Like clockwork, Apple never fails to refresh its iPod lineup every fall. In recent years, though, one can't help but notice that the ritualized iPod unveiling has lost some of its gusto compared with the fanfare surrounding the iPhone and iPad.
Still, Apple remains the top manufacturer of portable media players. Those of us old enough to remember the "iPod wars" that occurred nearly a decade ago can attest to the fact that Apple's tenacity in making the world's most popular MP3 player laid the groundwork for the success of the iPhone (pour one out for the Zune, friends). Apple may have moved on to bigger, better products, but maintaining its dominance in the diminishing world of MP3 players is just good housekeeping.
And so, the 2012 Apple iPod lineup offers a mix of new and old. The most notable additions are the fifth-gen iPod Touch with its larger screen, and the iPhone-ified version of the iPod Nano. Both devices (for better or worse) make use of Apple's new Lightning connection in place of the 30-pin dock connection that's been around for years.
Wondering which of the 2012 iPods is right for you? Here's the quick breakdown.
Apple iPod Touch (fifth generation)
Apple's newest iPod Touch follows the iPhone's lead with a wider 4-inch screen and a Lightning port that replaces the 30-pin connection on the bottom. The camera has been improved, and Apple's Siri voice assistant now comes included. This is also the first time the iPod Touch comes in multiple colors: black, silver, pink, green, red, and blue. Pricing is $299 for a 32GB model, or $399 for 64GB.
Apple iPod Touch (fourth generation)
Apple is keeping the 2011 iPod Touch model around as an entry-level option. The screen measures 3.5 inches diagonally. Pricing starts at $199 for the 16GB model, or $249 for the 32GB version. The available colors are black or white. This iPod still uses the 30-pin dock standard and will work with older accessories.
Apple iPod Nano
Apple's iPod Nano has taken many forms over the years, but this year's design is a whole new twist on the Nano concept. The iPod Nano is priced at $149 for 16GB and uses a 2.5-inch touch screen and a home button borrowed from the iPod Touch design. Unlike the iPod Touch, it does not run the same iOS software shared by the iPhone and cannot be used with third-party apps downloaded from the iTunes App Store. Features include music and video playback, FM radio, pedometer, Nike+, and a photo viewer. For the first time in the iPod Nano's history Apple has included Bluetooth audio, which can support wireless headphones and speakers. The iPod Nano has a Lightning port.
Apple iPod Shuffle
Aside from a wider selection of colors, the Apple iPod Shuffle is essentially unchanged from last year. The price is $49 for a 2GB player. Like the iPod Nano, it's available in black, silver, purple, blue, green, yellow, pink, and red.
Apple iPod Classic
The elder statesman of the group, the iPod Classic, stays true to its name. Just like last year, you get a whopping 160GB of storage for $249. Color choices are silver or black, and the 30-pin dock connector on the bottom maintains compatibility with older dock accessories and cables.