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12 Years And Counting: The Amazing Life Of Apple's iPod

12 Years And Counting: The Amazing Life Of Apple's iPod
Tech4 min read

Evolution of the iPod_02

Business Insider/Mike Nudelman

It will be twelve years this winter that marks the first time a childhood friend and I were finally allowed take the train into Manhattan sans chaperone.

When we got off the train at Grand Central Terminal, we began to walk toward the theater district (we were going to see "Rent"), and we excitedly took it all in.

All of a sudden, my friend pointed up at an ad sitting right on top of the Times Square Applebee's.

"I got that for Christmas," she told me.

The ad was simple:

iPod first ad 2001


"...What is it?" I asked her.

Apparently it was something we could use to play our music. Perplexed, we talked about her father's obsession with new tech (they were an Apple family long before the rest of us caught up), and matter-of-factly decided that we loved our discmans. We didn't need the iPod.

"I already returned it," she confessed.

In 2001, the ad above was for the first generation - first ever - iPod. Steve Jobs had introduced it a few months earlier, attempting to be the market leader for digital music, which had just started to make its way onto the scene (for context, I had received a CD burner that same Christmas and it took 24 minutes to download a song off now-defunct Napster).

Original iPod 2001 gif

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We all know how the rest of the story goes. You might even be reading this on your iPhone, or your iPad.

And on this 12th anniversary, we take a look back on the history of the pocket-sized music machine that did exactly what Jobs intended it to do: revolutionize the way we consume and experience music.

Above to the right is the very first iPod, which was released in October of 2001, and could hold up to 1,000 songs, as the ad boasts. The Apple Store didn't exist at the time, so the device was only helpful if you had loaded all of your CDs onto your computer. Then, as the commercial suggests, you could choose which songs you wanted to load onto your iPod and take with you.

This is the first iPod commercial:

In April 2003, Apple released its third iPod (the second iPod was same as the first, but compatible with Windows). This iPod could hold up to 7,500 songs and introduced the now-iconic "silhouette"-themed commercials.

iPod Silhouette Gif

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The silhouette commercial proved to be an advertising campaign with a long shelf life.

The ads drew in millions of new consumers, using upbeat music in a dual promotional effort to advertise The Apple Store, which launched at the same time as the third generation iPod and had 250,000 songs available to download for $.99 each.

Many of the songs used in Apple commercials ended up becoming hits or launching careers of artists who were relatively unknown at the time of the ad's release. You can find a complete list of all the songs used in Apple ads here.

The coming of the Apple Store gave a greater reason to purchase the iPod; it was compatible with Windows, so you didn't have to be an Apple user to buy the device (and at the time, most people weren't).

By the end of 2004, over 10 million iPods had been sold since its 2001 release. Earlier that year, Apple created the iPod mini, which was a smaller version of the regular iPod and came in a variety of colors. The mini featured kids in all of its commercials, harnessing a new, younger generation of iPod users.

iPod U2


The U2-themed iPod.

Then came the U2 Special Edition iPod - remember that?

As part of the partnership between the company and band, Apple created a U2-branded iPod, offered U2's single "Vertigo" exclusively through the iTunes store, produced an iPod commercial featuring U2 (see below), and created the first-ever digital box set featuring all of U2's albums.

"The iPod is probably the greatest pop object since the electric guitar," Bono was quoted in Chuck Klosterman's A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas. "We-as a band-feel strongly about the iPod. We-as a band-talked about the idea for an iPod years ago."

iPod Nano Gif

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The original iPod Nano.

By 2005, the device had become somewhat ubiquitous, and Apple had found its groove, releasing an iPod that played video (music videos, movies, and television shows were made available for purchase on iTunes), the first iPod shuffle (a screenless device that played up to 100 songs, advertised to the athletic types), and the first iPod nano, which went on to replace the mini.

Here's the commercial that introduced the iPod Video. The U2/Apple relationship was clearly still flourishing.

In 2006, customers could barely keep up with Apple's fast paced innovation. 88 million iPods had been sold by the end of that year, and iTunes saw its billionth song download.

Nano Evolution Gif

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Between 2006 and 2010, Apple released five different versions of the iPod nano, and it went on to be the best selling iPod ever.

There were new, more colorful versions of the shuffle as well.

Then finally, rounding out the iPod family, the advent of the iPod Touch in 2007.

In September of 2012, it was recorded that over 350 million iPods had been sold since it hit shelves in 2001.

In this video below, you can see the evolution of iPods (including iPhones) from 2001-2012. Count them; there are 25 different devices here.

As of June 2013, the iTunes Store possesses 575 million active user accounts, and serves over 315 million mobile devices, including iPods, iPhones and iPads.

iPod Think Differently Gif

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