

Liam Greenshaw, Scotland

By apka53 — On Feb 17, 2008

i've recently bought a mp4. Now, i want to download some videos in it. can you recommend me some sites if you are reading this?

By jayman — On Feb 09, 2008

This question is so dumb I'm almost hesitant to ask it. But I truly would like to know the answer.

I am a collector of Old Time Radio programs. I have more than 1000. They are recorded in the MP3 format.

I currently listen to the shows on either my RCA mp3 boombox or a portable MP3 player. Both are OK but I'm thinking it may be time for me to hook up with the 21st century and get an iPod which I know nothing about.

So I have a couple questions. How do I download (if that's the word) my current programs to an iPod?

To a novice, which I surely am, that seems like a monumental job. Is it?

I will appreciate any replies I might get. Thank you.


By sruteesh — On Feb 06, 2008

what is difference between mp3 player and ipod?

By malena — On Dec 28, 2007

Can you download software to a Touch? Or is it called an iTouch. Like, I'd like to do some things on my Touch that requires you to have Flash. Can I download Flash?

Also, doesn't using iTunes prevent you from sharing that music with someone that doesn't have iTunes? I heard that iTunes somehow blocks that ability to share music. If that's the case, then perhaps best to first save music in another place and then add it to iTunes.

By Gr1zz — On Dec 26, 2007

Anon and Kennie,... I'll try and answer your questions in one big bang. The regular iPods use tiny hard disk drives, like your desktop or laptop computer. Unlike your regular computer, most of the time, the iPod's hard drive is actually turned off, in the interests of saving power. The drive is turned on to get about a half-hour of music (or whatever) at a shot, and then plays from its memory. So, if you keep changing what you are listening to, your battery life will be shorter than if you listen to your complete collection, or if you repeat one song over and over.

The nano, shuffle, iPhone, and iPod Touch don't bother with hard drives, instead using flash memory, like your digital camera. Flash memory is much faster than hard drives and uses less power, but is more expensive than hard drives. That's why the hard drive units have much more storage (more songs) for the same money.

The iPhone is a lot more than just a phone and an iPod in one box. There's also a camera in there, and it can connect wirelessly to the internet (either over its phone or a normal WiFi connection), and can be used for reading web sites (like this one), as well as making phone calls, taking pictures, downloading music or keeping up to date with your email while you are on the go, and all the other fun things you can do with a camera, phone, music player, and (to some extent) a laptop with a wireless internet connection. Of course, the functions work together, so your music pauses when you get a phone call, and you can upload your pictures to a web site as soon as you take them.

The latest of the iPod family, the iPod Touch, is a lot like the iPhone, except without the phone and the camera. It still has the WiFi internet connection, and the touch screen, and can view movies and YouTube video, as well as everything else a normal iPod can do.

If someone likes their existing iPod, and feels the need to upgrade, there's no reason they wouldn't consider the iPhone or Touch, unless they need more storage than is available in the flash-based units. If you already have a phone on a compatible network (GSM), or want to change phone companies, it's a great way to cut down on the number of things you have to remember to put in your pocket every day. Also, it's several less things to have to remember to recharge each day, fewer power adapters, and less hassle to keep your phone book up to date on your computer.

anon with the 6-year old, you should likely find out what your child wants to do with an iPod before you make a buying decision. You also should consider how well your kid takes care of things, and their attention span. If they want to watch videos or play games, the shuffles and all but the latest nano model are out of the question. On the other hand, you may be able to save considerable money by getting an earlier model, or a generic mp3 player if they just want to listen to a few tunes in the car, without driving you batty hearing about the wheels on the bus. The first round of shuffles appear to be very durable, and can be found pre-owned or at some shops for significantly less than the latest models. It is important to remember that just about anything will do the job if two weeks later it will be collecting dust at the bottom of a closet, especially if the dog has been eating it, or it's been crushed under the wheels of the car.

Cablegranpa, a mp3 is a type of file, like just about anything you can find on your computer. An iPod is primarily a music player. It's kind of like the difference between your cassette player, and the tapes you play in it. Since they are two different things, it's like asking which is better, a fish or a bicycle. Still, the iPod can play MP3 files, and several other formats. They work well together.

Anonymous, yes, you can transfer your own CDs to an iPod. If you are running iTunes, when you put a CD into your computer, it will offer to add the CD to your library, and will try to find the titles and names for each of the tracks on the CD. You can then copy the music to your iPod, or, depending on the settings, it will do it automatically for you. You can even make a "smart playlist" which will make sure your iPod has copies of the latest songs that you have on your computer.

Bobbyj, Cablegranpa asked a similar question earlier. The iPod is like a record player, and the MP3 is like a record. They work well together. If you are old enough, you may remember the "stereo system" which had a record player, a cassette tape, or maybe even an 8-track player. The iPod can play more than one type of recording, just like the old stereo system. And if you still have your old stereo system, there are programs for your computer that will let you copy your old records, cassettes, and 8-tracks into a form that can be played back on an iPod.

By bobbyj — On Dec 18, 2007

I'm a neanderthal! can someone please explain the difference between the iPod and Mp3 formats and advise which they feel is the best. Thanks

By anon6152 — On Dec 18, 2007

Regarding getting music on the ipod, can you transfer music from CD's?

By Cablegranpa — On Dec 03, 2007

What is the difference between an iPod and a mp3? Is one better than the other?

By anon5560 — On Nov 29, 2007

It's just really easy to work with and is very straight forward, plus you have the added bonus of having a store to buy music to sync to your ipod in seconds.

By anon4688 — On Oct 28, 2007

My six year old wants an iPOD for Christmas. Which one should I buy?


By Kennie — On Aug 28, 2007

Could you tell me the relationship between ipod and iphone?would people who ever bought ipod buy iphone?Thanks

By anon2845 — On Jul 28, 2007

i havnt bought an i pod yet but im interested 2 know that what are the diffrences between i pod and ipod nano,and wht is i pod shuffle, also what is i tunes.one last thing can i download music in hindi or urdu on these?

By Gr1zz — On Jul 26, 2007

Anon, the easiest way to get music and other things onto your iPod is to use iTunes. You can also use it as a music playing program on your computer without an iPod. You can freely download it at www.apple.com/itunes/download/

If you poke around the Apple site, you can find all sorts of information, including downloadable versions of the manuals for different models and frequently-asked-questions lists. There are a *lot* of non-Apple sites about them too... as always, Google can be your friend and direct you to lots of them.

By anon2751 — On Jul 24, 2007

how do i get music on my ipod? i haven't purchased one yet. what is itunes?

By Gr1zz — On Apr 29, 2007

Re: 21 April 2007 Anonymous: I finally got one because I was tired of dealing with all the technical details of the other portable MP3 players, yet I still wanted to listen to Podcasts (think of them as serialized radio shows that can be automatically downloaded to your playing device). I tried at least 5 other players first, including small flash-based MP3 devices, MiniDisc, CD players, and one of those cheap iPod knock-offs, but for my needs, they just didn't measure up to the ease of use of the iPod.

The big thing about the iPod is the way it works with the program on your computer. When you connect it to the machine, it can automatically update your music library, to keep track of how often you played a song, when you last heard it, and even if you told the iPod to skip that particular song. So, for podcasts, the old episodes you have already heard can be automatically removed and replaced with new ones, and all you have to do is plug it in. As an added bonus, when you plug it in, the batteries recharge, so that's another thing you don't have to bother to do manually.

The iPods are particularly good at audiobooks, which some may think of as "books on tape", without the tape. When you have to stop listening, the iPod remembers where you were in the book, so you can resume listening from where you left off. Many other players start over from the beginning, so depending on the book, you may have to listen to the whole chapter (or even from the beginning of the book) again to get back to where you left off. There is also an option to listen to books at a faster-than-normal rate, which can be handy if you have a lot of material to cover.

With the other devices I tried, I found I was spending more time converting files to the machine's special format, transferring files, deleting files, waiting for things to transfer and, in general, not listening to what I wanted to hear. The iPod, I can grab on my way out of the door, and know that it will have things I want to hear on it, that the battery will be charged, and that it will update with the latest stuff from the net when I plug it in again. After spending too much of my time, money, and effort trying to make something else "just work", it was refreshing to find a device that would do the not-fun stuff for you, and let you get on with listening to stuff, the whole reason you get a device like this in the first place.

By anon317 — On Apr 21, 2007

why do people buy iPods? Is it because it is better than reagular mp3 players, CD players, etc? Is it to be cool and fit in with everyone else? what makes people want to but ipods? the looks?

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