Editor’s note: We originally published this illustrated history of the iPod to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary on Oct. 22, 2011 (and updated it a decade later). We republished it on May 10, 2022, when Apple finally pulled the plug on the iPod.
The iPod grew out of Steve Jobs’ digital hub strategy. Life was going digital. People were plugging all kinds of devices into their computers: digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players.
The computer was the central device, the “digital hub,” that could be used to edit photos and movies or manage a large music library. Jobs tasked Apple’s programmers with making software for editing photos, movies and managing digital music. While they were doing this, they discovered that all the early MP3 players were horrible. Jobs asked his top hardware guy, Jon Rubinstein, to see if Apple could do better.
January 11, 2005: Steve Jobs introduces the world to iPod shuffle, an entry-level music player that lacks a display. The device randomly shuffles the audio files it holds, but lets users easily skip songs they don’t like.
The first iPod to use flash memory, the iPod shuffle plugs directly into a computer using USB 2.0 and comes in 512MB and 1GB configurations. Oh, and it’s smaller than a pack of gum — and weighs less than an ounce!
It’s been a few years since the iPod shuffle was last updated, but there are still plenty of fans out there with fond memories of Apple’s tiniest iPod music player.
If you fall into that camp, you might want to check out the Mighty, a music player that’s basically an iPod shuffle for Spotify. The latest version, called the Mighty Vibe, brings increased battery life and an improved Bluetooth antenna. (It also boasts a refreshed companion app.)
Nick Wellings listens to music on his iPhone, preferring not to disturb any one of his 108 iPods.
He figures his collection would hold 231,000 songs, but only one has ever been touched or seen the light of day. They remain factory-sealed in their boxes.
The iPod’s status as an icon was brief but seismic, a sleek and at-times-colorful trigger of upheaval to the music industry in the middle of the century’s first decade. Soon the iPhone, which grew more powerful with each generation, relegated the iPod to junk drawers, closets and boxes, next to that cassette-tape-playing Sony Walkman.
Today, the iPod shuffle you’ve been hoping for is getting a shot at life — no thanks to Apple. Mighty Audio is launching its Kickstarter campaign for the new Mighty streaming music player, a small clip-on device that can stream Spotify wherever you go without having to use your smartphone. A portable, affordable music player with streaming capabilities? Yes please.
Today’s iPod refresh came as an odd surprise to some and maybe even a long-awaited update to others. Now that the iPod line is finally up-to-date after being dormant for a few years, you might even be considering buying one.
Regardless of how you feel, do yourself a favor: Don’t buy one.
After a short amount of time offline, the Apple Online Store is back up and running — selling a refreshed line of iPods, featuring some feature upgrades, and a nifty new gold color option.
Apple has released new iPod shuffle, nano, and touch devices, representing the first major upgrade for the product lines since way back in 2012. While the shuffle and nano both get the new gold color — alongside five other color options — the biggest upgrade is reserved for the iPod touch.