Almost 10 years have passed since Apple introduced the iPod and so much has changed in that time. When the iPod launched in October 2001, music fans were still reeling from the demise of peer-to-peer music-sharing service Napster, which was forced to close in July 1999, and MP3 players from the likes of Creative were gaining popularity. The first iPod was a 5GB hard drive that put “1,000 songs in your pocket”. It cost £349.

Fast forward a decade and the iPod we knew then is all but dead, replaced by the more popular iPod touch, and the even more popular iPhone and iPad. But those three products were born of the iPod, and in this special feature, we pay tribute to its evolution. Without the iPod, Apple probably wouldn’t have become the consumer electronics company it is today.

Within three years of its launch, Apple’s iPod had become the world’s best-loved music player. Sure, there were others, including the Nomad, Rio and Creative ranges, but Apple’s was the biggest-selling, with 31 per cent of the market and 55 per cent of the revenue. Apple wanted more.

In January 2004 Apple introduced the iPod mini. Available in five colours and controlled with a version of Apple’s patented Click Wheel, this offered 4GB of storage and cost slightly less than a full-sized iPod. The product was an immediate success, so much so that the international launch was delayed by three months – Apple couldn’t make them fast enough. (These iPods contained a Hitachi 1.8in hard drive, Apple was consuming these faster than they could be made.)

The hard drive-based iPod mini became the most popular music player in the world during its brief two-year existence

Changing technology

The iPod mini became the biggest-selling music player worldwide. Apple said the device competed head-on with flash-based music players. Apple then launched its own, the iPod shuffle, in January 2005, forging new connections with flash memory manufacturers as it did so. In September 2005, Apple changed the game again, introducing the iPod nano. This small, light (43g), yet full-featured iPod used flash memory, rather than a hard drive.

This meant music enjoyed full skip protection (because there are no moving parts in a flash drive) and the device offered much better battery life (14 hours).

“iPod nano is the biggest revolution since the original iPod,” said Jobs. “The iPod was the first Apple product to get into the hands of millions of people,” he also said at the time, adding that the move to drop the popular iPod mini in favour of the nano was like “having a heart transplant right before the holiday”.

It wasn’t all plain sailing – a small number of iPod nano devices shipped with defective screens. Such was the popularity of the product that media reaction was fierce, immediate and intense. Apple quickly replaced faulty units, telling the media only a “very small” percentage were vulnerable to the flaw.

iPod evolution accelerated. Since September 2005, two iPod (now iPod classic) editions, six iPod nano, three iPod shuffle and four versions of the iPhone-like iPod touch had been introduced. Apple also began focusing on flash-based storage in 2005 and, with various MobileMe/.Mac iterations, began laying foundations for what would later become its iCloud service.

2005 was a pivotal year for the company. It was then that it launched its Made for iPod kitemark scheme. This scheme allowed third-party manufacturers of devices such as speaker systems, remote controls, and docks – which included one of Apple’s proprietary and patented Dock Connectors – to carry the Made for iPod mark on their products. Of course, they had to pay a fee if they wanted to use the Dock Connector and receive the coveted kitemark.

For the most part, manufacturers did just that, including brands such as Griffin, Belkin, Bose, BMW, Ferrari and more. The third-party accessory industry had come of age – and Apple was taking a slice of the action. Each add-on product sale reinforces a consumer’s commitment – and investment – in Apple’s music system.

Picture this – photos and videos on the iPod

Introduced in 2004, the iPod photo capitalised on the popular third-party trade in devices to connect a camera or memory card to an iPod to archive images.

“Everyone has a digital camera and wants to enjoy and share their growing library of digital photos wherever they are. Unlike video content, photo content is free and abundant, and there are no copyright issues to deal with,” said Jobs.

At the time, Jobs said the iPod was the “wrong place” for video. However, one year later Apple had resolved some of the “copyright issues” Jobs had alluded to, and had begun selling music videos and TV shows through the iTunes Store. This was in October 2005, when the video-capable fifth-generation iPod reached market. With a focus on the US, Apple soon signed up many studios to offer TV shows via iTunes. These were eventually made available internationally. Movie rentals followed in January 2008 when Apple introduced its ‘hobby’ product, the Apple TV.