The complete history of Apple's iPod

To celebrate the iPod's 10th birthday, we embark on a tour of the iconic MP3 player from its very first model, right up to the present day.

Nate Lanxon
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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
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Apple's iPod celebrates its 10th birthday this month. Rather than splash out on jelly and ice cream and party hats, we take a look through its past from its humble beginnings in 2001, through to the sharp new iPod touches of 2011.

Our iPod adventure begins in October 2001, when Apple launched its first portable music player.

The first incarnation of the device that was to revolutionise the music industry had a mechanical scroll wheel and launched with 5GB and 10GB capacities, starting at a shade under £300.

The name 'iPod' was coined for use with the Apple music player by copywriter Vinnie Chieco. He was called in by Apple to help market the new product. Curiously, Apple had already registered the trademark 'iPod', but had originally intended it to be used as the name for its Internet kiosks, though these never saw the light of day.

iPod 2nd

The second-generation iPod waved sayonara to the clunky mechanical scroll wheel and introduced the touch-sensitive version still in use today, albeit in a different form.

Released in July 2002, the new model built on the success of the first incarnation, and came in capacities up to 20GB for £399, with the 5GB model at £259 and 10GB for £329.

With the third-generation iPod, Apple did away with the buttons that surrounded the touch-sensitive wheel, instead setting backlit controls horizontally under the LCD screen.

This edition launched in April 2003 and was the first model to use Apple's 30-pin dock connector. 10GB, 15GB and 30GB models were available, costing £249, £299 and £399 respectively.

The next child in Apple's musical creche wasn't a new version of the existing iPod, but an entirely new model: the iPod mini. The mini launched in January 2004, with 4GB of memory for £199.

The iPod mini came in five snazzy colours and brought with it the first use of the Click Wheel. This iconic and ground-breaking navigation system became ubiquitous within the iPod line until the iPhone was released in 2007, which uses purely gesture-based touch-sensitive control methods.

Mere months later, in July 2004, Apple launched the fourth-generation iPod. Like the mini, the new iPod boasted the Click Wheel -- one of Apple's best interface innovations to date.

The fourth-generation model came in 20GB and 40GB capacities, costing £219 and £299 respectively. This model was seen as something of a blow to the iPod mini, as its price -- just £20 more than its younger brother -- represented much better value for money in terms of storage. Its significantly larger size attracted a different crowd, however, and so both models existed harmoniously.

Later that year, the iPod photo was launched. The date was September 2004 and this was the first model to feature a full-colour screen. As the name suggested, the iPod photo was geared up to store and display your photo albums.

This added extra came at one hell of a price (well, two prices): £359 for the 40GB model; £429 for the 60GB. The iPod had pushed into the same price range as small second-hand cars. But hey, you could look at photos of those cars while you sat on the bus.

The 20GB U2-branded red and black iPod was also unveiled that month, costing £249. It was a monochrome-screen fourth-gen iPod, re-skinned in tribute to rock's most middle of the road Pope-botherers.

January 2004 had been the birth of the iPod mini. January 2005, just one year later, gave birth to a healthy new offspring: the first iPod shuffle.

The shuffle was something of a curiosity: it had no screen, no Click Wheel and no dock connector. At just £69 for 512MB, however, the shuffle instantly stole the hearts of joggers and young teens everywhere.

A 1GB model was also launched at a price of £99. Some naysayers emitted loud nays at the shuffle's launch, but over six years later, the shuffle, albeit in a totally new design, still reigns as king of the miniature MP3 players.

Just one month after the shuffle's launch, Apple unveiled the second-generation iPod mini in February 2005.

The new minis had something of a makeover -- the colours on offer were much brighter, and the coloured lettering on the Click Wheel now matched that of the iPod's body.

Battery life was also significantly improved (the original mini's battery life was often criticised). A 6GB model was offered for £169, while the original 4GB capacity sold for £139 -- a far more reasonable price than the previous version.

When September 2005 arrived, the iPod mini drew the noose around its neck, took one final bow to its patrons and stepped to its death. It was, of course, the iPod nano that cut down the limp body, and it was vastly superior to its predecessor.

The iPod nano launched in black and white, and 2GB and 4GB capacities, costing £139 and £179 respectively. Gone were the mini's micro-drives; replacing them were the holier-than-thou flash memory. Although the nano was generally well received, its easily scratched screen not only caused a consumer outcry, but also sparked a class-action lawsuit against Apple. Apple subsequently shipped protective cases with future models.

In October 2005, Apple unveiled its next full-sized iPod -- a model whose form factor has not changed in two full years.

The fifth-generation iPod was the first model to play video and was very well received. It had a larger, sharper colour screen, slimmer form factor and better battery life.

A 30GB video iPod would set you back £219, while a 60GB version would cost you £299. An 80GB version was later released and included, among other things, a library-search feature, and was accompanied by fifth-generation iPod price cuts across the board.

It was over a year before Apple took the mask off its next iPod. In September 2006, the second-generation nano was launched.

The new nano had a trendy anodised aluminium casing and came in five colours. Two-gig, 4GB and 8GB models were available at £99, £129 and £169 respectively.

The hysteric jubilation for the new iPod nano notwithstanding, Apple undid its trenchcoat again in September 2006 and flashed the world with another titchy member: the second-generation iPod shuffle.

Shuffle 2.0 came in the form of a clip. Some argue the new model had a clip; others claim it was a clip. The other 99.98 per cent of civilisation simply sat back and got on with things.

The new shuffle came only in a 1GB version for a touch over £50. Also present was the nano-esque anodised aluminium casing and the choice of several colours.

Then, in September 2007, we had a plethora of new iPods to choose from. The iPod touch became the 'true' video iPod the world had been sweatily dreaming about. It brought the best mobile browsing experience to palms everywhere, offering the iPhone-like iPod experience many people had been holding out for, and eventually got 32GB of memory.

Its partner in crime, the iPod classic, was also introduced in September. It was essentially a revamped, tripped-out fifth-generation iPod with more go-faster stripes than we care to count, and up to 160GB of storage.

A third-generation iPod nano with "a little video for everyone" was also introduced, complete with a fat form factor to make the chunkiest of us feel slightly better about ourselves.

Spy-shot photographs of this nano leaked before the official announcement was made, leading the blogosphere to worry in advance that the nano was to become all dumpy. No one seemed that bothered once it was released though. A pink 8GB model was released in the following January.

Finally, a new shuffle came out... well, it had new colours. (And a small 's' to match its lower-case siblings, spelling fans.)

The September 2008 line-up vanquished Dumpy McFatnano to the rotting cesspits of silicon hell, introducing a fourth-generation nano with the original tall form factor of earlier models.

It retained video playback and the same screen as the chubby version, but now offered an internal accelerometer, 16GB of memory and the new Genius playlist functionality. It was also the first model to introduce spoken menus for vision-impaired users.

We were disappointed to see the 160GB iPod classic was wiped from existence this year, along with the 80GB model. Instead, Apple brought out a single second-generation classic with 120GB of hard disk space, but in the first-generation classic's thinner form factor. It also included the new Genius feature.

But stealing the show was the new iPod touch, which launched with a new curvy design to match the new iPhone 3G, built-in speakers, a physical volume control (this was a hotly demanded feature), 3D gaming and various other features previously offered as software upgrades, such as Microsoft Exchange email support.

Once again there were new iPod shuffles, but they were just paint jobs -- the players themselves didn't change.

September 2009 brought the arrival of the third-generation iPod shuffle.

It was smaller than ever, but still sporting one massive clip to attach to your polo-shirt sleeve so that everyone knows just how sporty you are.

The lack of a screen still made it difficult to operate but for only £60 for a 4GB model, it was understandably a good seller.



The fifth-generation iPod nano was released in 2009 and packed a larger screen and a video camera.

There wasn't a whole lot of point in the video camera, but it was a fun addition nonetheless, although it oddly didn't take still images as well.

It was available in a rainbow of colours and up to 32GB in size, although the top model would cost a not insignificant £139.

The iPod touch third-generation retained the same look and feel of the previous iteration but boasted improved internal hardware making it much more zippy to use.

Fans of 3D gaming apps were very pleased at the power boost it had received, and the ease of use quickly helped push the touch into the hearts of music-lovers everywhere.

It was available in a 64GB model which was plenty of room for a vast music collection, but you'd have to shell out £300.

2010 saw the advent of the fourth-generation iPod shuffle.

The stretched design of the third-generation had been given an unceremonious boot, to be replaced with the new square version, which naturally still houses a massive clip on the back.

The VoiceOver feature made navigating around your music fairly simple, as did the easy to press buttons on the its colourful face.

A full colour, multi-touch screen was added to the sixth-generation iPod nano. It may only be a small screen, but poking around with your little finger isn't much of a hassle and it's great for flicking through album art.

If you're feeling particularly geek-chic, you can pop it on a wrist-strap and set it to display up to 16 different clock faces. Lovely.

The 16GB model will set you back £129 and is available in more colours than we knew existed.

The fourth-generation iPod touch was outed in 2010.

This new model packed the gloriously sharp retina display found on the iPhone 4 and also packed a front-facing camera for FaceTime.

It has the same simple operation of previous models and of course full access to the Apple App store. The 64GB model demanded 329 of your hard-earned pounds.

The fifth-generation iPod touch was shown off in October 2011.

It's not a massive upgrade from the previous model, but it's running Apple's iOS 5, which offers various handy extras such as iMessage and a notification centre for message and alerts.

It's also offered in a white variety for those that can't stand dull colours on their gadgets.

It's still as expensive as ever though, coming in at a cool £329.

And there you have it; a full decade of iPod goodness. Do you have a favourite? Was there a model you simply couldn't stand? Let us know in the comments below or over on our official Facebook page.

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2002 saw the advent of the second-generation iPod and its touch-sensitive wheel.
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The third-generation model was released in 2003, with capacities up to 30GB.
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2004 saw the birth of the iPod mini, with its delightful colourful shells.
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The fourth-generation iPod was released in 2004, packing the lovely Click Wheel.
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The iPod photo arrived in September 2005, with a colour screen that was perfect for viewing all those snaps on.
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The iPod shuffle was also born in 2005.
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The second-generation iPod mini turned the same year, with brighter colours and better battery life.
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The arrivial of the iPod nano signalled the death of the iPod mini. We were okay with it.
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2005 also saw the arrival of the fifth-generation iPod, with a better screen and more attractive design.
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The second-generation iPod nano came wrapped in a sleek metal case.
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2006 saw the arrival of the second-generation iPod shuffle, with its handy clip.
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In 2007, we were greeted with the arrival of the iPod touch, the upgraded iPod classic and a fatter, video-optimised iPod nano.
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The new iPod nanos went back to the original slim forms.
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The third-generation iPod shuffles were smaller than ever.
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The fifth-generation of iPod nanos arrived in 2009 packing a larger screen and a camera.
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The iPod touch third-generation offered upgraded internal specs and a larger capacity option.
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The fourth-generation iPod shuffle was still small enough to swallow. If you tried really hard.
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The fifth-generation iPod nano was as small as the shuffle, but packed a touchscreen so you can wear it as a watch.
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2010 saw the arrival of the fourth-generation iPod touch, with an improved design and front-facing camera for FaceTime.
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The fifth-generation of the iPod touch was released in 2011 and is available in a crisp, white suit.

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