The iPod is a line of portable media players and multifunction handhelds designed and marketed by Apple Inc. The first version was released on October 23, 2001, just months after the release of the Macintosh version of iTunes. As of July 27, 2017, only the iPod Touch remains in production. Like other digital music players, iPods can serve as external data storage devices. Apple’s iTunes software (and other software) can be used to transfer music, photos, videos, games, contact information, e-mail settings, web bookmarks, and calendars. and Microsoft Windows operating systems. Prior to the release of iOS 5, the iPod brand was used for the media player included with the iPhone and iPad, a combination of Music and Videos applications on the iPod Touch. Since iOS 5, separate applications named “Music” and “Videos” are standardized on all iOS products. While the iPhone and iPad have essentially the same multimedia player capabilities as the iPod range, they are generally treated as separate products. In the middle of 2010, iPhone sales exceeded those of the iPod.
Though the iPod was released in 2001, its price and Mac-only compatibility caused sales to be relatively slow until 2004. The iPod line came from Apple’s “digital hub” category, when the company began creating software for the growing market of personal digital devices. Digital cameras, camcorders and organizers had well-established mainstream markets, but the company found existing digital music players “big and clunky or small and useless” with user interfaces that were “unbelievably awful,” so Apple decided to develop its own. As ordered by CEO Steve Jobs, Apple’s hardware engineering chief Jon Rubinstein assembled a team of engineers to design the iPod line, including hardware engineers Tony Fadell and Michael Dhuey, and design engineer Sir Jonathan Ive. Rubinstein had already discovered the Toshiba hard disk drive while meeting with an Apple supplier in Japan, and purchased the rights to it for Apple, and had also already worked out how the screen, battery, and other key elements would work. The aesthetic was inspired by the 1958 Braun T3 transistor radio designed by Dieter Rams, while the wheel-based user interface was prompted by Bang & Olufsen’s BeoCom 6000 telephone. The product (“the Walkman of the twenty-first century” ) was developed in less than one year and unveiled on October 23, 2001. Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Apple did not develop the iPod software entirely in-house, instead using PortalPlayer’s reference platform based on two ARM cores. The platform had rudimentary software running on a commercial microkernel embedded operating system. PortalPlayer had previously been working on an IBM-branded MP3 player with Bluetooth headphones. Apple contracted another company, Pixo, to help design and implement the user interface under the direct supervision of Steve Jobs. As development progressed, Apple continued to refine the software’s look and feel. Starting with the iPod Mini, the Chicago font was replaced with Espy Sans. Later iPods switched fonts again to Podium Sans—a font similar to Apple’s corporate font, Myriad. Color display iPods then adopted some Mac OS X themes like Aqua progress bars, and brushed metal meant to evoke a combination lock. In 2007, Apple modified the iPod interface again with the introduction of the sixth-generation iPod Classic and third-generation iPod Nano by changing the font to Helvetica and, in most cases, splitting the screen in half by displaying the menus on the left and album artwork, photos, or videos on the right (whichever was appropriate for the selected item). In 2006 Apple presented a special edition for iPod 5G of Irish rock band U2. Like its predecessor, this iPod has engraved the signatures of the four members of the band on its back, but this one was the first time the company changed the colour of the metal (not silver but black). This iPod was only available with 30GB of storage capacity. The special edition entitled purchasers to an exclusive video with 33 minutes of interviews and performance by U2, downloadable from the iTunes Store. In September 2007, during a lawsuit with patent holding company Burst.com, Apple drew attention to a patent for a similar device that was developed in 1979. Kane Kramer applied for a UK patent for his design of a “plastic music box” in 1981, which he called the IXI. He was unable to secure funding to renew the US$120,000 worldwide patent, so it lapsed and Kramer never profited from his idea. The name iPod was proposed by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter, who (with others) was called by Apple to figure out how to introduce the new player to the public. After Chieco saw a prototype, he thought of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the phrase “Open the pod bay door, Hal!”, which refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. Chieco saw an analogy to the relationship between the spaceship and the smaller independent pods in the relationship between a personal computer and the music player. Apple researched the trademark and found that it was already in use. Joseph N. Grasso of New Jersey had originally listed an “iPod” trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in July 2000 for Internet kiosks. The first iPod kiosks had been demonstrated to the public in New Jersey in March 1998, and commercial use began in January 2000, but had apparently been discontinued by 2001. The trademark was registered by the USPTO in November 2003, and Grasso assigned it to Apple Computer, Inc. in 2005. The earliest recorded use in commerce of an “iPod” trademark was in 1991 by Chrysalis Corp. of Sturgis, Michigan, styled “iPOD”. In mid-2015, several new color schemes for all of the current iPod models were spotted in the latest version of iTunes, 12.2. Belgian website Belgium iPhone originally found the images when plugging in an iPod for the first time, and subsequent leaked photos were found by Pierre Dandumont. On July 27, 2017, Apple removed the iPod Nano and Shuffle from its stores, marking the end of Apple producing standalone music players. Currently, the iPod Touch is the only iPod produced by Apple.
The third-generation iPod had a weak bass response, as shown in audio tests. The combination of the undersized DC-blocking capacitors and the typical low impedance of most consumer headphones form a high-pass filter, which attenuates the low-frequency bass output. Similar capacitors were used in the fourth-generation iPods. The problem is reduced when using high-impedance headphones and is completely masked when driving high-impedance (line level) loads, such as an external headphone amplifier. The first-generation iPod Shuffle uses a dual-transistor output stage, rather than a single capacitor-coupled output, and does not exhibit reduced bass response for any load. For all iPods released in 2006 and earlier, some equalizer (EQ) sound settings would distort the bass sound far too easily, even on undemanding songs. This would happen for EQ settings like R&B, Rock, Acoustic, and Bass Booster, because the equalizer amplified the digital audio level beyond the software’s limit, causing distortion (clipping) on bass instruments. From the fifth-generation iPod on, Apple introduced a user-configurable volume limit in response to concerns about hearing loss. Users report that in the sixth-generation iPod, the maximum volume output level is limited to 100 dB in EU markets. Apple previously had to remove iPods from shelves in France for exceeding this legal limit. However, users who have bought a new sixth-generation iPod in late 2013 have reported a new option that allowed them to disable the EU volume limit. It has been said that these new iPods came with an updated software that allowed this change. Older sixth-generation iPods, however, are unable to update to this software version.