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An iPod retrospective: every model ever!

Apples iPods changed how we listen to music forever. Here we take a stroll through the history of the various models and their evolution over the last 20 years.

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SarahTewHS2012urbanSuare01.jpg

Sarah Tew

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1 of 33 Apple images composited by Sarah Tew/CNET

A look at the evolution of the iPod

Apple introduced it's original iPod on October of 2001 and at that time it would have been impossible to predict just how much this product's development would massively impact the way we interact with music, media and the internet at large. 

The original iPod
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The original iPod

The very first iPod featured a scroll wheel that you physically turned with your finger. This model came with options for 5 or 10 gigabytes of storage.  It had an actual hard drive inside so dropping your glossy next-wave music device was a terrifying thing.

2nd Gen iPod
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2nd Gen iPod

On the 2nd generation, announced in July of 2002, Apple introduced it's "Touch Wheel". This model came in 10 or 20 GB.

3rd Gen iPod
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3rd Gen iPod

The 3rd generation iPod offered up to 40 GB of storage and featured both a "dock connector" on the bottom and a touch wheel.

4th Gen iPod
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4th Gen iPod

This 4th generation iPod had a "click wheel" like the later iPod Mini, though was still limated to a monochrome display.

iPod Photo
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iPod Photo with color display

The color screen was introduced on the "iPod Photo" model here, available in 20 or 60 GB capacity. It was ideal for viewing album artwork or even looking at slideshows.

Special U2 Edition iPod
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Special U2 Edition iPod

In what was surely a marketing coup for U2, Apple released it's first and last band-specific special edition in October of 2004. What made it special was it's black plastic exterior and red click wheel -- plus it had engraved signatures of the band members on the back. Several iterations were released through 2006 including one based on a 5th Generation iPod with video.

5th generation iPod
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5th generation iPod

In October 2005 the 5th Generation iPod added video and featured a large color display a clickwheel, USB for syncing and either 30 or 60 GB of storage. In late 2006 an 80 GB version was made available.

iPod Classic
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A music-lovers dream come true: The iPod Classic

In September of 2007 the iPod Classic was introduced, sporting an anodized aluminum enclosure and offering a whopping 160 gigabytes of storage. It was a simpler music-focused ipod with click wheel for those who wanted to carry their entire music collection with them. These became a fan favorite and future iterations were released in 2008 and 2009 in 120 GB and 160 GB respectively.

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Smaller now: iPod Mini

In January of 2004 the iPod Mini made it's debut. It came in an array of pastels and was smaller and lighter than previous models. It held 4 GB of songs and featured the new "hold" switch.

2nd Gen iPod Mini
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2nd Gen iPod Mini

New colors were added to the Mini line in February of 2005, available with either 4 or 6 GB of storage.

Original iPod Shuffle
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Wildly unpredictable: the iPod Shuffle

In 2005 a new concept in listening was born with the iPod Shuffle. It was small and light and skipped the display -- and forced users to give up selection control over the music, only offering choices to skip to the next random song that appeared in your "shuffle," or going back to the previous song. The word "shuffle" was familiar to those of us who had owned 5 disc+ CD players in the pre-iPod era. 

2nd Gen iPod Shuffle
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2nd Gen iPod Shuffle

The 2nd generation of the shuffle took on more of the color options that thrilled people across the iMac and iPod Mini lines. The model was the smallest yet -- with just 1 or 2 GB of storage -- and it featured a clip. Keep in mind, we were using wired earbuds this whole time.

3rd Gen iPod Shuffle
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3rd Gen iPod Shuffle

The 3rd generation of Shuffle was introduced in March 2009 in a simplified color scheme. It was smaller than the previous models and had 4 GB of storage as well as a headphone port that also connected to your computer via USB and controls built into the headphones/cord.

3rd Gen iPod Shuffle
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3rd Gen iPod Shuffle

in 2009 more colors were added to the 3rd generation Shuffle and it shrank in size once again.  At 2 or 4 GB, the shuffle line seemed to be aimed at casual listeners who used it when working out.

4th Gen iPod Shuffle
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4th Gen iPod Shuffle

In 2010 a freshly elegant and tiny Shuffle (the 4th generation) made its debut in 5 jewel-tones with 2 GB.

4th Gen iPod Shuffle
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4th Gen iPod Shuffle

Another iteration in 2012 offered seven sort-of-different colors.

4th Gen iPod Shuffle
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4th Gen iPod Shuffle

In mid-2015 the iPod Shuffle's 4th generation was refreshed with 5 more colors.

Original iPod Nano
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Sleek and Simple: iPod Nano

In 2005 the iPod Nano was announced, which seemed to be a new spin on the Mini concept. With a color screen and click wheel but less delicate flash memory, this model allowed syncing over a USB 2 cable. It was available in 1, 2, or 4 GB. 

2nd Gen iPod Nano
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2nd Gen iPod Nano

The Nano's 2nd generation came out in 4 colors with up to 8 GB of storage in 2006. 

3rd Gen iPod Nano
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3rd Gen iPod Nano

The 3rd generation iPod Nano got an entirely new form -- shorter and squatter but ever so dainty and thin. It could play video, though was limited to 8 GB of space. 

4th Gen iPod Nano
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4th Gen iPod Nano

iPod Nano shapeshifted again in September of 2008 when its 4th generation was introduced. It featured a taller screen and an sleek oval shape when viewed from the side and was offered in 8 or 16 GB models.

5th Gen iPod Nano
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5th Gen iPod Nano

In 2009 the 5th generation of Nano added a camera and microphone built into the device.

6th Gen iPod Nano
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6th Gen iPod Nano

The 6th generation Nano saw the line shrunk down to the size of a watch-face and indeed many accessories were developed for folks to wear this ipod as a watch. It squeezed up to 16 GB into it's magically small touch-screen color discplay.

7th Gen iPod Nano
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7th Gen iPod Nano

In 2012 the Nano line morphed into a vaguely iphone-like shape, with a home button and a larger multi-touch display. It was offered in 8 shades with up to 16GB.

7th Gen iPod Nano
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7th Gen iPod Nano

2015 saw another 5 colors released in the 7th generation Nano model.

iPod Touch: the original
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The next level: iPod Touch

The original iPod Touch model debuted in September of 2007 and yes, it looked, felt and worked very much like the iPhone. For the first time you could browse the internet, watch YouTube and directly buy songs through the iTunes store right there over WiFi on your iPod. This model came in 8, 6, or 32 GB.

2nd Gen iPod Touch
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2nd Gen iPod Touch

The 2nd generation Touch came out the following year and looked slightly different, but no special spec changes were announced.

3rd Gen iPod Touch
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3rd Gen iPod Touch

The 3rd generation introduced in 2009 offered increased capacity at 64 GB.

4th Gen iPod Touch
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4th Gen iPod Touch

In 2010 the iPod Touch got it's first camera in the 4th generation-- two actually, a Facetime HD camera and an iSight camera. The model was available in classic glossy white or black.

5th Gen iPod Touch
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5th Gen iPod Touch

The 5th generation of iPod's Touch line arrived in October 2012 with 5 color options and the iSight and FaceTime HD cameras. It was available with 16, 32, or 64 GB of storage.

6th Gen iPod Touch
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6th Gen iPod Touch

The 6th generation Touch came with up to 128 GB in 5 new colors starting in the summer of 2015.

7th Gen iPod Touch
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7th Gen iPod Touch

The most recent iPod available is the 7th generation Touch that came out in May of 2019. Maxing out at a whopping 256 GB and sporting an 8MP camera plus the FaceTime HD camera it has everything you'd want in a non-phone mobile device!

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