iPod Classic lying on a table

A Complete History of the iPod: 2001 to 2022

It’s official — after more than 20 years, Apple will discontinue the iPod. Apple has already stopped manufacturing most versions of the MP3 player over the past few years, but from 2022, the remaining models will stop manufacturing as well.

If we look back at the history of the iPod, you can see how heavily Apple influenced the success of its music player, and how the rest of the world has been, too. Let’s look at this history and remember the iPod – from its beginnings in 2001 to its final days in 2022.


2001-2003: The first iPod

The first iPod was unveiled on October 23, 2001. The deck size was 6.5 ounces, and the all-white music player had 5 GB of storage. This allowed it to carry and play around 1,000 songs, a number unmatched by other MP3 players at the time.

The first iPod set the standard for the design of what eventually became known as the iPod Classic line. These iPods were rectangular with square screens, and had a scroll wheel and a central select button for navigating the device. The original iPod also had buttons around the scroll wheel, rather than integrated with the wheel like later models. The additional buttons would last until 2004, with the development of the touch click wheel and the iPod mini.

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iPod ads at this time were advertising songs just as much as the iPods themselves. Songs will play as black silhouettes dance with white iPods on brightly colored backgrounds. These ads eventually became as iconic as the iPod, too.

By 2003, iPod storage had risen to 40GB, coinciding with the launch of the iTunes Store and the need for more song storage. iTunes has been around as a media player since 1999, but the iTunes Store opened on April 28, 2003. It was the only legal digital catalog of all major record labels, and it allowed you to purchase albums in MP3 format, as well as singles for $0.99 each.

2004-2005: iPod gets smaller

The iPod has always been fairly small compared to other MP3 players in 2001. But that didn’t stop Apple from getting it smaller. The iPod mini was released on February 20, 2004, and weighed 3.6 ounces; Almost half the weight of the first iPod. Like the earliest iMac models, the iPod mini came in several colors. Its storage space was relatively small – only 4 GB. This might have changed had the iPod nano not been more popular, leading the mini to discontinue.


Announced September 7, 2005, the iPod nano was 1.6 x 3.5 x 0.27 inches, and weighed just 1.5 ounces. It comes in several colors, and 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB capacities are available upon release. It will get 8GB capacity in 2006.

The year 2005 also saw the announcement and release of another small iPod – the iPod shuffle. The 0.78-ounce shuffle had no screen, and only had 512MB or 1GB of storage (2GB became available in 2008). The shuffle was cheaper than the nano, but more difficult to navigate. Its lack of a screen left users with only the forward and back buttons to navigate through the internal song list.

Shuffle also cannot support playlists, instead allowing users to play songs in the order in which they were loaded, or in a ‘random’ random order. So users were swapping how many songs they could listen to in terms of volume and ease of travel. For many, it was a worthwhile sacrifice. The ability of the iPod to support media other than music will complicate this choice in the next few years.


2005-2006: Don’t Just Listen, Watch Your iPod

In 2004 Apple released the iPod, an iPod that has an LCD screen that can hold and display photos. On October 12, 2005, Apple announced an iPod that could also play video. iPod video has a smaller click wheel to allow more screen space. It could have a capacity of 60GB in its first version, while the next generation has reached 80GB, with longer video playback times.

You can put your videos on iPod Video, as well as buy and download TV episodes and movies from iTunes to put on the device. The digital purchase of TV shows and movies seriously changed media consumption over the next few years and kept the iPod incredibly convenient for a long time. But Apple will change the game for itself again with the launch of the iPhone, and the iPod will change with it.


2007-2008: The iPod gets a touch screen

The launch of the iPhone in August 2007 came after years of breakthroughs and firsts for smartphones, but it can be said that it is the smartphone that has made smartphones an integral part of everyday life. The iPhone also helped create the iPod touch. The iPod touch was released in September 2007, and like the iPhone, it featured a large touch screen, as well as a home button.

Like the iPhone, the iPod touch can access the Internet via Wi-Fi, allowing people to stream videos and music as well as download them to the device. People can play the same games on both devices as well, and use most of the same apps on both devices, including messaging apps.

The main differences between the iPhone and iPod touch were that the touch couldn’t connect to cellular data, and it didn’t have cameras like the iPhone. The lack of these features made the iPod touch a bit cheaper than the iPhone, so it was a great option for people who wanted certain iPhone features, but didn’t need a full smartphone.

The release of the iPod touch saw generations of iPods based on the first iPod design get the name iPod classic rather than just the iPod. It also saw generations of the iPod nano get touch screens down the line.

2009-2013: Playing with Shapes and Features

Over the next few years, Apple made some modifications to the look of the iPod nano, but it didn’t change much for the classic iPod or iPod touch.

September 2010 saw the release of the fifth generation iPod Nano, which arguably was the predecessor of the Apple Watch. This iPod was a small box with a touch screen and a clip on the back, allowing users to clip it to themselves or to a watch strap. The screen will first display the time when tapped, allowing it to be an iPod as well as a digital clock.

The iPod touch also got cameras in 2010, which allowed it to make FaceTime calls, like iPhones.

Other than that, battery life has improved on most iPod models, and storage capacities have increased across the board. VoiceOver has been added to most iPods, and some models have voice control. Some iPods can connect to FM radio bands for live music.

iPods were basically the same. They were digital music players, with some features on top. This relative slack probably points to what has been coming down the line, which is the end of the iPod.

2014-2022: The Final Chapters for the iPod

Apple announced in 2014 that it would stop making the iPod classic. Similar announcements were made for the iPod nano and iPod shuffle in 2017. The iPod touch was still in production, but saw no updates between July 2015, when the sixth generation of the touch was released, and May 2019, when the seventh generation came out.

The seventh generation iPod touch will become the last iPod made by Apple. It comes with an A10 processor, and a 256GB storage option. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, unlike recent iPhones that don’t have a headphone jack. Three years later, though, in May 2022, Apple announced that it would stop manufacturing on the iPod touch as well. As of this writing, iPods can be purchased from Apple, but only until supplies run out.

With many people wondering what to do with their old iPods instead of buying them these days, Apple’s decision to stop manufacturing iPods isn’t entirely surprising. It is noteworthy that such a popular device faded away in such a relatively short time.

End of an era

The iPod has gone from being an absolutely must-have device to a pointless device in just two short decades. In many ways, the iPod is responsible for the ways we tend to consume music now, and the digital media buying boom. These innovations marked the way for streaming platforms, where unfortunately, the iPod couldn’t keep up. You heralded an era in which you could not compete.

So, while we say goodbye to the iPod knowing Apple is right to let it go, we do so knowing that without the iPod, there wouldn’t be a lot of technology we love. So thank you, iPod – we can’t imagine the world without you!

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2022-05-16 10:56:00

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