Steve Jobs told us about the iPhone years before introducing it: speaking to Playboy in 1985, he talked about the future “merging of the telephone and the personal computer”.

Product development had taken years. The ill-fated Motorola ROKR iTunes phone was a learning experience for Apple’s engineers. “It was a way to put our toe in the water, and learn something,” Jobs said.

The launch of the Motorola ROKR device in September 2005 was eclipsed by that of the iPod nano, and company executives were opaque on future plans. “Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee? There is no such combined device, because it would not make anything better than an individual toaster or coffee machine,” Apple’s iPod chief, Jon Rubenstein, told Der Spiegel.

The company wasn’t being completely honest. Work on the iPhone had begun five years before its unveiling on 9 January 2007. The product – which combined a phone with a best-in-class music player and PDA – shipped in June that year.

Huge excitement meets the launch of each new iPhone

The iPhone forced carriers to accept ever more sophisticated and data-hungry devices on their networks. The Apple mobile spawned its own nemesis in the form of Google’s Android OS, but was a nemesis to others. Speaking in June 2007, Ed Colligan, then Palm CEO, said: “I’ve never seen the kind of feeding frenzy we’ve seen in the media. We expect it [the iPhone] to be a very successful product – but I don’t know how it can possibly live up to the hype.”

The iPhone was an immediate hit, with one million being sold in 74 days. The iPhone 3G, 3GS, and 4 followed. The iPhone now leads the smartphone industry and with 20 million sales in the last quarter alone, Apple has beaten Nokia to become the world’s biggest handset maker.

It’s easy to trace the connection between the iPhone and its iPod ancestor: both share the same rectangular shape, both offer intuitive controls, both play music. The late 2007 launch of the iPod touch, (“an iPhone without calls”) kept the iPod in the family.

Initially, Apple disappointed developers when it refused to offer a software development SDK, but soon changed its mind, launching the App Store in July 2008. Developers rushed to offer apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. Since then more than 15 billion have been downloaded from the Store, which now hosts over 500,000 iOS apps. iOS 5 is set to ship later this year.

Apple’s iPad tablet leads the nascent industry

iPhone to iPad

The iPod evolution took another leap in 2010, when Apple announced the iPad. Dismissed by some as a “giant iPhone”, this tablet computer offered the portability and simplicity of an iOS device alongside the extended app-driven power of the App Store. Quickly regarded as a world-class gaming device, the iPad 1 and iPad 2 now comprise the biggest-growing games platform with over 28 million sold.

The iPad also brought Apple into the enterprise markets it has always found difficult to penetrate. A decade on and the iPod halo continues to shine.  MW

Life and times of the iPod

January: iTunes launched
October: iPod launched

March: 10GB iPod ships
July: Second-generation iPod launched
July: Windows-compatible iPod available Apple had sold 600,000 iPods by the end of the year

April: iTunes Music Store opens for business in the US
April: Third- generation iPod out with capacity for 7,500 songs iTunes sells one million songs in one week; 10 million songs sold by the end of September
June: Apple sells millionth iPod
October: iTunes Music Store opens for Windows users
December: iTunes downloads exceed 25 million tracks; Record two million iPod sales reached

January: iPod mini launched
March: iTunes downloads reach 50 million
June: iTunes Music Store opens in UK, France and Germany
July: iTunes downloads reach 100 million
July: Fourth-generation iPod with iPod mini-style solid-state Click Wheel debuts
October: iPod U2 edition and colour-screened iPod photo ship
October: iPod price cuts help increase sales fivefold
December: Record 200 million iTunes downloads and 10 million iPod sales reached

January: Flash-based iPod shuffle ships
July: iTunes downloads reach half a billion
August: iTunes Music Store opens in Japan
September: iPod nano replaces iPod mini, slimmer than a pencil it becomes the biggest-selling music player ever made
October: iTunes begins offering TV shows and movies
October: Fifth-generation iPod ships; Apple has now sold 42 million iPods

February: iTunes sells its billionth song
May: Apple and Nike introduce Nike+
September: iPod nano gets new aluminium look
September: iPod shuffle introduced
October: Number of iPods sold through 2006 reaches 88 million

January: Apple launches iPhone
April: EMI catalogue now available DRM-free on iTunes 100 millionth iPod sold
May: iTunes U launches
July: Songs sold via iTunes hits three billion mark
September: iPod touch with WiFi and Multi-Touch debuts; Apple has sold 141 million iPods by the end of the year

January: iTunes movie rentals appear
April: iTunes becomes biggest US music retailer
June: iTunes hits five billion song sales
September: Over 90 per cent of new cars sold in the US are now iPod compatible

January: iTunes Store – all music now DRM free
March: HD movies for iTunes Store
September: iPod nano has sold more than 100 million units to date
November: Number of iPods sold through 2009 reaches 250 million

February: iTunes Store reaches 10 billion sales
June: Apple sells three million iPads in 80 days
June: iPhone 4 launched
August: Downloads via iTunes U hits 300 million mark
September: New iPod touch, iPod nano, shuffle and iTunes 10 ship; iPods sold reach 275 million mark
November: The Beatles now on iTunes

March: Apple launches iPad 2
June: Apple announces iOS 5 and iCloud
July: 314 million iPods sold
August: At 20 million sales in a quarter, the iPhone becomes the world’s biggest-selling mobile handset