The iPod changed that, bringing portable media players into the mainstream. The iPod quickly became a cultural phenomenon, a fashion accessory and an indispensable tool for music lovers everywhere.
It should be noted that Apple has not necessarily created a revolutionary product (media players have been around since the 90s). Rather, Apple did what it does best – it took an existing concept, refined it extensively, and made sure it worked for everyone.
The original iPod was neither the most functional nor the most revolutionary device in its class on the market. But it was the one that appealed to users the most.
That is, the original iPad was far from flawless. At the time of its launch, the iPod was only compatible with Apple’s Macs, and iTunes took another two years to emerge. In the eyes of many, the iPod was the device that first spawned the Apple ecosystem as we know it today.
In 2022, it’s hard to imagine a world where Apple wasn’t the tech giant it is today. But at the time, Apple was still finding its own way, and the iPod was the device that introduced a generation of Apple users to the company and what it stands for. The financial success the gadget garnered was also instrumental in enabling Apple to grow and expand.
The successors of the original iPod
For the first few generations, Apple built the formula for success. Each new iPod brought more and more functionality and eliminated the drawbacks of the original.
The second-generation iPod introduced support for Windows and made the steering wheel touch-sensitive. The third generation saw the iPod get a new design, the Dock Connector port (which became the standard) and marked the launch of iTunes.
With the fourth generation of the iPod, it was a little more diverse: it had some versions and a few special editions (including a Harry Potter version). Most notably, this generation introduced the color display, which gave the iPod the ability to display photos. In the fifth generation, the iPod could also play videos (hence the name iPod Video).
Of course we only deal with the most important developments. Needless to say, successive generations of iPods invariably received improvements in battery life, storage capacity, and format compatibility.
The iPod grew into the most advanced media player during these first 5 generations and completely crushed its competitors in terms of market share. The sixth generation was when the formula reached its peak. This was the last iPod in the original line.
The iPod Classic (as it was called at the time) holds a special place in my heart because it was my first Apple product. I can attest to the excellent battery life, build quality, and overall longevity of the iPod Classic. I have used it for over 10 years and still keep it as a precious heirloom.
The other iPod models
While for me (and I suppose many others), the original iPod is the one and only icon, Apple has tried to expand and create alternatives. The iPod Mini, the iPod Shuffle, and the iPod Nano were all impressive devices in their own right.
The Mini and its successor, the Nano, maximized portability, while the Shuffle was an affordable option that worked solely as an MP3 player. They each occupied a different niche, but were essentially twists and turns on the original iPod.
The iPod Touch is when things start to get weird. This iPod was launched in 2007, the year the iPhone made its debut. While iPods were already preoccupied with phone functions (such as recording a camera), the latter ventured ever closer to what would later become smartphone territory.
The iPod Touch ran on Apple’s iOS, had the same 3.5-inch touchscreen as the first iPhone, and wasn’t just a media player. The iPod Touch could access the App Store, browse the web, act as a portable gaming device, and do much more than previous iPods.
The iPod Touch, because of its iPhone-like features, has stood the test of time for much longer and was the last to become extinct. The iPod Classic was discontinued in 2014, the Shuffle – in 2017, while the Nano – in 2020. It was only a matter of time before the iPod Touch faced a similar fate.