Apple introduced the world to the iPod over 20 years ago. Little did we know at the time that the small, pocket-sized hardware would revolutionise the music listening experience for the next generation. With the advent of the portable media player (PMP), the era of portable cassette and compact disc players ended as people were now able to load hundreds of songs on something even lighter and more compact. While there were portable media player competitors before and after the launch of the iPod, none managed to steal the limelight from Apple’s offering. iPod captivated users for over two decades, and now Apple has decided to pull the plug on one of the iconic products of this generation’s golden years.
In a statement regarding the discontinuation, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said, “Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared. Today, the spirit of iPod lives on. We’ve integrated an incredible music experience across all of our products, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch to HomePod mini, and across Mac, iPad, and Apple TV.”
As we bid adieu to iPod, here is a brief history of the lineup, with details of a few important models and iPod launch dates.
- October 23, 2001: The original Classic iPod was introduced on this date. This was the first audio-only MP3 player from Apple, and allowed users to pack up to 1,000 songs. It got a small white screen, was available in 5GB and 10GB models, and sported clicky buttons to control music playback. The iPod (as the series was initially named, it was renamed the Classic iPod later) offered up a 10-hour battery life. It laid the foundation for the music industry to rethink its business model. Apple went on to launch refined models over the next three years bringing in larger storage options, bigger battery life, and adding a colour display. It was discontinued in 2014.
It was during this time that Sony had the market in its control. Even though Sony launched its digital audio players before Apple launched iPod players, the Japanese company couldn’t replicate the success of its Walkman portable cassette players and Discman portable CD players in the new segment.
- February 20, 2004: The next benchmark was set on February 20, 2004 when Apple introduced iPod mini. It offered everything one could have thought of — longer battery life, smaller size, flashy colour options, a click wheel, and a great music experience.
Sony would now ramp up its players with new technology. It even started working on Walkman-branded mobile phones that used to offer a great music experience. The competition in the market increased with the introduction of the Creative Zen series, Microsoft’s Zune, and iRiver MP3 players.
- September 25, 2006: A year and half after launching iPod mini, Apple stepped up to shrink the player’s size more and launched iPod nano. But it was the second generation iPod Nano — launched on September 25, 2006 — that grabbed eyeballs due to its anodised aluminium casing, six colour options, a bright colour display, storage large enough to pack up to 2,000 songs, and a massive up to 24-hour battery life.
- September 5, 2007: The competition in the market continued to rise with the introduction of better MP3 players from Creative, Sony iRiver, and Microsoft Zune (in the US). Apple brought the iPod touch with a multi-touch interface and the ability to play videos.
- September 12, 2012: Apple launched the iPod nano (7th generation), and says that it is the thinnest iPod ever (5.4mm) in the history of iPods. It featured a ‘large’ 2.5-inch multi-touch display. Apart from music, this iPod also supported video playback. It got Bluetooth connectivity, and the 30-pin dock connector was replaced with a new Lightning connector.
- July 15, 2015: Though Apple launched iPod shuffle (4th generation) in July 2015, previous models in the series – first launched in 2005 – were also a success due to its small size. This iPod shuffle offered up to 15 hours of battery life, 2GB of storage, and a VoiceOver button to hear a song title, playlist name, or battery status. Apple discontinued iPod nano, and iPod shuffle in 2017.
- May 28, 2019: iPod touch (7th generation) made its debut with A10 Fusion chip. It is more than a music listening device as it comes with augmented reality experiences and Group FaceTime. Apple says the iPod touch will be available while supplies last.
The iPod redefined how music was listened to, and was made available in various form factors as the years progressed. Surely most of us that owned an iPod has fond memories of it. Will it be missed? Definitely. Does it still have a place in the market? Probably not. Goodbye, iPod!