Apple will ship the iPod mini internationally starting July 24, the company announced today, and it will cost just £179 (including VAT).

Apple introduced the tiny music player at Macworld Expo San Francisco in January. The hard-disk-based iPod mini is about the size of a credit card – just 1.57cms thick, but stores up to 4GB of music.

Encased in an anodized aluminum case, the iPod mini is the first iPod to be available from Apple in custom colours silver, gold, pink, blue or green. It features the same interface as the iPod, and also features a solid-state scroll wheel, but with navigation buttons relocated to the scroll wheel itself. It weighs 3.6 ounces, (103 grams).

The iPod mini interfaces with Macs or PCs using its 30-pin interface and either a FireWire or USB 2.0 cable. It can charge its internal battery using either USB 2.0 or FireWire as well, and an AC adaptor is also included.

Just like its big brother, the iPod mini automatically synchronizes with iTunes, Apple's digital music jukebox software.

Apple announced on March 25 that the mini wouldn't be available worldwide until July, about three months later than it had originally anticipated. Apple said that stronger than expected demand in the US has constrained supplies through the end of June – particularly of the product's Hitachi-manufactured hard drives.

iPod mini makes max market

"We expected the iPod mini was going to be a hit," Greg Joswiak, Apple's Vice President of Hardware Product Marketing told MacCentral at the time. "The iPod is the most popular music player in the world. The iPod mini has been an even bigger hit than we had guessed it would."

When the product was originally announced, Apple said it would cost £199 in the UK. An outcry ensued, as Mac users pointed out the sharp difference between the US and the seemingly punitive UK price. Apple responded by saying it would re-examine the price closer to when the product shipped, as it has done with a final price of £179.

Speaking today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: "The iPod mini has been a smash hit in the US, and we're thrilled to finally be able to offer it to music lovers the world over. iPod has changed the way people listen to music and is now the number one digital music player in the world."

Apple created the iPod mini to compete in the flash storage-based MP3 player market. About the size of a credit card, the iPod mini can store up to 4GB of music and costs $249 in the US (about £140 plus tax).

The price and storage capacity initially led industry pundits to suggest that the iPod mini wouldn't succeed, but when the iPod mini began shipping in mid-February Apple announced that 100,000 pre-orders for the iPod mini had already been placed.

"The supply for the iPod mini is limited because we're using new technology," Joswiak told MacCentral. "We're using just about all of the 4GB 1-inch hard drives that are being made."

If you were going to buy an iPod mini which colour would you opt for – and why? Let us know in this week's poll.

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