Apple’s 7 Most Innovative Devices Through the Years

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

There is probably no other tech company around today that inspires loyalty from its users like Apple does. Since the company’s apocryphal founding in Steve Jobs’s garage in 1976, Apple has grown one of the most valuable companies out there. Of course, this unprecedented success didn’t happen overnight.  Rather, it was the cumulative result of over 30 years of releasing well-crafted and intuitive computer products designed mostly under the guidance of Steve Jobs and several other creative minds at Apple.

Although not every product released by Apple has been a homerun hit, the company has maintained an enviable batting average when it comes to successful product releases. From the Apple II to the iPad mini, here are seven products that made Apple the beloved tech company that it is today. What must-have device will Apple unveil next?

April 1977: Apple II

Designed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, the Apple II became the company’s first hit product as noted by “Woz” in a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “We only sold about a hundred Apple I’s,” recalled Wozniak. “Of the Apple II’s, we probably sold a few thousand through the first year. And then [we designed] a spreadsheet program that let small businessmen do more work in one hour than they could do in 10 years with pencil and paper. Sales shot up. It was maybe five years before we sold a million — the first computer ever to sell a million.”

The Apple II was the first widely successful microcomputer. It featured an 8-bit home device, color graphics (as noted by the rainbow-striped Apple logo), and a floppy disk drive known as the Disk II.

January 1984: Macintosh personal computer

The first model in Apple’s line of Macintosh personal computers and the first mass-produced desktop to feature a graphical user interface (GUI) and a mouse, the original Mac helped establish the user-friendly design ethos that characterizes so many of Apple’s products. This revolutionary personal computer also had an appropriately auspicious debut with the now iconic Ridley Scott-directed “1984” commercial that aired during Super Bowl XVIII.

October 1998: iMac G3 desktop computer

The first computer to be released following Jobs’s return to Apple, the iMac G3 was known for its bright, Bondi blue-colored, translucent casing and its unusual all-in-one design. The iMac also eliminated the floppy-disk drives that were found in the company’s previous computers and added USB ports. Besides being the first Apple product to use the “i” prefix in its name, the iMac was also the first major Apple product to be designed by renowned industrial designer Jony Ive. As noted by USA Today, the iMac was credited with helping Apple turn around its struggling finances.

Photo Courtesy of Apple Corp. via Getty Images

Photo Courtesy of Apple Corp. via Getty Images

October 2001: iPod

Subsequently branded in 2006 as the “iPod classic,” the iPod was the first portable media player released by Apple. It featured a black and white LCD screen and 5GB of memory for storing approximately 1,000 audio tracks in MP3 format. The device featured a unique “click wheel” navigation interface and came with Apple’s iconic white earbuds. While the iPod classic was recently discontinued by Apple, the company still produces other versions of its popular media player, including the iPod shuffle, the iPod nano, and the iPod touch. Along with Apple’s iTunes digital music store, the iPod sparked a revolution in how consumers bought music. While iPod sales have steadily decreased in the years since Apple introduced the iPhone, the company has sold more than 350 million units as of September 2012, according to USA Today.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

January 2007: iPhone

As the source of over half the company’s annual revenue, according to its latest earnings report, the iPhone and its various predecessors are by far Apple’s most successful product. Featuring a user interface that relies primarily on a capacitive touchscreen, the iPhone reshaped the mobile phone industry and spawned countless imitators. Although there are many touchscreen-enabled smartphones available on the market today, Apple’s iPhone is still considered the gold standard of mobile devices by many consumers.

Since the first-generation iPhone, subsequent models have incorporated various other new features, such as the voice-activated personal assistant Siri in the iPhone 4S and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S. The latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models also featured a significant increase in screen size to 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively,  from the 4-inch screen size used in the previous generation. According to Apple, more than 10 million of the latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models were sold during the initial launch weekend in September 2014, setting a new record.

Photo credit: TONY AVELAR/AFP/Getty Images

Photo credit: TONY AVELAR/AFP/Getty Images

January 2008: MacBook Air

Originally introduced as a premium version of Apple’s lower-cost MacBook, the MacBook Air has since become the company’s entry-level laptop, below the larger MacBook Pro. Besides being Apple’s first computer to offer a solid-state storage drive option, the thin design of the MacBook Air helped popularize the overall ultralight notebook category of laptop computers.

“We’ve built the world’s thinnest notebook — without sacrificing a full-size keyboard or a full-size 13-inch display,” said Jobs when he unveiled the first MacBook Air in 2008. “When you first see MacBook Air, it’s hard to believe it’s a high-performance notebook with a full-size keyboard and display. But it is.” Apple currently offers the MacBook Air in 11-inch and 13-inch versions.

Photo Illustration by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Photo Illustration by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

April 2010: iPad

Apple essentially invented the tablet category when it launched its first iPad in 2010 and it has dominated the market ever since. The original iPad featured a 9.7-inch touchscreen that was ideal for viewing media content. In 2012, Apple released a 7.9-inch version of the iPad known as the iPad mini. The latest iterations of Apple’s tablets, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3, feature Retina displays and Touch ID fingerprint sensors.

Although iPad sales have slipped in the past several quarters, market research firm IDC predicted that Apple would remain the world’s top tablet vendor in 2014 with a 27.5% share of the tablet and 2-in-1 market. As noted by CEO Tim Cook during the company’s recent fiscal fourth quarter earnings call, Apple has sold “237 million in just over four years,” reports Seeking Alpha.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

Additional writing by Chelsea Pieroni

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