On May 10, Apple announced that it was officially phasing out the iPod out of the lineup. “Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry – it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to and shared,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
In the eyes of some old users, the iPod touch is not a “real” iPod, but rather an “iPhone that cannot make phone calls”.
Therefore, there are different opinions about the end of the iPod era: some believe that Apple discontinued the iPod classic in 2014 and the “orthodox” iPod with Touch Wheel no longer exists; others believe that it is 2017, the last generation of iPod nano and shuffle was discontinued as a “Walkman” iPod.
This time, Apple itself officially announced the end of the iPod era. In the official press release, Apple uses a rather sentimental title: the music lives on.
The iPod story began with the idea that Steve Jobs wanted to explore a “new territory.”
In the late 1990s, Steve Jobs, who had spent more than 20 years struggling with computers, experiencing ups and downs, leaving Apple and returning, wanted to “build something new.”
On October 23, 2001, Jobs stood on a small indoor stage and announced to the media and the audience that Apple would enter the “music” field and release a “music player.”
Why, Jobs explained simply: “We love music, and music is a part of everyone’s life.” After a series of explanations, he pulled the device called the iPod out of his pocket, ushering in the era of the iPod. As a “Walkman,” the 1st generation iPod has three “groundbreaking” features.
First, the iPod uses “hard disk storage.” The original iPod had a 5GB hard drive that could store 1,000 songs. This capacity was exaggerated in 2001. The iBook notebook computer of the same generation as the iPod has only a 10GB hard drive.
Second, Apple developed the “Clickwheel” for the iPod. When users flip through the hundreds of songs stored on the iPod, they do not have to keep pressing a button to turn the page; they turn the wheel with their fingers, and the speed of the turn determines the speed of the flip. This interaction method goes back to Apple’s experience in making touchpads for notebooks. At that time, it very elegantly solved the problem of “searching for songs” in the Daqu library.
Third, the iPod is equipped with Apple’s high-speed FireWire interface. FireWire not only enabled the iPod to achieve transfer speeds 30 times faster than the USB standard at the time, but it could also transfer and charge data simultaneously through this interface. It was also a very avant-garde design at the time.
It was all about one thing: putting your entire music collection in your pocket and taking it with you wherever you go.
To achieve this, the iPod also uses a method of managing songs that “syncs” with your computer. To import songs to your iPod, you must first save the songs to iTunes on your computer.
This logic led many early home users to find the iPod “difficult to use” and “annoying,” unlike many MP3 players that you simply plug into your computer and drag the files in.
But Jobs clearly had a mind of his own. In 2001, most consumers in the U.S. bought CDs. iTunes lets users copy and manage digital music files from CDs to their computers. On that premise, most users’ music libraries, including playlists, are already in iTunes. The most convenient way is to connect an iPod and synchronize with one click.
Jobs also hated “downloading pirated music from the Internet” because, he said, the original intent in developing the iPod was “the love of music.” Therefore, when he made a player with a “hard drive” as the storage medium, he feared above all that users would take advantage of the iPod’s convenience to listen to pirated music.
Therefore, Apple also limited the ability to sync songs from the computer to the iPod, but not from the iPod to the computer. The first iPods had “Do not steal music” written on the packaging.
At the time, Apple was really only making money on the hardware. Users could also use the iPods to listen to pirated music, which meant no loss for Apple, but Jobs insisted on that decision anyway. Upon its release, the iPod became an instant success. Since then, based on the original design, Apple has launched a total of 6 generations of iPods. The last generation, released in 2007, was called iPod classic and was considered a classic by a whole generation of music fans.
Immediately after the release of the first iPod, Apple began researching something that seemed innocuous at the time but had profound implications: making the iPod small.
Since 2004, Apple has successively released the 2nd generation iPod mini, the 7th generation iPod nano, and the 4th generation iPod shuffle. The biggest commonality is “small,” smaller, and smaller. That the iPod is small is not hard to understand: It’s a “Walkman” and the lighter and smaller it is, the easier it is for users to carry it around.
It can also be said that Apple, precisely because it made the iPod, gained experience with small motherboards, mobile applications, power supply, and memory management during the development process. This experience in mobile development laid the foundation for the later development of the iPhone.
In terms of design and craftsmanship, Apple made the aluminum body and central metal frame of the iPod nano and shuffle in one piece. The company gained experience in CNC cutting technology and with the precipitation of the industry, it later has the one-piece aluminum case.
Mac, iPhone, and even the Apple Watch, the earliest prototypes, were partly based on the iPod nano 6. The iPod nano 6 from that year had a small square touchscreen, and Apple also introduced a matching wristband so users could wear it on their hands.
The sixth-generation iPod nano is the prototype for the Apple Watch
In 2007, at the history-making unveiling of the iPhone, Jobs said on stage, “Today we are going to introduce three new products: an iPod, a cell phone, and an Internet communications device.” Together, these three definitions are the iPhone.
The iPod and the iPhone, both of which are “mobile devices,” have an incomparably close relationship that ultimately made Apple what it is today. After the iPhone was launched that year, given its relatively high price, Apple quickly launched a product that allowed users to “experience the iPhone at a lower price”: the iPod touch.
Functionally, the iPod touch is almost an iPhone that cannot make calls. Since the hardware is very similar, there was even an “Apple Skin” that turned the iPod touch into an iPhone through an attachable communication baseband + cracking system.
On the iPod touch, many people felt the charm of “multi-touch” and iOS for the first time, and it also became the first place for many to fall for Apple.
From gramophone to Walkman, from tape to CD, from iPod to Internet service, generations of music lovers, like the “fire thief” Prometheus, use the torch called technology to spread music.
In this sense, the end of the iPod is not “dead,” but it completes the task of passing on the fire. Today, 21 years after its birth, music is more ubiquitous and alive than ever.