In the wake of Apple's recent decision to retired the iPod Classic, let's take a look back at the progression of the device that changed the music industry.
Last week, Apple finally retired the venerable iPod Classic, triggering a wave of nostalgia from folks who fondly remember the iPod era before everything became a touchscreen. Removing the Classic from the iPod lineup will have a negligible impact on Apple's bottom line, but it serves as a good opportunity to look back at some of Apple's most important and influential iPod models over the years. Today Apple is all about the iPhone and the iPod (and soon the Apple Watch), but there was a time, not too long ago, when the vast majority of Apple's profits came directly from iPod sales. So with that said, here's a fond look back at the iPod all-stars from yesteryear.
Released in January 2004, the iPod Mini in its heyday was Apple's most popular and best-selling iPod of all time. The Mini is extremely significant to the overall iPod legacy because it was the first iPod model to feature the company's now-iconic clickwheel, a design choice that was borne out of the device's smaller form factor. The iPod Mini was made out of anodized aluminum and came with a modest 4GB of storage. What’s also interesting about the iPod Mini was that it was the first iPod model that was widely affordable to the masses, largely due to the device’s smaller size. When it first hit store shelves, it retailed for $250 and came in five colors.
Though Steve Jobs once famously said that no one wants to watch video on the iPod, the video iPod debuted in October of 2005. Sporting a display with a 320x240 resolution, the fifth-generation iPod finally enabled users to check out their favorite movies and TV shows on the go. In conjunction with its release, Apple added all sorts of video content to an iTunes Store that was previously all about music.
Nothing bests the original. Apple's first-gen iPod helped launch a digital music revolution. Originally unveiled in October of 2001, the now-iconic device elicited a lot of yawns from critics who couldn't quite understand why Apple decided to get into the MP3 player space in the first place. Looking back now, the iPod is without question one of the most important products Apple ever released. Not only did it take Apple's success to newfound heights, it also helped give Apple significant influence across the tech world. More importantly, it was the product that helped pave the way for the iPhone. Upon release, the first-gen iPod carried a modest 5GB of storage and retailed for $399.
Released in July of 2004, Apple's fourth-gen iPod is arguably the most iconic design to ever come out of Cupertino. There's a reason that this design would ultimately become known as the iPod Classic. Sporting an innovative click wheel – taken from the iPod Mini, which preceded its release – this iPod cemented Apple's position as the top purveyor of MP3 players in the world. When iPod sales really kicked into high gear, it was the fourth-gen iPod that accounted for much of the success.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone to the world, users were immediately taken by the notion that they could watch videos on a mobile device with a sizeable screen. The addition of touch controls on a multitouch screen was just icing on the cake. Apple of course withheld such functionality from the iPod lineup to initially drive iPhone sales. But by September 2007, just a few months after the iPhone launched, the iPod Touch became a reality. Notably, the iPod Touch also came with Wi-Fi, even furthering the functionality of the iPod lineup. That said, the original iPod Touch arguably ushered in the largest advancements to the iPod lineup since the original was unveiled six years earlier.
This iPod is extremely significant for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it was the first model to feature a touch-sensitive scroll wheel. Second, the second-gen iPod was available in a separate Windows-compatible version. Given Microsoft's dominant market share at the time, opening up the iPod experience to the majority of worldwide consumers helped propel the popularity of the iPod to great new heights that wouldn't have been possible had it remained a Mac-only device.
Released in 2004, the iPod Photo was significant insofar as it was the first iPod to feature a color screen and offer users the ability to view photos. If you think the iPhone is expensive today, the 60GB iPod Photo model retailed for a whopping $599.
Released in early 2003, this iPod is significant because its arrival accompanied the release of the iTunes Store. More importantly, the third-gen iPod featured a dock connector instead of the Mac-only FireWire, meaning that the same iPod could work just as well on Windows as on the Mac, all without the need for separate cables.
Not a runaway hit by any means, the original iPod Shuffle was released in 2005 and marked Apple's efforts to offer a more affordable entry-level iPod. The device lacked a screen and was moderately successful. It is significant, though, for being the first iPod model to feature flash memory.
The Shuffle saw a major upgrade in September 2006 when Apple made it even smaller and added a small clip, which made it ideal for exercise.
Fifth-gen iPod Nano
This iPod is notable for being the first miniaturized iPod model to feature a video screen for recording – a pretty big deal for a device that gained popularity for its audio capabilities. This iPod demonstrated Apple's willingness to spice up its model lineup a bit as it came packed with all sorts of goodies, including an FM radio, a larger screen, and a pedometer. The fifth-gen iPod Nano was released in September 2009.
Released in 2007, the iPod Classic was positioned as a music lover's dream. And it made sense given that the iPod Classic had a staggering amount of storage capacity, with the higher-end model topping out with 160GB. The iPod Classic for many years had been living on borrowed time, with Apple finally axing the device during the fall of 2014.
Fourth-gen iPod Touch
Much more than an internal upgrade, the fourth-gen iPod Touch was graced with a number of solid upgrades, including two cameras for full FaceTime support and HD video recording, a Retina Display, and Apple's then-blazing A4 processor. This was the first iPod Touch model that could be mentioned in the same breath as the iPhone. It was released in September of 2010.
Third-generation iPod Nano
Also known as the fat iPod, the third-generation iPod Nano was released in September of 2007 and featured a 2-inch screen. This model was the first miniaturized iPod capable of playing video. You might remember it fondly as the commercial advertising the third-gen iPod Nano featured Feist’s popular song "1,2,3,4."
Sixth-generation iPod Nano
This was the first iPod model to feature a multi-touch screen. It also came with a clip, a la the iPod Shuffle. This iPod is notable because many people enjoyed using this iPod model as a watch. Arguably, this popularized use-case helped show Apple the utility in putting a form of iOS on people’s wrists, therefore making it an antiquated and limited predecessor to the recently unveiled Apple Watch.
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