If you’ve been an Apple user for the long haul, you probably remember your first iPod. For many people, it was their first MP3 player, and their introduction to the world of Apple. In 2022, Apple decided to finally discontinue the iPod. But we wanted to take a moment to look at how this game-changing device paved the way for the smartphones of today.
So here are all the ways the iPod made devices like the iPhone possible.
1. It Was Apple’s First Successful Handheld Device
The iPod has a long history, but you might be surprised to learn that it was not Apple’s first attempt at a handheld device. That title actually goes to the lesser-known Apple Newton, an early PDA that launched all the way back in 1993. That being said, there’s a reason you probably haven’t heard of the Newton. It was not a sales success.
The iPod, on the other hand, was a sales monster. Creating the iPod helped Apple break into the growing handheld electronics market, allowing Apple to experiment with mobile design, marketing, and user interfaces. This proved to be valuable experience, providing lessons Apple would use to create the first iPhone.
Even though many creatives and students swear by their Macs, these days Apple is known first and foremost for producing handheld devices like the iPhone and iPad, and that tradition started with the release of the first iPod.
2. It Saved Apple
Even though Apple is a giant today, the company has had more than its fair share of ups and downs in the past. In the mid-1990s, Apple wasn’t doing so well. After a series of less-than-stellar product launches, Apple was close to going under.
All of that changed when the company reinvented itself and released a slew of hugely successful products, which included the first iMac, the iBook, and most importantly, the iPod. The iPod’s release brought a huge amount of attention to Apple, and with it came some much-needed cash flow. In fact, by 2007 almost half of Apple’s revenue came directly from iPod sales.
Without the iPod, Apple may not even exist today. Even if it did, it probably would not be the tech giant we know it to be. The iPod can be credited as one of the key products that took Apple from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the largest companies on Earth.
3. It Made Technology Cool
The iPod did not invent the portable music player. Sony had launched the Walkman all the way back in 1979, and by the mid 90s there were tons of MP3 players on the market. But those devices were just music players, the iPod was much more.
Before the iPod, it was common to look at technology as a tool, and not much else. Unless you were part of the industry, computers were probably something you used for work or school, but not much more. The iPod flipped that notion on its head.
Choosing an iPod meant you had style. You were not just listening to music, you were listening to music on an iPod. It was the birth of the “Apple person.” These days, when a new iPhone comes out, one of the first things many people are interested in is the design. What materials is it made out of? How has the design changed? The iPhone is a status symbol as much as it is a phone, and that trend started with the iPod.
4. There Was a Version for Everyone
These days, if you’re an iPhone user, you know you’ve got options to choose from. Apple sells an entire range of devices under the iPhone name, ranging from the top-end Pro Max, which can cost thousands of dollars, all the way down to the iPhone SE, which is designed to be more affordable.
But that idea of creating a device for everyone started with the iPod. When the iPod first launched, it came in one design, with one color: white. While that lasted for a few years, Apple slowly but surely started to give consumers more choice. Eventually we saw the iPod range grow into a vast spread of products. There were iPod minis, iPod shuffles, iPod nanos, and eventually the iPod touch, with all of them coming in different colors.
Just like iPhones today, there was an iPod for everybody.
Before the iTunes store was launched in 2003, there were not many options for getting music onto the iPod. Many people were still burning physical CDs. All of that changed when the iTunes Store launched.
iTunes became Apple’s one-stop music marketplace for the iPod. The iTunes Store transformed the iPod from a simple music player to part of an entire ecosystem. iTunes not only made music more accessible, but it also made it cheaper. In the past, people often ended up buying entire albums just to get a couple songs. On iTunes, instead of buying an entire album, you could preview and purchase just the songs you wanted, and you could do it all without leaving the house.
iTunes became a huge success, and Apple later expanded it to include movies, podcasts, and more. Today, it seems like almost everybody has a subscription to a music streaming service. Whether you’re a die-hard Spotify user or you prefer Apple Music, these days you can get access to millions of songs for a low monthly fee. But these kinds of streaming services may not have existed without iTunes and the iPod.
The iPod’s Legacy Lives On
After a 21-year run, Apple finally discontinued the iPod in 2022. Even though the iPod’s story is now over, it will always be remembered as one of Apple’s most successful and influential products. Money talks, and 450 million units sold speaks for itself.
Although many people might look back on devices like the iPod as “just” an MP3 player, that little music player not only saved Apple, but made products like the iPhone possible.
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