Apple's iTunes software can be used to transfer music to the devices from computers using certain versions of Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems. For users who choose not to use Apple's software or whose computers cannot run iTunes software, several open source alternatives to iTunes are also available. iTunes and its alternatives may also transfer photos, videos, games, contact information, e-mail settings, Web bookmarks, and calendars to iPod models supporting those features. Apple focused its development on the iPod line's unique user interface and its ease of use, rather than on technical capability. As of September 2007, more than 150 million iPods had been sold worldwide, making it the best-selling digital audio player series in history.
iPod 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 Jonathan Ive. The product was developed in less than one year and unveiled on 23 October 2001. Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put "1,000 songs in your pocket."
Uncharacteristically, Apple did not develop the iPod software entirely in-house, instead using PortalPlayer's reference platform based on 2 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. iPods with color displays then adopted some Mac OS X themes like Aqua progress bars, and brushed metal in the lock interface. 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 September 2007, during the course of 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 patented the idea of a "plastic music box" in 1979, which he called the IXI. He was unable to secure funding to renew the $120,000 worldwide patent, so it lapsed and Kramer never profited from his idea. Kramer is now in talks with the company to discuss how he will be reimbursed.
The iPod line can play several audio file formats including MP3, AAC/M4A, Protected AAC, AIFF, WAV, Audible audiobook, and Apple Lossless. The iPod Photo introduced the ability to display JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, and PNG image file formats. Fifth and sixth generation iPod Classics, as well as third generation iPod Nanos, can additionally play MPEG-4 (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC) and QuickTime video formats, with restrictions on video dimensions, encoding techniques and data-rates. Originally, iPod software only worked with Mac OS; iPod software for Microsoft Windows was launched with the second generation model. Unlike most other media players, Apple does not support Microsoft's WMA audio format — but a converter for WMA files without Digital Rights Management (DRM) is provided with the Windows version of iTunes. MIDI files also cannot be played, but can be converted to audio files using the "Advanced" menu in iTunes. Alternative open-source audio formats, such as Ogg Vorbis and FLAC, are not supported without installing custom firmware onto an iPod (e.g. Rockbox).
During installation, an iPod is associated with one host computer. Each time an iPod connects to its host computer, iTunes can synchronize entire music libraries or music playlists either automatically or manually. Song ratings can be set on an iPod and synchronized later to the iTunes library, and vice versa. A user can access, play, and add music on a second computer if an iPod is set to manual and not automatic sync, but anything added or edited will be reversed upon connecting and syncing with the main computer and its library. If a user wishes to automatically sync music with another computer, an iPod's library will be entirely wiped and replaced with the other computer's library.
iPods with color displays use anti-aliased graphics and text, with sliding animations. All iPods (except shuffle and touch) have five buttons and the later generations have the buttons integrated into the click wheel — an innovation that gives an uncluttered, minimalist interface. The buttons perform basic functions such as play, next track, etc. Other operations such as scrolling through menu items and controlling the volume are performed by using the click wheel in a rotational manner. The iPod Shuffle does not have a click wheel and instead has five buttons positioned differently from the larger models. The iPod Touch uses no buttons for any of these functions, instead relying on a multi-touch input style similar to that of the iPhone.
Purchased audio files use the AAC format with added encryption. The encryption is based on the FairPlay DRM system. Up to five authorized computers and an unlimited number of iPods can play the files. Burning the files onto an audio CD, then re-compressing can create music files without the DRM, although this results in reduced quality. The DRM can also be removed using third-party software. However, in a deal with Apple, EMI began selling DRM-free, higher-quality songs on the iTunes Stores, in a category called "iTunes Plus." While individual songs were made available at a cost of US$1.29, 30¢ more than the cost of a regular DRM song, entire albums were available for the same price, US$9.99, as DRM encoded albums. On 17 October 2007, Apple lowered the cost of individual iTunes Plus songs to US$0.99 per song, the same as DRM encoded tracks.
iPods cannot play music files from competing music stores that use rival-DRM technologies like Microsoft's protected WMA or RealNetworks' Helix DRM. Example stores include Napster and MSN Music. RealNetworks claims that Apple is creating problems for itself by using FairPlay to lock users into using the iTunes Store. Steve Jobs has stated that Apple makes little profit from song sales, although Apple uses the store to promote iPod sales. However, iPods can also play music files from online stores that do not use DRM, such as eMusic or Amie Street.
Universal Music Group decided not to renew their contract with the iTunes Music Store on 3 July 2007. Universal will now supply iTunes in an 'at will' capacity.
Apple debuted the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store on 5 September 2007, in its Media Event entitled "The Beat Goes On..." This service allows users to access the Music Store from either an iPhone or an iPod Touch and download songs directly to the device that can be synced to the user's iTunes Library.
All iPods except for the iPod Touch can function in "disk mode" as mass storage devices to store data files. If an iPod is formatted on a Mac OS X computer it uses the HFS+ file system format, which allows it to serve as a boot disk for a Mac computer. If it is formatted on Windows, the FAT32 format is used. With the advent of the Windows-compatible iPod, the default file system used on the iPod line switched from HFS+ to FAT32, although it can be reformatted to either filesystem (excluding the iPod shuffle which is strictly FAT32). Generally, if a new iPod (excluding the iPod Shuffle) is initially plugged into a computer running Windows, it will be formatted with FAT32, and if initially plugged into a Mac running Mac OS X it will be formatted with HFS+.
Unlike many other MP3 players, simply copying audio or video files to the drive with a typical file management application will not allow an iPod to properly access them. The user must use software that has been specifically designed to transfer media files to iPods, so that the files are playable and viewable. Aside from iTunes, several alternative third-party applications are available on a number of different platforms.
iTunes 7 and above can transfer purchased media of the iTunes Store from an iPod to a computer, provided that the DRM media is transferred to any of the five computers allowed for authorization with DRM media.
Media files are stored on an iPod in a hidden folder, together with a proprietary database file. The hidden content can be accessed on the host operating system by enabling hidden files to be shown. The audio can then be recovered manually by dragging the files or folders onto the iTunes Library or by using third-party software.
|Chipset or electronic||Product(s)||Component(s)|
|Microcontroller||iPod (Classic) first to third generations||Two ARM 7TDMI-derived CPUs running at 90 MHz|
|iPod (Classic) fourth and fifth generations, iPod Mini, iPod Nano first generation||Variable-speed ARM 7TDMI CPUs, running at a peak of 80 MHz to save battery life|
|iPod Nano second generation||Samsung System-On-Chip, based around an ARM processor.|
|iPod Shuffle first generation||SigmaTel STMP3550 chip that handles both the music decoding and the audio circuitry.|
|Audio chip||All iPods (except the shuffle and 6G)||audio codecs developed by Wolfson Microelectronics|
|Sixth generation iPods||Cirrus Logic audio codec chip|
|Storage medium||iPod (Classic) first to sixth generation||45.7 mm (1.8 in) hard drives (ATA-6, 4200 rpm with proprietary connectors) made by Toshiba|
|iPod Mini||25.4 mm (1 in) Microdrive by Hitachi and Seagate|
|iPod Nano||Flash memory from Samsung, Toshiba, and others|
|iPod Shuffle and Touch||Flash memory|
|Batteries||iPod (Classic) first and second generation, Nano, Shuffle||Internal lithium polymer batteries|
|iPod (Classic) third to sixth generation||Internal lithium-ion batteries|
Originally, a FireWire connection to the host computer was used to update songs or recharge the battery. The battery could also be charged with a power adapter that was included with the first four generations. The third generation began including a dock connector, allowing for FireWire or USB connectivity. This provided better compatibility with PCs, as most of them did not have FireWire ports at the time. The dock connector also brought opportunities to exchange data, sound and power with an iPod, which ultimately created a large market of accessories, manufactured by third parties such as Belkin and Griffin. The second generation iPod Shuffle uses a single 3.5 mm jack which acts as both a headphone jack and a data port for the dock.
Eventually Apple began shipping iPods with USB cables instead of FireWire, although the latter was available separately. As of the first generation iPod Nano and the fifth generation iPod Classic, Apple discontinued using FireWire for data transfer and made a full transition to USB 2.0 in an attempt to reduce cost and form factor. With these changes, FireWire could only be used for recharging.
Introduced in the third-generation iPod, a 30-pin dock connector allows iPods to be connected to a variety of accessories, which can range from televisions to speaker systems. Some peripherals utilize their own interface, while others use an iPod's own screen for access. Such accessories may be used for music, video, and photo playback. Because the dock connector is a proprietary interface, the implementation of the interface requires paying royalties to Apple.
The white earphones (or "earbuds") that ship with all iPods have become symbolic of the brand. Advertisements feature them prominently, often contrasting the white earphones (and cords) with people shown as dark silhouettes. The original earphones came with the first generation iPod. They were revised to be smaller after Apple received complaints of the earbuds being too large. The revised earphones were shipped with second through early fifth generation iPods, the iPod Mini, and the first generation Nanos. The earbuds were revised again in 2006, featuring an even smaller and more streamlined design. This third design was shipped with late fifth generation iPods and the second-generation nanos. All first generation iPod Shuffles and the second generation up until 30 January 2007 (when color models were introduced) were shipped with the second design; those that shipped after that date were destributed with the third design of the earbuds.
In 2005, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority placed advertisements on the subways warning passengers that "Earphones are a giveaway. Protect your device", after iPod thefts on the subway rose from zero in 2004 to 50 in the first three months of 2005.
BMW released the first iPod automobile interface, allowing drivers of newer BMW vehicles to control an iPod using either the built-in steering wheel controls or the radio head-unit buttons. Apple announced in 2005 that similar systems would be available for other vehicle brands, including Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, Toyota , Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Acura, Audi, Honda, Renault, Infiniti and Volkswagen. Scion offers standard iPod connectivity on all their cars.
Some independent stereo manufacturers including JVC, Pioneer, Kenwood, Alpine, Sony, and Harman Kardon also have iPod-specific integration solutions. Alternative connection methods include adaptor kits (that use the cassette deck or the CD changer port), audio input jacks, and FM transmitters such as the iTrip — although personal FM transmitters are illegal in some countries. Many car manufacturers have added audio input jacks as standard.
Beginning in mid-2007, four major airlines, United, Continental, Delta, and Emirates reached agreements to install iPod seat connections. The free service will allow passengers to power and charge an iPod, and view video and music libraries on individual seat-back displays. Originally KLM and Air France were reported to be part of the deal with Apple, but they later released statements explaining that they were only contemplating the possibility of incorporating such systems.
The software bundled with the first generation iPod was Macintosh-only, so Windows users had to use third-party software like ephPod or XPlay to manage their music. When Apple introduced the second generation of iPods in July 2002, they sold two versions, one that included iTunes for Macintosh users and another that included Musicmatch Jukebox for Windows users. In October 2003, Apple released the Windows version of iTunes, and started selling iPods that included both Macintosh and Windows versions of iTunes so that they could be used with either platform. Current iPods no longer ship with iTunes, which must be downloaded from Apple's website.
In December 2002, Apple unveiled its first limited edition iPods, with either Madonna’s, Tony Hawk’s, or Beck’s signature or No Doubt's band logo engraved on the back for an extra US$50. On 26 October 2004, Apple introduced a special edition of its fourth generation monochrome iPod, designed in the color scheme of the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by Irish rock band U2. It had a black case with a red click wheel and the back had the engraved signatures of U2's band members. This iPod was updated alongside the iPod Photo and fifth generation iPod.
On 13 October 2006, Apple released a special edition 4 GB red iPod Nano as part of the Product Red campaign. An 8 GB version was released three weeks later and both of them sold for the same price as the standard models. US$10 from each sale is donated to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria. On 5 September 2007, Apple also added a Product Red iPod Shuffle model. They did not disclose how much will be donated to charity from this model. Apple also released Special Edition Harry Potter iPods to accompany the iPod Photo. These were engraved with the Hogwarts Crest on the back and were only available to purchasers of the Harry Potter audiobooks. They were updated when the fifth generation iPods were released, but were only available for a limited time.
In 2007, a Cubismo special edition 2 GB silver iPod Nano was made available only in the former Yugoslav republics.
Apple's application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a patent on "rotational user inputs", as used on the iPod interface, received a third "non-final rejection" (NFR) in August 2005. Also in August 2005, Creative Technology, one of Apple's main rivals in the MP3 player market, announced that it held a patent on part of the music selection interface used by the iPod line, which Creative dubbed the "Zen Patent", granted on 9 August 2005. On 15 May 2006, Creative filed another suit against Apple with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Creative also asked the United States International Trade Commission to investigate whether Apple was breaching U.S. trade laws by importing iPods into the United States.
On 24 August 2006, Apple and Creative announced a broad settlement to end their legal disputes. Apple will pay Creative US$100 million for a paid-up license, to use Creative's awarded patent in all Apple products. As part of the agreement, Apple will recoup part of its payment, if Creative is successful in licensing the patent. Creative then announced its intention to produce iPod accessories by joining the Made for iPod program.
Since October 2004, the iPod line has dominated digital music player sales in the United States, with over 90% of the market for hard drive-based players and over 70% of the market for all types of players. During the year from January 2004 to January 2005, the high rate of sales caused its U.S. market share to increase from 31% to 65% and in July 2005, this market share was measured at 74%. In January 2007 the iPod market share reached 72.7% according to Bloomberg Online.
The release of the iPod Mini helped to ensure this success at a time when competing flash-based music players were once dominant. On 8 January 2004, Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced that they would sell HP-branded iPods under a license agreement from Apple. Several new retail channels were used—including Wal-Mart—and these iPods eventually made up 5% of all iPod sales. In July 2005, HP stopped selling iPods due to unfavorable terms and conditions imposed by Apple.
In January 2007, Apple reported record quarterly revenue of US$7.1 billion, of which 48% was made from iPod sales.
On 9 April 2007, it was announced that Apple had sold its one-hundred millionth iPod, making it the biggest selling digital music player of all time. In April 2007, Apple reported second quarter revenue of US$5.2 billion, of which 32% was made from iPod sales. Apple and several industry analysts suggest that iPod users are likely to purchase other Apple products such as Mac computers.
On 5 September 2007, during their "The Beat Goes On" event, Apple announced that the iPod line had surpassed 110 million units sold.
On 22 October 2007, Apple reported quarterly revenue of US$6.22 billion, of which 30.69% came from Apple notebook sales, 19.22% from desktop sales and 26% from iPod sales. Apple's 2007 year revenue increased to US$24.01 billion with US$3.5 billion in profits. Apple ended the fiscal year 2007 with US$15.4 billion in cash and no debt.
On 22 January 2008, Apple reported the best quarter revenue and earnings in Apple's history so far. Apple posted record revenue of $9.6 billion and record net quarterly profit of $1.58 billion. 42% of Apple's revenue for the First fiscal quarter of 2008 came from iPod sales, followed by 21% from notebook sales and 16% from desktop sales. Apple has sold over 163M iPods to date (see chart). It also posted record Mac and iPod sales to date.
In addition to its reputation as a respected entertainment device, iPods have also become accepted as business devices. Government departments, major institutions and international organisations have turned to the iPod line as a delivery mechanism for business communication and training, such as the Royal and Western Infirmaries in Glasgow, Scotland where iPods are used to train new staff.
iPods have also gained popularity for use in education. Apple offers more information on educational uses for iPods on their website, including a collection of lesson plans. There has also been academic research done in this area in nursing education and more general K-16 education. Duke University provided iPods to all incoming freshmen in the fall of 2004, and the iPod program continues today with modifications.
iPod batteries are not designed to be removed or replaced by the user, although some users have been able to open the case themselves, usually following instructions from third-party vendors of iPod replacement batteries. Compounding the problem, Apple initially would not replace worn-out batteries. The official policy was that the customer should buy a refurbished replacement iPod, at a cost almost equivalent to a brand new one. All lithium-ion batteries eventually lose capacity during their lifetime (guidelines are available for prolonging life-span) and this situation led to a small market for third-party battery replacement kits.
Apple announced a battery replacement program on 14 November 2003, a week before a high publicity stunt and website by the Neistat Brothers. The initial cost was US$99, and it was lowered to US$59 in 2005. One week later, Apple offered an extended iPod warranty for US$59. For the iPod Nano, soldering tools are needed because the battery is soldered onto the main board. Fifth generation iPods have their battery attached to the backplate with adhesive.
Foxconn, Apple's manufacturer, initially denied the abuses, but when an auditing team from Apple found that workers had been working longer hours than were allowed under Chinese law, they promised to prevent workers working more hours than the code allowed. Apple hired a workplace standards auditing company, Verité, and joined the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct Implementation Group to oversee the measures. On 31 December 2006, workers at the Longhua, Shenzhen factory (owned by Foxconn) formed a union. The union is affiliated with the world's largest and most powerful federation of trade unions, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.