Today in Apple history: iPod shows it has life after iPhone

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Apple released three new iPods, including the first iPod touch, nine years ago today.
Photo: Apple

5SeptSeptember 5, 2007: Apple introduces its first new iPods after the release of the iPhone, with the third-gen iPod Nano, newly-renamed iPod Classic, and — most significantly — the debut of the iPod touch.

In doing so, it sets out to demonstrate that there is still plenty of life left in Apple’s iconic portable music player.

The September 2007 refresh of the iPod range was an important turning point in the iPod’s lifecycle. The original iPod, released in 2001, was one of the most iconic products Apple ever created. However, a fatal blow was struck against it in 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone.

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The first iPod Classic not available in white.

Standing on stage to introduce Apple’s new smartphone that January, Steve Jobs described the iPhone as a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet communications device, but also as a widescreen iPod with touch controls.

It was a great way to explain to people what the iPhone was, and what it did, but it also undercut the iPod in the same way that the Macintosh’s arrival undercut the Apple II. If Apple was packaging those three items together in a stunning new device, why would anyone in their right mind want to buy them separately?

The three new iPods represented Apple’s attempt to answer that question.

The new, third-gen iPod Nano competed with the iPhone as a music player by virtue of being tiny. The refreshed Nano boasted a two-inch QVGA, and a shorter, wider design than its predecessors. It also added a new interface, video playback, new colors, and support for iPod Games.

The iPod Classic, meanwhile, was a way of refreshing Apple’s original iPod brand by giving it a sheen of retro chic. This was the sixth version of Apple’s original clickwheel iPod, and Apple marked the occasion by giving it a slimmer body, significantly improved batter life, and — for the first time — replacing the signature white polycarbonate plastic exterior with a silver one.

This was the first time an iPod was not available in white.

The most important new iPod, however, was the iPod touch. The iPod touch was basically the iPhone without a phone (or, as Jobs would later quip, the “iPhone without a contract.”)

It ticked many boxes iPod fans had wanted for a number of years: being a widescreen, WiFi-enabled portable media device, as well as offering internet browsing, Apple’s multi-touch interface, an accelerometer, integrated rear camera, and more.

The iPod touch was important not just because it was the most dramatically different iPod Apple had released in years. It also made clear how Apple viewed the iPod fitting into its wider product line. Instead of being the device Apple built its empire around, the iPod touch was the “training wheels” designed to get younger customers into the Apple ecosystem. This was the iPhone before you got your first real iPhone.

It also arguably tested the waters for the later iPad — which was initially viewed in some quarters as being a bigger iPod touch.

Did you buy a new iPod in 2007 and, if so, which model did you opt for and why? Leave your comments below.