This week, Apple introduced that it’s discontinuing the iPod Contact, its final product with the “iPod” title. Greater than 20 years after the unique iPod was introduced, and after over a decade within the shadow of the iPhone, it may be laborious to recollect simply how essential the machine was to Apple. However the music participant helped outline the corporate we all know at the moment — and was a giant think about bringing it again from the brink of spoil.
The story of Apple’s comeback has been advised time and again to the purpose of turning into mythologized, so I’ll attempt to hold it temporary. The Nineteen Nineties weren’t variety to the corporate, nearly leaving it bankrupt. By the flip of the century, although, issues had been beginning to flip round: the iMac G3 was promoting nicely, and Apple’s income was beginning to develop once more. However whereas the unique iMac stabilized Apple as an organization, Apple was nonetheless a distinct segment participant when it got here to the general shopper electronics market.
Enter the iPod. In October 2001, Steve Jobs launched the now-iconic transportable music participant, which synced to your Mac over FireWire, and held 1,000 MP3 songs on a 5GB laborious drive. It wasn’t the primary transportable media participant, however one of many iPod’s first commercials (which featured loads of dancing however no silhouettes) immediately confirmed why you’d need one: with only a few clicks, you may take your laptop’s music library on the go along with a tool that slot in your pocket.
iPod gross sales exploded over the following few years as Apple launched extra fashions and added Home windows assist. In 2002, Apple bought round 400,000 iPods, in response to Statista. By 2006, Apple was promoting 39 million of them a 12 months. The iPod had shortly outstripped the Mac when it comes to models bought, reaching a far wider viewers and, critically, making most of the people conversant in Apple as an organization that makes merchandise you carry round in your pocket.
And the gross sales stored rising. In accordance with Statista, the corporate would promote over 51 million in 2007. However that was the 12 months Apple launched its subsequent large factor: the iPhone.
The iPod looms giant over the iPhone’s announcement — a lot in order that the very first thing Steve Jobs says in regards to the smartphone is that it’s “a wide-screen iPod with contact controls.” It was an apt comparability, because the iPhone constructed on many ideas the iPod launched.
Let’s begin with the apparent: when the iPhone first got here out, you had to sync it with iTunes to activate it and set it up. Jobs used that as a promoting level when introducing it, saying that iPod house owners would already know learn how to arrange their cellphone and would seemingly have their knowledge already in iTunes. And after you set the cellphone up, you’d see an app known as iPod on it — its icon depicting a basic scrollwheel-adorned machine.
Then there’s the App Retailer, which got here to outline the iPhone, regardless of not even being one in all its unique options. By the point it launched in 2008, Apple already had half a decade of expertise constructing and sustaining a digital storefront. It had launched the iTunes Music Retailer in 2003 as a technique to buy digital music in your then-new third-gen iPod. And Apple began promoting films on iTunes in 2006 because it constructed out its infrastructure for the age of transportable media consumption. The iPhone was a revolution in some ways, but it surely’s laborious to think about what it might’ve regarded like with out the iPod.
After all, the iPod doesn’t deserve credit score for the whole lot that the iPhone popularized. It had video games, however they weren’t one in all its major promoting factors till the iPod Contact. And regardless of Steve Jobs’ joke in the course of the iPhone announcement, the clicking wheel was largely usurped by the touchscreen regardless of many individuals’s fond recollections of the enter machine.
Whereas the iPod would dwell on for years after the iPhone was launched (even the Nano and Shuffle held on for a few decade after iOS got here onto the scene), its days because the factor Apple was recognized for had been numbered. Apple’s gross sales report for iPods was in Q1 2009 — shoppers purchased 23 million of them. On the time, these would’ve been second-gen Shuffles, first and second-gen iPod Touches, fourth-gen Nanos, and the iPod Basic.
The iPod would by no means attain these heights once more. As iPhone gross sales took off like a rocket, fewer and fewer folks purchased iPods. In 2010, the iPad (which Apple dreamed up as a touchscreen machine earlier than it got here up with the concept for the iPhone) was launched. Inside two years, it too was outselling the iPod at its peak. The iPod Contact was machine in case you wished an iPhone with out the cellphone — however, for most individuals, the iPad match that mildew even higher.
The iPod’s significance at Apple continued to decrease over the following decade. By 2015, Apple’s earnings experiences lumped the iPod into an “Different Merchandise” class with the Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats, and “Apple-branded and third-party equipment.” The iPod Basic, the final within the line began by the unique iPod, was discontinued in 2014. The iPod Nano and Shuffle could be subsequent to go in 2017, and the iPod Contact lastly fell in 2022.
It’s laborious to think about that Apple bought many seventh-gen iPod Touches over the previous few years, however there are positive to be not less than a number of those that’ll miss it — after I went to my native Apple Retailer on Tuesday to purchase one, the staff advised me I used to be removed from the primary particular person to take action upon listening to the information that it was discontinued. Beginning at $199 for a 32GB mannequin, it was the most cost effective iOS machine you may purchase new from Apple. That honor now falls to the entry-level iPad, which begins at $329 for a 64GB mannequin. The Contact was additionally the final simply pocketable machine that Apple bought with (say it with me now) a headphone jack.
Whereas the iPod could also be no extra, its legacy lives on. You’ll be able to draw loads of traces from the iPod lineup to what Apple’s doing efficiently at the moment — music continues to be a giant a part of its id, each with its streaming service and astoundingly widespread AirPod lineup. Apple liked video a lot it named a whole iPod mannequin after it; now, it has Apple TV Plus, and markets the iPhone on its video prowess. And keep in mind that time folks had been carrying the sq. touchscreen iPod Nanos as a watch?
However whereas companies, wearables, and equipment are essential to Apple, the iPhone continues to be its greatest money-maker by far. That sort of success doesn’t come right down to anybody issue; it occurs due to a decade-plus-long collection of excellent selections and strong advertising and marketing. However Apple may solely make the iPhone due to all of the momentum it constructed up within the 2000s — and a number of that occurred due to the chord it struck with the iPod.