The iPod Family

Apple’s iPods began life as white-and-silver rectangles. But as the family grew and prospered, the case designs changed, shrank, and sported colors. These days, the only thing you can count on in the iPod family is change itself.

  • Original iPod. In October 2001, Apple unleashed the first, Macintosh-only model with 5 gigabytes of storage and a moving scroll wheel. It worked with Apple’s free iTunes 2 software for encoding and organizing music files.

  • 10-gigabyte iPod. Apple, realizing it had a good thing on its hands, announced the 10 GB iPod in March 2002. It still had a scroll wheel that actually turned, and it was still Macintosh-only—in theory. Windows and Linux users were already at work adapting the player for use with their own systems.

  • Windows iPod. In July 2002, the Windows world got what it was craving: iPods formatted to work naturally with Windows and the popular MusicMatch Jukebox software. Apple also introduced a new, thinner version of the 10-gigabyte iPod whose scroll wheel was an immobile, solid-state “touchwheel” that responded to finger pressure.

  • 20-gigabyte iPod. The iPod got itself a big sibling that same July day in the form of the 20 GB touchwheel iPod. Both of the touchwheel iPods came with a small remote control that hooks into the headphones cord, and a black carrying case complete with a belt clip. In all, there were then three iPod models—in 5 GB, 10 GB, and 20 GB sizes—in separate Mac and Windows formats.

  • 2003 iPods. The third-generation iPods arrived in a flash of music-related announcements from Apple. The new iPod line came in 10 GB, 15 GB, and 30 GB models, each of which could work either with Mac or Windows. The new iPods were thinner; the 15 and 30 GB models even came with a glossy white docking station that held the iPod upright while it charged, connected to the computer, or blasted tunes though the built-in line-out jack to the family stereo. Later in the year, Apple changed the hard drive sizes to 10 GB, 20 GB, and 40 GB—but the iPod’s look remained the same. (In January 2004, the hard drive offerings grew again, to 15, 20, and 40 gigabytes.)

  • iPod Mini. Apple introduced the iPod’s first spin-off in early 2004 (updated in 2005): the iPod Mini—a streamlined, rounded-edged miniature version that can hide behind a business card and looks like the offspring of a lipstick tube and a box of Tic-Tacs. The navigation buttons are right on the scrolling “click wheel,” and its smooth anodized aluminum case now comes in four bright colors: silver, blue, pink, and green. Within its striking shell, the first Mini contains a 4 GB or 6 GB hard drive that holds 1,000 or 1,500 songs (in AAC format) and includes a cable to connect by USB 2.0. (FireWire, standard on the first Minis, is now just an option.) But while it may look mini on the outside, on the inside it runs the same operating system that lets it do everything a regular iPod can do.

  • 2004 iPods. Melding the best of both worlds, Apple transplanted the Mini’s space-saving click wheel onto the body of a full-size white iPod and gave both Mac and PC owners the option of FireWire or USB 2.0 connections right out of the box. The company also rejiggered the iPod’s menus, bringing the ever-popular and surprising Shuffle Songs command out to the main screen and streamlining all the music-related tasks into one area. Apple also streamlined the iPod line itself and offered the 2004 models in only two hard drive sizes—20 gigabytes or 40 gigabytes—but knocked $100 off the price tag in the process.

  • The Apple iPod from HP. Apple isn’t the only company that will ever sell iPods. Hewlett-Packard started selling its own Apple-branded version of the iPod in 2004. It, too, is white and based on the 2004 click wheel line, but HP’s Pods come with their own set-up poster and documentation designed just for Windows, plus a year of unlimited technical support. The company preloads the iTunes music-playing software on all of its consumer PCs to make it even faster to get up and Podding along. HP even came up with a new way to let its customers make their players stand out from the rest of the mighty white herd: HP Printable Tattoos—thin waterproof stickers with a wide range of designs that people can slap on and peel off to their hearts’ content (and without leaving a gummy residue on the iPod’s little body).

  • iPod U2 Special Edition. Even if you’re not a megafan of Bono and the rest of the boys in the popular Irish band, the U2 Special Edition iPod makes a fashion statement: it’s an official, Apple-issued black iPod with a saucy red click wheel. This 20-gigabyte model also features the band members’ autographs laser-engraved on the chrome back, a U2 poster, and a $50 iTunes Music Store coupon toward “The Complete U2,” a digital collection of more than 400 of the band’s songs.

  • iPod Photo.Rumors had swirled for years that Apple had a color-screen picture iPod in the works at their secret laboratories, and in October 2004, the company rolled out that very item: a regular-looking iPod that could store a ton of tracks (available in a 40-or 60-gigabyte capacity; later, a 30 GB version) and had a bright, backlit color screen to display your digital photos right there as you grooved to your tunes. But its visionary powers aren’t just limited to its tiny screen—a dock and cable are also available to let you plug the iPod Photo right into your television to rock out to slideshows on the big screen.

  • iPod Shuffle. No longer content to completely dominate the hard drive player market, Apple whipped the curtains back in January 2005 to reveal its own take on the inexpensive flash-memory music player, and called it the iPod Shuffle. Available in 512-megabyte and 1-gigabyte variations, the iPod Shuffle streamlines the iPod idea into a screenless white stick that’s light enough to be worn as a necklace, can automatically fill itself up with random selections from iTunes, and can shuffle those songs with the flick of a switch.

Clearly, the evolution of the iPod has only just begun.

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