Apple Ends the iPod Line After 20 Years: A History of the Iconic Music Player, Major Models, and Launch Dates

Apple introduced the iPod to the world over 20 years ago. Little did we know back then that the small, pocket-sized hardware would revolutionize music listening for the next generation. The advent of the portable media player (PMP) ended the era of portable cassette and CD players as people were now able to load hundreds of songs onto something even lighter and more compact. While there were portable media player competitors before and after the iPod’s launch, none managed to steal the spotlight from Apple’s offering. The iPod has captivated users for over two decades, and now Apple has decided to unplug one of the iconic products of this generation’s golden years.

In a statement on the hiring, 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 like the iPod has made an impact has more impact The music industry has done it – it has also redefined how music is discovered, heard and shared. Today, the iPod spirit lives on. We’ve built an incredible music experience into all of our products, from iPhone to Apple Watch to HomePod mini, Mac, iPad and Apple TV.”

As we say goodbye to the iPod, here’s a brief history of the lineup, with details on some key models and iPod launch dates.

Apple iPod Classic in text iPod Classic

  • October 23, 2001: The original Classic iPod was introduced that day. This was Apple’s first audio-only MP3 player and allowed users to pack up to 1,000 songs. It had a small white screen, came in 5GB and 10GB models, and had clicky buttons to control music playback. The iPod (as the series was originally called, later renamed the Classic iPod) offered 10 hours of battery life. It laid the groundwork for the music industry to rethink its business model. Apple released refined models over the next three years that introduced larger storage options, longer battery life, and a color display. It was discontinued in 2014.

    During this time, Sony had the market under its control. Although Sony launched its digital audio players before Apple launched iPod players, the Japanese company failed to replicate the success of its Walkman portable cassette players and Discman CD players in the new segment.

Apple iPod Mini in the text iPod mini

  • February 20, 2004: The next benchmark was set on February 20, 2004 at Apple’s launch iPod mini. It offered everything you could imagine – longer battery life, smaller size, eye-catching color options, a click wheel, and a great music experience.

    Sony would now upgrade its players with new technology. It even started working on Walkman branded cellphones which used to offer great music experience. Competition in the market increased with the introduction of the Creative Zen series, Microsoft’s Zune and iRiver MP3 players.

Apple iPod Nano Gen 2 in text iPod Nano

  • September 25, 2006: A year and a half after the iPod mini was released, Apple stepped up to further shrink the size of the player and released it iPod nano. But it was the second-generation iPod Nano – released September 25, 2006 – that, with its anodized aluminum body, six color options, bright color display, storage big enough to hold up to 2,000 songs, and a massive capacity that drew attention 24 hours of battery life.

Apple iPod Touch 2007 in text iPod Touch

  • September 5, 2007: Competition in the market continued to increase 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.

Apple iPod Nano in text iPod Nano

  • September 12, 2012: Apple launched the iPod nano (7th generation), and says it’s the thinnest iPod ever (5.4mm) in the history of iPods. It featured a “big” 2.5-inch multi-touch display. Besides music, this iPod also supported video playback. It gained Bluetooth connectivity and the 30-pin dock connector was replaced with a new Lightning connector.

Apple iPod Shuffle in text iPod Shuffle

  • July 15, 2015: Although Apple released the iPod shuffle (4) in July 2015. This iPod shuffle offered up to 15 hours of battery life, 2GB of storage, and a VoiceOver button to hear a song title, a playlist name, or battery status. Apple introduced the iPod nano and discontinued the iPod shuffle in 2017.

Apple iPod Touch in text iPod touch

  • May 28, 2019: The iPod touch (7th generation) made its debut with the A10 Fusion chip. It’s 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 heard and has been made available in various form factors over the years. Surely most of us who owned an iPod have fond memories of it. Is it missing? Definitive. Does it still have a place on the market? Probably not. Goodbye iPod!

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Ryan Sederquist

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