Even though you could probably peg me as an Apple hater, I’ve actually owned two iPod Touch models; the 4th and 5th generations. And I confess I’ve loved the experience, even though the latter heated up and died. The iPod was Apple’s official entry into the mobile device genre. It cemented their association with music and changed the game for music players around the world. The original, released in 2001, spawned several sequels including the Nano, the Shuffle and the iPod Touch. Today, the iPod is not a major player in Apple’s business model, being completely overshadowed by the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac line but it is nonetheless an integral part of the company’s history.
The first iPod came out in 2001 and was designed to be the gold standard (as with all Apple products) for music players everywhere. There’s a popular story online that Steve Jobs insisted on making it as thin as it possibly could be and when his team said they couldn’t go any thinner, he dropped the prototype in a fish tank. Some bubbles rose up and Steve Jobs remarked that since there was air in the model, there must be space to get rid of. The original iPod came in two models, 5GB and 10GB and could hold “a 1000 songs in your pocket”.
Smaller iterations of the device came later like the Mini, the Nano and the Shuffle, changing form factor and adding storage and more functionality. However, the iconic click wheel and simplicity of the user interface remained. Steve Jobs would, very intelligently, introduce the Nano by saying that the tiny jeans pocket inside the front pocket was made for it. He would also call the iPod Touch the “iPhone without the phone”. All this worked as the slow sales of the music player built up exponentially in the coming years. And the end result was quite satisfying; total iPod sales were reported to be 350 million in 2012.
What’s more is, the product led to the success of iTunes. The app is known as the center of Apple’s ecosystem for apps, podcasts, movies and television etc but its central use was always for music and the iPod was the vessel. Today, iTunes has sold over 25 billion songs and 140 billion apps.
While today, the iPod is in decline and we will more likely than not, see it discontinued, it will stay in Apple lore forever as an incredibly successful product.