Which iPhone (or iPod) to Buy For Everyone on Your List

Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2015

With five iPhones available this holiday season—more than ever before!—to go along with three iPods, your choices for gifts are more complicated than they've been since you had to decide between Beta and VHS. Is an iPod touch better than a nano? What's the big difference between a nano and a Shuffle?

Anyone who opens wrapping paper to find an iPhone or iPod this holiday season will be thrilled, but you can please your friends and family even more if you get just the right device to match their lives and interests.

This guide to each iPhone and iPod—and what kind of person to buy it for—should go a long way to making your recipients happy.

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iPhone 6S Plus

iPhone 6S Series
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. image credit: Apple Inc.

There used to be just one new iPhone model a year to choose from. Now, though, there are two new models and three old ones, and the people they're for are pretty different. The people who will most appreciate the iPhone 6S Plus are:

  • Movie and game lovers. With the iPhone 6S Plus' huge 5.5-inch screen, movies and game have never looked this good on an iPhone or iPod.
  • Photographers. While the 6S Plus and 6S have relatively similar cameras, the optical image stabilization built into the 6S Plus' camera ensures that it takes the best pictures of any iPhone, even if challenging environments. Plus, both 6S models sport a 12-megapixel camera and the ability to shoot 4K video, big upgrades over the 6 series.
  • People Interested in the Cutting Edge. The 6 Plus supports Apple Pay, Apple's wireless payment system, the Apple Watch, the company's first wearable, and adds 3D Touch, a screen that can react differently based on how hard you press it. The owners of the 6S Plus will be using the latest and greatest technology right away.
  • People Who Want the Best Features. The 6S Plus packs the state-of-the-art 64-bit A9 processor, the M9 motion co-processor, 128 GB of storage, and the Touch ID fingerprint scanner into its 6.77-ounce body.
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iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S
image credit Apple Inc.

The iPhone 6S is virtually identical to the 6S Plus, with just a small difference in the camera and an obvious difference in the screen size. The people who prefer it over the 6S Plus are:

  • People Who Value Portability. The 6S, with its 4.7-inch screen, is small, lighter, and easy to hold and use than 6S Plus.
  • People With Average Sized Hands. Most people can use most of the 6S's features with one hand (a key test of the usability of smartphones for many people). The 6S Plus' screen is so big that that's impossible for some people unless you have very large hands.
  • Those Who Want The Best. Like the 6S Plus, the iPhone 6S includes the A9 processor, the M9 coprocessor, Touch ID, and a 12-megapixel camera.
  • Those Who Want the Future. Again, as with its bigger sibling, with 6S supports the 3D Touch, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay.
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iPhone 6 Series

Differences between iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
image copyright Apple Inc.

The iPhone 6 series models were the top-of-the-line phones last year and this year they are fantastic phones available at great prices. Consider the 6 series for people who:

  • Value Quality. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are terrific phones—built around fast A8 processors, include up to 128 GB of storage, and feature 8-megapixel cameras with the ability to shoot in slow motion.
  • Appreciate Innovation. While they're not the cutting edge anymore, both models of the 6 series support Apple Pay and the Apple Watch.
  • Are on a Budget. This is more for the gift giver than the recipient, but it's worth knowing that the 6 series is $100 cheaper per model now that the 6S series is available. Last year's best phones are now available starting at just US$99.
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iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S
iPhone 5S. image copyright Apple Inc.

One of the Apple's best phones can now be had for free when purchased with a two-year contract. That's a tremendous value. The iPhone 5S will be most appreciated by:

  • Tech enthusiasts. The iPhone 5S is built around the 64-bit Apple A7 chip (the first 64-bit chip in a smartphone) and the M7 motion co-processor. While not the latest technology anymore, both chips enabled all kinds of cool features that gadget geeks will enjoy.
  • Photographers. The iPhone 5S's camera isn't top of the line these days, but it still produces terrific photos thanks to its dual-flash, larger pixels (which result in better photos), and other improvements. The 5S can also take up to 10 photos per second and slow motion video.
  • People who want more security. The 5S has the Touch ID fingerprint scanner built into the Home button, which makes security tighter than with a standard passcode.
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iPod touch

6th generation iPod touch
image copyright Apple Inc.

People who will love the iPod touch include people who want:

  • Their iPod to do a bit of everything. The touch stores up to 28,000 songs or 100+ hours of video, its high-resolution 4-inch screen is great for video, and built-in Wi-Fi allows users to browse the web or check email.
  • The million-plus games and apps at the App Store make the touch endlessly fun and useful.
  • An organizer with a music player built-in. The touch includes a calendar, address book, and email program.
  • Great battery life. The touch offers up to 40 hours battery life.
  • To please their teenagers. With the multitude of features, teens love the touch.
  • A sleek gadget. The touch weighs just 3.1 ounces and slips easily into a pocket.
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iPod nano

7th Generation iPod nano
7th Generation iPod nano. image copyright Apple Inc.

The iPod nano occupies the middle of the iPod line—it's not too expensive, but doesn't have huge storage capacity. It has a lot of features but doesn't support apps. The 7th gen. nano is a big improvement over the 6th, bringing back some old features that had been missing and adding some good new ones. The nano is very affordable: it costs just $149.

The iPod nano is great for:

  • The music lover who wants to tote up to 4,000 songs.
  • People who want to watch short videos, or look at their photos, on the go.
  • Exercisers who use Nike+ to track their workouts (Nike+ is built into this nano).
  • The first-time iPod owner. With terrific iPod features and style, the nano is a great step into the world of the iPod.
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iPod Shuffle

4th Generation Apple iPod Shuffle
4th Generation iPod Shuffle. image copyright Apple Inc.

One major thing sets the iPod Shuffle apart from all other iPods—it doesn't have a screen. Instead, the Shuffle is a tiny square with a few buttons on the front and a clip on the back. Despite lacking a screen, the Shuffle can be a great gift for people who:

  • Exercise a lot. Because the Shuffle is almost ridiculously small and light (0.44 ounces), it's a great workout companion for joggers, bikers, or anyone else who liked music while exercising.
  • Have a limited budget. Want to give an iPod, but short on funds? With a Shuffle, you can give the 2GB model for just $49 - at that price, it's practically a stocking stuffer!