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The iPod is a line of portable media players and multi-purpose pocket computers designed and marketed by Apple Inc. The first version was released on October 23, 2001, about 8 1⁄2 months after the Macintosh version of iTunes was released. As of May 28, 2019, only the iPod Touch (7th generation) remains in production.

Like other digital music players, some versions of the iPod can serve as external data storage devices. Prior to macOS 10.15, Apple's iTunes software (and other alternative software) could be used to transfer music, photos, videos, games, contact information, e-mail settings, Web bookmarks, and calendars to the devices supporting these features from computers using certain versions of Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Before the release of iOS 5, the iPod branding was used for the media player included with the iPhone and iPad, a combination of the Music and Videos apps on the iPod Touch. As of iOS 5, separate apps named "Music" and "Videos" are standardized across all iOS-powered products. While the iPhone and iPad have essentially the same media player capabilities as the iPod line, they are generally treated as separate products. During the middle of 2010, iPhone sales overtook those of the iPod.

Apple made the Apple Newton from 1993 to 1998 and made the eMate from 1997 to 1998. Following the lackluster sales of these devices, Apple wanted a mobile device and so started to develop a personal media player, which would become the iPod.

The iPod was released in late 2001. The iPod line 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 Sir Jonathan Ive. Rubinstein had already discovered the Toshiba hard disk drive while meeting with an Apple supplier in Japan, and purchased the rights to it for Apple, and had also already worked out how the screen, battery, and other key elements would work. The aesthetic was inspired by the 1958 Braun T3 transistor radio designed by Dieter Rams, while the wheel-based user interface was prompted by Bang & Olufsen's BeoCom 6000 telephone. The product ("the Walkman of the twenty-first century") was developed in less than one year and unveiled on October 23, 2001. Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put "1,000 songs in your pocket."

Apple did not develop the iPod software — sometimes called iPod OS — entirely in-house; instead it purchased a reference platform from PortalPlayer, based on two ARM cores and used by the iPod to manage disk drivers, power management, and the real-time microkernel. The iPod OS was developed on PCs using ARM development kits, and was written in C++. The platform had rudimentary software running on a commercial microkernel embedded operating system, licensed from Quadros. 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 (as well as Unicode, memory management, and event processing) under the direct supervision of Steve Jobs. As development progressed, Apple continued to refine the software's look and feel, rewriting much of the code. 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. Color display iPods then adopted some Mac OS X themes like Aqua progress bars, and brushed metal meant to evoke a combination lock. 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 2006 Apple presented a special edition for iPod 5G of Irish rock band U2. Like its predecessor, this iPod has the signatures of the four members of the band engraved on its back, but this one was the first time the company changed the color of the metal (not silver but black). This iPod was only available with 30 GB of storage capacity. The special edition entitled purchasers to an exclusive video with 33 minutes of interviews and performance by U2, downloadable from the iTunes Store.

Before Apple had chosen a name for the music player, it was known by the code name P68. The name iPod was proposed by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter, who (with others) was called by Apple to figure out how to introduce the new player to the public. After Chieco saw a prototype, he thought of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the phrase "Open the pod bay doors, Hal", which refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. Chieco saw an analogy to the relationship between the spaceship and the smaller independent pods in the relationship between a personal computer and the music player. Apple researched the trademark and found that it was already in use. Joseph N. Grasso of New Jersey had originally listed an "iPod" trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in July 2000 for Internet kiosks. The first iPod kiosks had been demonstrated to the public in New Jersey in March 1998, and commercial use began in January 2000 but had apparently been discontinued by 2001. The trademark was registered by the USPTO in November 2003, and Grasso assigned it to Apple Computer, Inc. in 2005.

The earliest recorded use in commerce of an "iPod" trademark was in 1991 by Chrysalis Corp. of Sturgis, Michigan, styled "iPOD", for office furniture.

In mid-2015, several new color schemes for all of the current iPod models were spotted in the latest version of iTunes, 12.2. Belgian website Belgium iPhone originally found the images when plugging in an iPod for the first time, and subsequent leaked photos were found by Pierre Dandumont.

On July 27, 2017, Apple removed the iPod Nano and Shuffle from its stores, marking the end of Apple producing standalone music players. Currently, the iPod Touch is the only iPod produced by Apple.

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