RIP iPod, you walked so smartphones could run


JAPAN - NOVEMBER 24: A woman walks by an iPod Mini display outside the Apple Store in Tokyo's Ginza district Wednesday, November 24, 2004. In Japan, home to four of the five top electronics companies by sales, advance orders made Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod mini the top-selling portable player three weeks before its July 24 release. It still is. (Photo by Michael Caronna/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Image Credits: Bloomberg / Getty Images

A long, long time ago, before the iPod, MP3 players were badly designed devices with insufficient storage. The market was ripe for a change, and Steve Jobs, who had returned to Apple four years prior, was ready to give it to us.

On October 23, 2001 the company released its first music player with a scrolling wheel and 5GB and 10GB storage options. Who would ever need so much?

And it was a design like no other. In fact, it would have a similar impact on music lovers that the Sony Walkman had two decades earlier. We would fall in love with it and the device would be the first of many that led Apple from the brink of bankruptcy to a multitrillion-dollar company.

And a humble music player got it all started.

Just yesterday, the company announced the end of the road for venerated device. That it lasted this long was a testament to its popularity, but when the company released the iPhone in 2007, it seemed to mark the beginning of the end for a music-only gadget. Why would you need a separate thing for your music when the phone could handle everything?

It would still hang on for years in spite of that, especially with the iPod Touch, which provided both music storage and internet access in one package, a nice compromise for people who didn’t want a full-fledged phone.

As my colleague Brian Heater wrote about yesterday’s final blow:

Apple this morning announced that the iPod is dead. That is, as much as a particular gadget can ever be dead. Rather, it will shuffle off this mortal coil slowly, remaining for sale while supplies last. So if you were considering purchasing one for any reason, buy now or forever hold your peace.

I remember quite clearly getting my first iPod. It was a 4GB Mini. I couldn’t tell you the year exactly, but I remember sitting in the driveway of my children’s piano teacher waiting for them to complete their lesson and trying to figure out exactly how this thing worked.

iPad Mini
My much loved and scuffed iPad Mini. Image Credits: Ron Miller

I was a bit baffled by the scrolling wheel design at first, but once I figured it out, like so many things Apple has created over the years, I recognized the elegance of the approach. I remember the smoothness of the cool silver case in my hand, the way my thumb moved around the wheel and the sound of the music as I pushed the headphones into my ears.

It put 1,000 songs at my fingertips, which seemed like more than I would ever need.

While the device was as cool as the other side of the pillow (as Stuart Scott used to say on ESPN), the software you used to connect to it left something to be desired; iTunes was as clunky as the iPod was cool. But it provided a way to buy music for $.99 a song, and to build a library from your CDs, at a time when people were using services like Napster to share music without paying for it. That combination of hardware and software really proved to be a game changer.

But it wasn’t only the smartphone that did in the music players like iPod. Services like Spotify, and yes Apple Music, that would come along later would provide access to not just 1,000 songs, or 10,000 songs as later models held, it would give you access to most any music you could imagine. We didn’t really need a dedicated device to hold our music anymore.

The iPod is a gadget from bygone days now, one that seems quaint looking back, but for a time it captured our attention and our imaginations, and gave us access to portable digital music in a way that just hadn’t existed prior to its release.

And for that, it will hold a special place in many of our hearts forever, regardless of whether Apple produces them anymore or not.

The iPod is dead

More TechCrunch

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back