An iPod is a portable device for storing and playing digital media files, and it is designed and produced by the computer company Apple Inc. There are several variations of iPods that are different sizes, have different purposes and use different technologies. For example, some smaller versions are mainly for playing music files through headphones. Other versions have video screens and can play movie files. Some even have touchscreens, can provide Internet access via wireless technology and can double as personal digital assistants (PDAs). Updated versions, or generations, of the various types of iPods are frequently released as the technology and designs improve.
Released in 2001, the original iPod came with a body of white acrylic glass and chrome. Three years later, Apple released the iPod Mini, which was about one-third the size of the original device and encased in a variety of shiny metallic colors. The Mini was discontinued after a little more than one year and replaced by the iPod Nano. The smallest member of this family of devices, the Shuffle, which was released in 2005, reduced the size to that of a package of stick gum and looked very much like the original. Unlike the original version, the Mini and the Nano, the Shuffle does not have a display screen.
The most versatile version of this device, the iPod Touch, was released in 2007 and features a touchscreen. In addition to being a media player, it functions as a PDA and wireless Internet device. It also can be used as a handheld console for video games.
Original versions of the iPod — more recent generations use the name iPod Classic — could store 5 gigabytes (GB) of digital files, which was the equivalent of about 1,000 digital music files. Other versions of this line of devices have a range of storage capacities, from as small as 2 GB to more than 150 GB. The Classic and Mini use tiny hard drives for memory, and the Shuffle, Nano and Touch use flash memory.
An iPod's content is managed using Apple's proprietary software called iTunes. The device can be connected to a computer, and the owner can use iTunes to transfer media files from the computer to the device and then organize those filed. The Touch can connect to the iTunes Store through the Internet to download media files, most of which are available for a small price, although some might be free. It also can download applications from Apple's App Store, also either for a price or free.