Macworld: Apple intros 4GB iPod mini for $249

Apple on Tuesday introduced the iPod mini, the second member of the iPod family. The hard-disk-based iPod mini is about the size of a credit card and measures only 1/2 inch thick, but stores up to 4GB of music.

Encased in an anodized aluminum case, the iPod mini is the first iPod to be available from Apple in custom colors -- silver, gold, pink, blue or green. It features the same interface that the "big" iPod uses, and also features a solid-state scroll wheel, although navigation buttons have been relocated to the scroll wheel itself. It weighs 3.6 ounces.

The iPod mini interfaces with Macs or PCs using its 30-pin interface and either a FireWire or USB 2.0 cable. It can charge its internal battery using either USB 2.0 or FireWire as well, and an AC adapter is also included.

Just like its big brother, the iPod mini automatically synchronizes with iTunes, Apple's digital music jukebox software, and stays up to date when it's plugged in.

In an analysis of the current market for digital music players during his keynote address to Macworld Conference & Expo attendees on Tuesday morning, Apple CEO Steve Jobs indicated that the iPod currently has about 31 percent market share. In explaining why Apple decided to produce a premium featured and priced product to compete in the flash-based space, Jobs suggested that the high-end flash player market is about the same size.

Apple plans to ship the iPod mini in February for a suggested retail price of US$249 throughout the United States. It will be available worldwide in April. Included is a belt clip, earbud headphones, power adapter, FireWire and USB 2.0 cables, and a CD with iTunes 4.2 for both Mac and Windows. An iPod Dock is optional for $39, as is a $29 arm band for active use, such as working out or jogging.

Apple also today introduced its own brand of in-ear headphones suitable for any iPod model. The new in-ear headphones cost $39.

In other iPod news, Apple replaced its low-end 10GB iPod with an identically featured model now capable of storing 15GB of music or data, at the same price point as its predecessor -- $299.

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