The history of the iPod nano

Since its introduction there have been seven generations of iPod nano. When Steve Jobs showed off the first model back in 2005, the world was impressed.

The first-generation model was much smaller than the iPod mini it replaced, thanks to its flash storage. Available in 1, 2 and 4GB models, and in both black and white cases, it made music portable in an all-new way. It weighed just 1.5 ounces!

The color screen was just 1.5 inches across, but was bright and could be used to show off album art as well as photos synced over from iTunes.

Thanks to its small size, the nano became an instant hit. It was great for runners and starting at just $149, it became the gift to give during the holiday season.

Apple didn’t rest on its laurels. A year later, it replaced the iPod nano with a second-generation product.

This iPod nano was technically more or less identical to its predecessor, but came in a colorful new anodized aluminum case, like the iPod mini. The black model, however, was more expensive, only available with 8 GB of storage. Personally, I was always partial to the blue.

2007’s third-generation nano was a big departure from the previous candybar form factor. The so called “fat Nano” came in pastel colors, and could play video on its 2-inch, 320×240 display.

With the wider display, Apple made its first change to the iPod nano’s UI, giving it a 2-up look, with album artwork, photos or graphics on the right side of the menu screens. This UI would also be found on the iPod classic.

For 2008 and 2009, Apple returned the iPod nano to its candybar roots. Both years were full of numerous color options. The taller screens were touted to be even better for watching video on the go; simply tip the iPod over and you were off to the races. 2009’s 5th-generation model had a polished, candy-like finish, making the colors more vibrant and darker. Of my stack of blue iPods, this is as close to purple as it gets.

2009 also brought the addition of a video camera to the iPod nano. Apple wanted to compete against the Flip cam, which in hindsight seems … silly. As you can see, the 640×480 video isn’t much to write home about these days. But for a device that cost as little $149, you can’t blame Apple for trying.

In 2010, things got weird. The iPod nano lost its clickwheel and the ability to play video but gained a clip in the name of being more wearable.

Without the clickwheel, this nano adopted a touchscreen interface that was designed to look like iOS, but wasn’t actually iOS. The only physical controls were for volume, leading to complaints that skipping tracks or pausing music was harder to do without looking.

Some people even wore this Nano in a watchband. I’m still a little ashamed that I tried it.

That brings us to today … kind of. The current, 7th generation iPod nano still sports a touch screen, but has returned to the candybar form factor. It has physical controls down one side and Bluetooth, making it easy to stream music to a speaker or even to your car. Gone is the 30-pin Dock connector, replaced with the more modern Lightning port.

But don’t be fooled, this iPod nano has been basically unchanged since 2012 with the exception of some color changes to the case.

There’s no doubt that the once-mighty iPod line is now just a blip on Apple’s radar, but the iPod nano is still here. While the case for dedicated music players is harder and harder to make, I know I’ll miss them when they’re inevitably gone.