From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The correct title of this article is iPod. The initial letter is shown capitalized due to technical restrictions.
The iPod is a brand of portable media players designed and marketed by Apple Computer and launched in 2001. Devices in the iPod range are primarily music players, designed around a central scroll wheel — although the iPod shuffle has buttons only. The full-sized model stores media on an internal hard drive, while the smaller iPod nano and iPod shuffle use flash memory. Like many digital audio players, iPods can also serve as external data storage devices. Apple focussed its development on the iPod's unique user interface and its ease of use, rather than on technical capability.
As of October 2005, the lineup consists of the video-capable fifth generation iPod; the smaller iPod nano; and the display-less iPod shuffle which has a random-play capability. These models were updated in September 2006.
The bundled software used for transferring music is called iTunes. As a free jukebox application, iTunes stores a comprehensive library of music on the user's computer and can play, burn, and rip music from a CD. It can also sync photos and videos.
The iPod is currently the world's best-selling range of digital audio players and its worldwide mainstream adoption makes it one of the most popular consumer brands. Some of Apple's design choices and proprietary actions have, however, led to criticism and legal battles.
History and design
The iPod came from Apple's digital hub strategy, as the company began creating software for the growing market of digital devices being purchased by consumers. While digital cameras, camcorders and organizers had well-established mainstream markets, the company found digital music players lacking in user interface design and decided to develop its own. "iPod" was a name that Apple registered for Internet kiosks, but never put to use.
Apple's hardware engineering chief Jon Rubinstein assembled a team of engineers to design it, including engineers Anthony Fadell, Stan Ng and Jonathan Ive. They developed the product in less than a year and it was unveiled on 23 October 2001. CEO Steve Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put "1000 songs in your pocket."
Uncharacteristically, Apple did not develop the iPod's software entirely in-house. Instead, Apple began with PortalPlayer's reference platform which was based on 2 ARM cores. The platform used 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.
Once established, Apple continued to refine the software's look and feel. Starting with the iPod mini, the Chicago font (once used on early Macintosh computers) was replaced with Espy Sans, which was originally used in eWorld and Copland. Later iPods switched fonts again to Podium Sans — a font similar to Apple's corporate font Myriad. The iPods with color displays then adopted some Mac OS X themes like Aqua progress bars, as well as brushed metal in the lock interface.
The iPods with color displays use high quality anti-aliased graphics and text, with sliding animations. These iPods have five buttons and the newer generations have the buttons integrated into the scroll wheel — an innovation which gives an uncluttered, minimalistic interface. The buttons are:
- Menu — to traverse backwards through the menus, and toggle the backlight on older iPods
- Center — to select a menu item
- Play / Pause — this doubles as an off switch when held
- Fast Forward / Skip Forward
- Fast Reverse / Skip Backwards
The other operations such as scrolling through menu items and controlling the volume are performed by using the touch-wheel in a rotational manner. These iPods also have a Hold switch at the top, which prevents accidental button presses. Newer iPods automatically pause playback when the headphones are unplugged from the headphone jack, but playback does not resume when the headphones are re-inserted. An iPod that has crashed or frozen can be reset by switching 'Hold' on then off, then holding Menu and Center (Menu and Play on the 3G iPod) for 6 seconds.
The iPod shuffle does not use a touch-wheel and instead has five buttons positioned differently to the larger models. It has a Play / Pause button in the center, surrounded by four buttons: Volume Up / Down and Skip Forward / Backwards.
The iPod can play MP3, AAC/M4A, Protected AAC, AIFF, WAV, Audible audiobook, and Apple Lossless audio file formats. The fifth generation iPod (which has a 320x240 pixel display) can also play MPEG-4 (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC), and QuickTime video formats, with restrictions on video dimensions, encoding techniques and data-rates. Unlike most other media players, Apple does not support Microsoft's WMA audio format — but a converter for non-DRM WMA files is provided with the Windows version of iTunes. MIDI files cannot be played, but can be converted to audio files using the "Advanced" menu on iTunes. Alternative open-source audio formats such as Ogg Vorbis and FLAC are not supported.
Each time an iPod connects to its host computer, iTunes can synchronize entire music libraries or music playlists and the user can choose for automatic or manual synchronization. Song ratings can be set on the iPod and synchronized later to the iTunes library, however, only one host computer is allowed.
The iTunes Store (formerly iTunes Music Store) is an online media store run by Apple and accessed via iTunes. It was introduced on 29 April 2003 and it sells individual songs, with typical prices being US$0.99, EU€0.99, or GB£0.79 per song. iPods are the only portable music players that can play the purchased music. The store became the market leader soon after its launch and Apple announced the sale of videos through the store on 12 October 2005. Full-length movies became available on 12 September 2006.
Purchased audio files use the AAC format with added encryption. The encryption is based on the controversial FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) system. Up to five authorized computers and an unlimited number of iPods can play the files. The DRM can be removed by burning the files onto an audio CD, then re-compressing to a different lossy format, although this results in reduced quality.
iPods cannot play music files from other competing music stores such as Napster or MSN Music which use rival DRM technologies like Microsoft's protected WMA or RealNetworks' Helix DRM. RealNetworks claims that Apple is creating problems for itself, by using FairPlay to lock users into using the iTunes Store. Steve Jobs stated that Apple makes little profit from song sales, but Apple uses the store to promote iPod sales.
All iPods can function as mass storage devices to store data files. If the iPod is formatted on a Mac OS X computer it uses the HFS Plus file system format. If it is formatted on Windows, the FAT32 format is used because Windows cannot access HFS filesystems. Unlike most other MP3 players (including PlaysForSure devices), simply copying files to the drive will not allow the iPod to properly access them (although some third party iPod software allows this). Instead, the user must use iTunes or a compatible third-party software to load audio, videos and photos in a way that makes them playable and viewable.
An iPod formatted as HFS Plus is able to serve as a boot disk for a Mac computer, allowing one to have a portable operating system installed. The older iPods with FireWire ports could additionally function in FireWire Disk Mode. With the advent of the Windows-compatible iPod, the iPod's default file system switched from HFS Plus to FAT32, although they can be reformatted to either filesystem (excluding the iPod shuffle which is strictly FAT32).
iTunes cannot transfer songs or videos from device to computer (although iTunes 7 allows it for music purchased online). The media files are stored on the iPod in a hidden folder, together with a proprietary database file. The hidden content can be accessed on the host operating system however, 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.
The larger models also have limited PDA-like functionality and can display text files. Contacts and schedules can be viewed and synchronized with the host computer, and some built-in games are available including Brick, Parachute, Solitaire and Music Quiz. Brick (which is a clone of Breakout) was originally invented by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the 1970s. Fifth Generation iPods running the most recent software version can play additional games of higher quality that must be purchased from the iTunes Store.
A firmware update released in September 2006 brought several new features to 5th generation iPods including downloadable games, adjustable screen brightness, and gapless playback.
The iPodLinux project has an ARM version of the Linux kernel alongside an interface called "Podzilla" that runs on all iPods, although only the first, second and third generations are officially supported by the developers. The iPod shuffle is not supported and the September 2006 iPods are incompatible.
An open-source firmware called Rockbox allows the iPod nano, mini, and all display-capable iPods after the third generation to play Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Musepack, WavPack, Shorten, and MIDI files, but not FairPlay-encrypted files. Rockbox also offers gapless playback and a more sophisticated equalizer but is in a testing stage as of September 2006. Open-source alternatives to iTunes include gtkpod, Yamipod and MediaChest.
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 4 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. However, the device could not be charged over USB, so the FireWire cables were nonetheless needed to connect to the AC adapter. 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 2nd generation iPod shuffle uses a single 3.5 mm jack which acts as both a headphone jack and a data port for the dock.
The iPod mini and the fourth generation iPod allowed recharging via USB and eventually Apple began shipping iPods with USB cables instead of FireWire, although the latter was available separately. As of the 5th generation iPod, Apple discontinued using FireWire for data transfer and made a full transition to USB 2.0, due to its widespread adoption. FireWire was then used for recharging only.
Chipsets and electronics
The iPod's operating system is stored on its dedicated storage medium. An additional NOR flash ROM chip (either 1 MB or 512 KB) contains a bootloader program that tells the device to load its OS from the storage medium. Each iPod also has 32 MB of RAM, although the 60 and 80 GB fifth generation have 64 MB. A portion of the RAM is used to hold the iPod OS loaded from firmware, but the majority of it serves to cache songs from the storage medium. For example, an iPod could spin its hard disk up once and copy about 30 MB of upcoming songs into RAM, thus saving power by not requiring the drive to spin up for each song.
The first and second generation iPods used internal lithium polymer batteries. Later generations and models used lithium-ion batteries, while the nano and shuffle continue to use lithium polymer. The touch-wheels were initially provided by Synaptics.
Each new generation usually has more features and refinements while typically being smaller and lighter than its predecessor. Notable changes include the touch-sensitive wheel replacing the mechanical scroll wheel, use of color displays, and flash memory replacing hard disks. Discontinued models include four generations of the full-sized iPod, two generations of the iPod mini and the first generations of the nano and shuffle. More information about all released iPods is available on Apple's Knowledge Base website.
The first generation iPod was Mac-compatible only. Apple later added limited Windows support and at this time, Windows users required third-party software such as Musicmatch Jukebox, ephPod or XPlay to manage their music. Musicmatch was included on the bundled CD. From July 2004 and onwards, every iPod was made fully compatible with either Mac or Windows, after Apple released the Windows version of iTunes on 16 October 2003.
Special edition models
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$49.
On 26 October 2004, Apple introduced a special edition of its fourth generation monochrome iPod, designed in the color scheme of the latest album (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb) by Irish rock band U2. It had a black case with a red scroll 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. Three weeks later, an 8 GB version was released and both of them sold for the same price as the standard color models. US$10 from each sale is donated to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.
Apple also released Special Edition Harry Potter iPods to accompany the iPod photo. They 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 5G iPods were released, but were only available for a short time.
The advertised battery life is very different to the real-world achievable life. For example, the fifth generation 30 GB iPod is advertised as having up to 14 hours of music playback. A CNET review found this to be virtually unachievable and found the average life to be less than 8 hours.
In 2003, class action lawsuits were brought against Apple complaining that the battery charges lasted for shorter lengths of time than stated and that the battery degraded over time. The lawsuits were settled by offering individuals either US$50 store credit or a free battery replacement. Despite its own criticisms, Apple later complained that its competitor, Sony, had misled consumers in its advertising for Sony's music player. Apple complained that Sony had not considered real-world usage.
The battery in all iPods is also not designed to be removed or replaced by the user. However, some users have been able to pry the case open, as some online stores sell replacement batteries. Compounding this 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, but it was lowered to US$59 in 2005. One week later, Apple offered an extended iPod warranty for US$59. Third-party companies offer cheaper battery replacement kits that often use higher capacity batteries. For the iPod nano, soldering tools are needed because the battery is soldered onto the main board. The fifth generation iPod has its battery attached to the backplate with adhesive.
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 by up to 10 dB. 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. The first generation iPod shuffle uses a dual-transistor output stage rather than a single capacitor-coupled output, and thus does not exhibit reduced bass response for any load.
If the sound is enhanced with the iPod's software equalizer (EQ), some EQ settings — like R&B, Rock, Acoustic, and Bass Booster — can cause bass distortion too easily.
The equalizer amplifies the digital audio level beyond the software's limit, causing distortion (clipping) on songs that have a bass drum or use a bassy instrument, even when the amplifier level is low. Notable song examples include Bob Sinclar's Love Generation and Jem's Wish I. One possible workaround is to reduce the volume level of the recorded MP3 by modifying each audio file. However, this cannot be done with DRM-encrypted music, and different tools are needed for each different file format.
Reliability and durability
According to a 2005 survey conducted on the MacInTouch website, the iPod's reliability has generally improved for each new generation. However an independent report, drafted by retail analysts Olswang of the United Kingdom, mentioned that "iPod owners are twice as likely to ask for a repair, than owners of other brands".
In late 2005, many users complained that the surface of the 1st generation iPod nano and of the 5th generation iPod can become scratched easily (a class action lawsuit was also filed). Apple initially considered the issue a minor defect, but later began shipping these iPods with protective sleeves. Several products are available to remove the scratches, such as iCleaner, AppleSauce, and the metal polish Brasso.
On 11 June 2006, a British newspaper Mail on Sunday reported that iPods are mainly manufactured by workers who earn no more than $50 per month and work 15-hour shifts.
Apple investigated the case with independent auditors and concluded that while working and living arrangements, compensation for work done, and worker treatment were in line with the acceptable standards set forth in Apple's Code of Conduct, workers often voluntarily worked longer and for more consecutive days than the Code of Conduct's limit. Policy change at Apple's supplier has since disallowed workers from working more hours than allowed under the Conduct, and Apple has both hired a workplace standards auditing company, Verité, and joined the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct Implementation Group.
In 2005, Apple Computer faced two lawsuits claiming patent infringement by the iPod and its associated technologies: Advanced Audio Devices claimed the iPod breached their patent on a "music jukebox", while a Hong Kong-based IP portfolio company called Pat-rights filed a suit claiming that Apple's FairPlay technology breached a patent issued to inventor Ho Keung Tse. The latter case also includes the online music stores of Sony, RealNetworks, Napster, and Musicmatch as defendants.
Apple's application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a patent on "rotational user inputs", as used on the iPod's 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, which Creative dubbed the "Zen Patent", granted on 9 August 2005. On 15 May 2006, Creative filed another suit against Apple for patent infringement 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. Apple also negotiated a scheme where it can recoup part of its payment, if Creative is successful in licensing this patent. Creative then announced its intention to produce iPod accessories by joining the Made for iPod program.
- See also: Apple iPod advertising
Since October 2004, the iPod 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, its 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%. The release of the iPod mini helped to ensure this success at a time when competing flash-based music players were once dominant.
In its first quarter results of 2006, Apple reported earnings of US$565 million — its highest quarterly revenue in the company's history, although how much of this was attributed to iPod sales is unknown. Apple and several industry analysts suggest that iPod users are likely to purchase other Apple products such as Mac computers.
According to Apple's quarterly financial results (from 2002 Q1 to 2006 Q4), total iPod sales have reached 67,635,000 units as of October 2006. Apple's fiscal year ends in September.
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 HP-branded 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.
iPods have won several awards ranging from engineering excellence, to most innovative audio product, to 4th best computer product of 2006. iPods often receive favorable reviews; scoring on looks, clean design and ease of use. PCWorld says that iPods have "altered the landscape for portable audio players".
Several industries are modifying their products to work better with both the iPod and the AAC audio format. Examples include CD copy-protection schemes and mobile phones from Sony Ericsson and Nokia that play AAC files rather than WMA. Microsoft's Zune device also supports AAC and it has adopted a similar closed DRM model used by iPods and the iTunes Store, despite Microsoft previously marketing the benefits of choice with their PlaysForSure model. Podcasting and download charts have also seen mainstream success.
Many companies produce accessories that are designed for iPods. This market is sometimes described as the iPod ecosystem.
Some accessories add extra features that other music players have, such as sound recorders, FM radio tuners, wired remote controls, and audio/visual cables for TV connections. Other accessories offer more unique features like the Nike + iPod pedometer and the iPod Camera Connector. Other popular accessories include external speakers, wireless remote controls, protective cases/films and even wireless earphones. Notable manufacturers and resellers include Griffin Technology, Belkin, JBL, Bose, Monster Cable and Apple.
All iPods ship with white earphones (or "earbuds") which have been revised twice. The earphones and cords have become symbolic of the brand, and advertisements feature them prominently, often contrasting the white earphones with black silhouettes. In fact, the earphones have such strong visual recognition characteristics that some have said they can be a liability. After a 24% rise in robbery and 10% rise in grand larceny in the New York City subway, a spokesperson for the NYC police suggested that the white earbuds characteristic of iPods might be behind the increases, citing that they alerted thieves to the iPods.
BMW released the first iPod automobile interface, allowing drivers of newer BMW vehicles to control their 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 additional vehicle brands, including Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Nissan, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Acura, Audi, Honda, Renault and Volkswagen.
Some independent stereo manufacturers including JVC, Pioneer, Kenwood, Alpine and Harman Kardon also have iPod-specific integration solutions. Alternative connection methods include using adaptor kits (via the cassette deck or the CD changer port), RCA inputs, or FM transmitters such as the iTrip, although personal FM transmitters are illegal in some countries.
Some car manufacturers have decided to add an external audio jack which can play music from iPods: Toyota on the Camry and Yaris; Jeep in the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee; and in the Chrysler Sebring. All new lower-cost GM vehicles come standard with an external audio jack suitable for iPod use.
Beginning in mid-2007, four major airlines, United, Continental, Delta, and Emirates reached agreements to install Apple iPod seat connections. The free service will allow passengers to power and charge their iPod, and view their 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.
- Apple iPod advertising
- Comparison of iPod Managers
- Danika Cleary, Product Manager
- Comparison of portable media players
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- Apple iPod — Official website
- Apple iPod - Sound and Hearing - Apple - Sound and Hearing
- "Apple Presents iPod" — Press Release
- The First iPod advertisement
- Apple's 21st-Century Walkman — Brent Schlender writing for Fortune 30 October 2001
- iPod Nation — Steven Levy writing for Newsweek 26 July 2004
- Behind the Music — Ken Aaron writing for Cornell Engineering 2005
- The origin of the iPod — Wired article