The IPod Museum
An ode to the iPod: In the fall of 2001, Apple launched its first iPod and forever changed the way we listen to music. Since that time, an amazing array of iPods have been introduced -- some of them becoming big hits, while others never quite caught on. Here we offer a visual history of the iPod.
The first-generation iPod was the grandaddy of them all. The original iPod launched without much fanfare in October, 2001. It's not hyperbole to state that the iPod helped launch the digital music revolution, while also restoring to prominence Apple's place among the tech heavyweights. Pretty good for a device that was widely seen as underwhelming by critics when it was first announced. A 5GB iPod would set you back a cool $399 in 2001.
Nine Months Later
In July, 2002, just nine months after the debut of the original iPod, Apple gave birth to an updated iPod model with greater storage capacity. The second-generation iPod may have looked the same as the first, but it sported a touch-sensitive scroll wheel (a feature that quickly became the hallmark of the iPod experience) and it was...gasp!...also available in a Windows-compatible version.
The third-generation iPod, released in early 2003, was completely redesigned with horizontally aligned touch-sensitive buttons located between the display and the scroll wheel. With this iPod came the iTunes Music Store. The device also introduced a dock connector instead of a firewire port. This made it more friendly for Windows users who owned PCs that only supported USB connectors. For the first time, the same iPod would work with either platform.
In January, 2004, Apple released a miniaturized iPod model, appropriately called the iPod Mini. Because the device was teeny, it didn't have room for a lot of controls and the click wheel was born. It was essentially the scroll wheel converted into an area-sensitive, control button. The original iPod Mini came in five colors, was composed of a sturdy anodized aluminum shell and had 4GB of storage. It initially cost $250 and consumers gobbled them up.
The fourth-generation iPod was released in July, 2004, and is arguably the most iconic iPod of all time. This is the iPod model Steve Jobs was holding when he appeared on a 2004 cover of Newsweek under the caption "iPod, Therefore i Am", and the design, featuring the Mini's click wheel, would ultimately come to be known as the "iPod Classic." A 20GB model sold for $299 while users shelled out $399 for 40GB.
The iPod grew colorful in October, 2004 when Apple released a version of the fourth-generation iPod known as the iPod Photo. This iteration supported picture viewing and more storage at 60GB. But viewing photos on the iPod's diminutive screen made the feature cooler in theory than in practice. And while a 60GB hard drive was nice, a price tag of $599 drove many customers toward the more affordable 30GB model, which sold for $350.
U2 Special Edition
When Apple introduced the iPod Photo, it also unveiled a special U2 edition iPod. The U2 iPod eschewed the usual white/gray colors for a black shell with a Ferrari-red click wheel. It also had laser engraved signatures of the U2 band members on the back. The special edition U2 iPod sold for 50 more bucks than an equivalent iPod Photo, but also came with a $50 coupon that users could apply toward the purchase of The Complete U2 digital box set. How cool was that?
The iPod Shuffle hit the scene in January, 2005, and was instantly beloved by two sets of users -- those looking for a cheap entry-level iPod and music lovers on the go. It came in 512MB and 1GB models and was Apple's first flash-based MP3 player. The iPod Shuffle embodied minimalism. It had no screen and one playlist, which could be randomized (hence the name, Shuffle). Its included lanyard was intended to be worn as a necklace but thankfully that fashion never caught on.
Mini Take 2
Apple released its second-generation iPod Mini nearly one year after the introduction of the original. This Mini was available in brighter colors, had more storage and better battery life (up to 18 hours). The picture icons on the click wheel were colored to match the color of the iPod itself.
In September, 2005, Apple took a big risk with the iPod Scratch... uh... Nano. The company discontinued its most popular iPod model, the Mini, to replace it with the iPod Nano. The Nano was flash based, extremely slim (62% smaller than the Mini), and still had a color LCD screen. But size isn't everything. Users complained that the device scratched extremely easily and a number of lawsuits ensued.
Video finally came to the iPod in the fall of 2005 with the fifth-generation, aptly named Video iPod. Thinner than previous iPod models but with a 2.5-inch screen, it had 320x240 resolution and came in 30GB and 60GB models. Apple retooled the iTunes store for video but at the time this meant music videos, movie trailers, scant TV shows and the obligatory Pixar shorts.
The second-generation iPod Nano was a cross between the original iPod Mini and the original iPod Nano. It avoided scratches by returning to the aluminum roots of the iPod Mini and had a 1.5-inch LCD screen. It introduced software that could search by title, artist and album name all at once. The second-generation iPod Nano, like the Mini, came in a variety of colors and storage ranged from 2GB to 8GB, with battery life upped to an impressive 24 hours.
In September, 2006, a revamped iPod Shuffle, billed as the smallest and most wearable MP3 player in the world, hit the market. It was aluminum, rectangular and less than half the size of the first model. The lanyard gave way to a clip and it, too, became a favorite for working out. It also sported four new colors, like turquoise and mint green. By early 2008, the price of the iPod Shuffle would drop to $49 for the 1GB model, and $69 for the 2GB model.
When Apple introduced the iPhone in January, 2007, it wasn't long before users wanted a dedicated widescreen iPod with touch controls. The wish was granted in September, 2007 with the Wi-Fi-enabled iPod Touch. It could play music, movies and browse the Internet. The Touch quickly became the flagship iPod, helped by the popular iTunes App Store. The 8GB and 16GB models were quickly joined by a 32GB model.
The third iteration of the iPod Nano came in September 2007 with a smaller, but wider, design that earned it the nickname "Fat iPod." It came in five colors, had a larger screen and supported video. Hence the Nano's tagline "A little video for everyone." New navigation software let users pan-and-zoom or use cover flow to browse music. A 4GB model now cost $149 and 8GB cost $199.
The iPod Classic was released in September, 2007, and was notable for being the largest capacity iPod ever. It was originally available in 80GB and 160GB capacities, but is now only available as a 120GB model. Even though most of Apple's iPod attention is now squarely focused on the iPod Touch and the iPod Nano, the iPod Classic remains a solid device for users looking to load up their iPods with an insane amount of music and video content.
When Steve Jobs introduced the fourth-generation iPod Nano in September, 2008, he said that customers preferred a longer and narrower form factor. This Nano comes in nine "nano-chromatic" colors and includes video, but also features an accelerometer to watch video in landscape mode. Users can use this mode to browse through their music collections in cover flow. The fourth-generation iPod Nano supports voice recording (with Apple compatible microphones, of course).
While we can't predict exactly what Apple will do with future versions of the iPod (aside from increasing storage), we have a suggestion: What if Apple releases a dedicated gaming device with a d-pad and control buttons? Games have become the most popular applications in the iTunes App Store so an iPod geared towards gamers could be a natural extension of the iPod Touch. The iPod Game may sound outlandish now, but when it comes to iPods, we think Apple's got game.