When Apple unveiled the original iPod last fall, Mac users marveled at its then-staggering 5GB storage capacity. But less than a year later, Apple has quadrupled the iPod's maximum capacity, introducing a 20GB model of the popular MP3 player.
The company announced Wednesday that it would offer three versions of the physically slender iPod: the original 5GB model (now priced $100 lower at $299), an updated and streamlined 10GB version ($399), and a 20GB monster ($499). Apple contends that latter model has enough capacity to store 4,000 songs in 160-Kbps MP3 format.
Although the 5GB iPod remains unchanged other than its price, the two larger-capacity models are newly updated. The 10GB version is slightly thinner than the 5GB iPod, while the 20GB model is actually slightly larger and heavier than the original. Both have a no-moving-parts, touch-sensitive scroll wheel (similar to a laptop trackpad) and a door to protect the iPod's FireWire port. Both the 10GB and 20GB versions also come with new, smaller ear bud headphones, a clip-on remote for controlling volume and tracks, and a protective case with belt clip (The new carrying case and headphone/remote combo are also available separately -- each costs $39.). The updated iPod models will begin shipping in early August.
To go along with the new hardware, Apple has updated the iPod's software with several new features, many borrowed from the newly updated iTunes. The iPod can now organize songs by genre -- such as rock, alternative, or classical -- or composer as well as by title, artist, album, or playlist. It can also keep track of how many times you play each song and take advantage of iTunes' new Smart Playlists and Sound Check features.
The iPod's new Extras menu displays your contacts, calendars synced from Apple's new iCal application, a clock, and easy access to the iPod's previously-hidden Breakout game. You can also now play audio books and radio broadcasts purchased and downloaded from Audible.com -- the iPod will even remember where you were in an Audible.com program when you sync it to or from iTunes.
And if you've lorded your iPod over your Windows-using friends, it may be time to clam up. Apple is making Windows editions of the MP3 player available in late August -- "after we've taken care of our Mac customers," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said. The Windows models, which cost the same as their Mac counterparts and come in the same capacities, are compatible with PCs running Windows ME, 2000, and XP. It syncs with MusicMatch Jukebox MP3 software and includes a 6 pin-to-4 pin FireWire cable -- the FireWire connector most commonly found on PCs.