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Why Apple is Apple and you aren't

27 Dec 2004 by Jason Fried

Apple does it again with the iPod Sock.

It’s simple, effective, desirable and memorable. And it’s a SOCK! Look at the other iPod Case options on the market. Forget it. They’re ugly, bulky, over protective, they try too hard, and they don’t have the same “spirit” as the iPod. They belong on a Dell DJ, not an Apple iPod.

A colorful and simple custom sock, on the other hand, is just perfect for the iPod. It personifies the iPod — it makes the iPod something you take care of, something you keep warm, something you bundle up. It’s something you want to show to someone else (“Check this out… My iPod is wearing a SOCK!”). It’s something you would wear if you could (unlike a weird neoprene sleeve thing or a stiff leather case). Plus Apple gives you 6 in a pack and they fit every iPod ever built — including the iPod Mini. One size fits all, and all includes small digital cameras or your cell phone.

Apple continues to make it look easy.

42 comments so far (Post a Comment)

27 Dec 2004 | Kevin said...

i'm also a first time ipod owner :) i'm putting up my experinces and questions on my blog ( come on over and visit and see if anything I say helps you or if you have any suggestions for me. Merry Christmas !

27 Dec 2004 | Jon Gales said...

I actually have a set of these in route to my house, though they are a gift for someone else. Gotta love the simplicity!

27 Dec 2004 | Natalie said...

These socks are hideous. Might as well only distribute them in the western burbs to all those ugg-boot/mocassin wearing bogans.

Truely. Hideous.

My precious iPod will not be uglified by this garish fad.

27 Dec 2004 | andy said...

Apple kind of co-opted the idea, though... foofpods were being sold well before the sock was introduced, and IMHO, Apple was definitely inspired directly by them. Of course, really I had seen similar things being hand-made even before the foof stuff.

Go see for an article and discussion on which came first, and, of course, check out the foofs at: (I think they are far more attractive and unique than the socks).

27 Dec 2004 | ramanan said...

You can call the socks brilliant all you like. At the end of the day they are still socks. Apple could sell iPod saran wrap and people would eat it up. They are so chic right now they can do no wrong.

27 Dec 2004 | matthew said...

a long time ago, my thoughts on ipod were summed up nicely by the boys at penny arcade :

27 Dec 2004 | Dale Cruse said...

I'm surprised that a company that promotes usability is singing the praises of this almost unusable sock.

Sure, the socks are cute and snugly, but that's all they are. Functional? Not even close.

Can you work the dial/buttons in any meaningful way when it's in the sock? No.

Can you read the screen when it's in the sock? No.

Can you attach the charger when it's in the sock? No.

Can you add accessories like the iTrip or iTalk when it's in the sock? Maybe.

For a case that's elegant and does ALL those things, check out the Hepburn Bag at:

My girlfriend wanted a sock for her iPod until I bought her the Hepburn Bag for Christmas. Now she has no desire for those dumb, clunky, unusable socks.

27 Dec 2004 | JF said...

I'm surprised that a company that promotes usability is singing the praises of this almost unusable sock... For a case that's elegant and does ALL those things, check out the Hepburn Bag at:

I guess we just have different definitions of "usability." The Hepburn bag adds considerable bulk to the iPod -- enough that it's not pocket-friendly anymore. That alone makes it unusable for me. I'd never carry my iPod with me if it was wearing that "jacket."

Can I see the screen while the iPod is wearing the sock? Nope. Do I need to 100% of the time? Nope. When I need to I can quickly pull the sock down/off, make the adjustment, and then cover it up again. That's totally fine with me.

Usability isn't about letting me do everything or anything at anytime, it's about making the easy things easy and the hard things possible. The sock fits that definition beautifully for me.

27 Dec 2004 | Dale Cruse said...

I guess we'll agree to disagree.

Based on your own definition, I come to the exact opposite conclusion. I think the sock sacrifices usability for "cuteness."

27 Dec 2004 | lee said...

If the ipod were truly designed for usability rather than beauty, it wouldn't need to be encased for protection -- it would be designed to be durable enough to withstand scratches and drops on its own.

27 Dec 2004 | Dan H said...

Sure, it is cute. Pod = Foot -> Sock... And I've bought some socks for my brand new iPod. A plus I've just discovered is being able to use the buttons through the sock... I can push pause/play and prev/next with out having to pull iPod out and look at it. Menu isn't very useful if you can't see the screen, and the volume touch-sensitivity doesn't work thru the sock, and I miss seeing the screen all the time as my old iPod's case allowed, but to end a lovely run-on sentence, I'll have to agree it's a great product (even at $20+) mainly for it's simplicity.

27 Dec 2004 | kageki said...

They're charging $30 for socks that don't match? I wouldn't even pay that for a personal jock warmer... well maybe.

Don't get me wrong, i love apple's products - i've been a staunch "fanatic" since my first mac (a IIcx) - and i believe they have the best industrial designers on the planet, but this little accessory is totally recockulous.

On a more practical note, i think an ipod holder / protector, that you have to take the iPod out of to use, is impractical and clumsy. Those silicon "sleeves" that have cutouts for the buttons and screen appear to be a better solution.

27 Dec 2004 | Ben Brophy said...

Just 10 minutes ago my coworker was complaining about the dorky iPod sock she received for Christmas. She couldn't use the dial while it was in the sock and it was a pain to get her iPod back in, especially when she's dressed for winter. She'd mentioned putting it right in her junk drawer when she got home.

I like the iSkin (or whatever), the form-fitting rubber case for the iPod, it offers some protection and doesn't get in the way. Since it's snug and translucent it doesn't even get in the way of the iPods aesthetic appeal.

27 Dec 2004 | Jamie said...

Maybe 37Signals can recreate that Red Hot Chili Peppers album cover with these?

27 Dec 2004 | Darrel said...

If the ipod were truly designed for usability rather than beauty, it wouldn't need to be encased for protection -- it would be designed to be durable enough to withstand scratches and drops on its own.

Well said. ;o)

Personally, I've been using the clear silicon cases on my first-gen ipod. The one advantage is that it provides 'grip' which makes it just a tad more secure when placed on a surface. However, if/when I ever get a new ipod, I think I'll just let it be. I'll just call the grime + scratches 'patina' and live with it. ;o)

27 Dec 2004 | Randy said...

If the ipod were truly designed for usability rather than beauty, it wouldn't need to be encased for protection -- it would be designed to be durable enough to withstand scratches and drops on its own.

What do scratches and drops have to do with "usability" ? People seem to apply the word usability to things to which it doesn't apply. Things scratch. Things break when you drop them if you drop them from high enough. What is your point? The iPod mini is an improvement in that it's harder to scratch, but saying something isn't "usable" because it scratches is insane.

27 Dec 2004 | GM said...

Sarcasm is just lost on some people...

Anyway, I think they're cute, and I'm surprised by the number of people that constantly use the iPod's interface when they're out and about.

It makes me wonder where they find the time to actually, you know, look where they're going.

27 Dec 2004 | Darrel said...

To take this on a tangent, with the Mac's text reading capabilities, one must wonder if Jobs is planning on eventually making the controls have audible feedback (ie, have the ipod say outloud what song is playing or what button you push). That'd seem to solve a lot of problems.

27 Dec 2004 | rachelle said...

why cant they just sell one for $5 instead of 6 for $29? who wants 6?

27 Dec 2004 | Ben said...

Anyway, I think they're cute, and I'm surprised by the number of people that constantly use the iPod's interface when they're out and about.

Maybe if you're in a car you just let the iPod go. If you're on the subway you have the pleasure of fiddling with it. Wait, I just heard that song (skip it). Oo - I love this song (turn up the volume). Is that person talking to me (pause it)? I touch my iPod constantly. Even when I'm walking I'll pull it out to skip a song. It's easy if you don't have big sock covering the controls.

Something about the above sounds dirty, but it is kind of a sensual experience.

27 Dec 2004 | Chris said...

Here's why I like the sock... I have an iSkin that I use for my 3G iPod. Since I got the iSkin I have not used the iPod dock, and unfortunately that is in my car. It's just too much a pain to take the iPod out off the iSkin every time i'm in the car. And it doesn't bend easily. Now I got a JBL speaker system for Christmas, which uses a dock, and the sock, or the original iPod case, seem better and better than the iSkin due to ease of use.

Why can't someone come up with an iSkin that allows for use of the buttons but also allows use of the dock?

27 Dec 2004 | kageki said...

Thanks for the neat-o idea Apple!

If I wanted to protect my iPod with a sock, I can just put it in - as the name suggests - a sock! I've already got plenty of those in my drawer.

Sure my socks are not as colorful as Apple's socks, but i'll have $30 left over for other nifty things like music from the iTunes store and beer.

28 Dec 2004 | Jack said...

The beauty of the socks are not they're functionality, or even their cuteness. First, Apple doesn't sacrifice anything for "cute".

It's just the simplicity of it. It's not complicated. It's a sock. You put your iPod in it. It slides right now. You wanna take your iPod out of the sock? Take it out. Switch around the colors if you want. It's just a sock. Not hard.

It's more interesting because of the juxtapostion of the two items than for the socks themselves. The design of the iPod is pure THX. Sterile, white, hard. But it's a friendly product! You want proof? They come in socks. How less intimidating can you get?

*sigh* This isn't some complex focus-group tested marketing plan here. It's just that Apple wanted to get into the covers market (one that's booming) and they thought of the simplest thing they could do. A sock.

That's Apple's brillance. They think of dead obvious things and just do it a bit nicer.

28 Dec 2004 | Kevin said...

Sock: not innovation, simply lame.

The Apple brand is hot lately, thanks to their superior iPod product; there is nothing redeemable about this sock. My iPod is not cold; it will not be wearing anything.

28 Dec 2004 | Jemaleddin said...

Actually, I've seen far more neoprene sleeves on people than iPod's with socks...

28 Dec 2004 | Allen said...

I love Apple's idea of a sock for the iPod. Previously, I've been using an Oakley sunglasses sack to protect my iPod. It also doubles as a finger print cleaner for my iPod :)

I have a cover for my iPod but I never use it. When I want to hold my iPod, I want to touch the real thing. Not its case/cover and certainly not neoprene.

Maybe it's just me but I like to hold and use a naked iPod, with all its glory showing. The only reason why I use a cover is to protect it from dust and scratches when it's not in use. The Apple sock does just that.

I think it's sheer simple brilliance from Apple. It's not pretentious nor does it claim to solve world hunger. It does what it does and with (subjective) style.

28 Dec 2004 | Michael Spina said...

These from Burning Love are similar in concept from the Socks, but offer a little more flair. My personal favorite is the Chewbacca Pouch.

28 Dec 2004 | lee said...

Randy: Any portable electronic device has to be designed with durability in mind. If as a user I have to constantly worry about protecting the device from drops, dents, scratches, or cracking the screen, and consequently have to stick it in a sock, sleeve, or heavy plastic case that covers the controls or makes it difficult to use, then that's a usability issue.

28 Dec 2004 | hartmurmur said...

I've been working on the iPod thong. It's very sexy and sleek.

Available at the end of January...just in time for Valentine's Day.

28 Dec 2004 | brian said...

use the ipod sock w/ the wired remote and you got plenty of control. You can't use the menu and navigate, but seems simple enough to pull it out of the sock to do that, since you're going to have to look down to use it.

I use my ipod all the time walking to and from work, I keep the ipod in the black case that came with it and skip/pause/adjust volume constantly with the remote in my pocket. I'd much rather have a sock than the black case that came with my ipod. Anybody want to trade?


29 Dec 2004 | stoph said...

Putting a sock in the sock talk, and moving on to a tangent: what is up with all the cheap ipod offers out there? It's so easy to abuse them. Music industrialtes must be getting desperate.

I just completed steps to get a "FREE" POD:

I love it. A pyramid scheme we can totally subvert. You just gotta sign up for another offer from some other business and then refer 10 folks to do the same. I did the BMG, which I do anyways. Another sign of desperation. I always wondered how they made any money selling when there's guys like me out there refering their pets for memberships in which they just buy the one. then I found out they do most of their business selling info on their customers to data-miners. which again is no skin off my teeth. no shiesters are gonna wanna throw their money away, trying to con a guy whose taken bmg for as much as I have. So I get 17 cheap cds, once I made sure to refer my new member Norm D. Plume for the extra 5 (anybody else wanna go the BMG route: email me first please and I'll split the extra booty I plunder from refering you too in my Norm and dog account), and a 40 Gb i-pod is mine. Suckas.

29 Dec 2004 | andy said...

Thought you might be interested in John Maeda's view on the sock:

So... I'm a bit surprised that the discussison here has been more about the notion of the usefulness of the sock and not the supposed "innovation" of it, considering your original post said nothing about the practicality of it, but cheered the "novelty."

I was kind of hoping to hear your views on the sock after finding out that the the concept was usurped from DIYers...

29 Dec 2004 | James said...

37signals tries way to hard to create their own 'reality distortion field'. ipod sock give me a break. you're being a little pretentious.

keep it real? (i like you).

29 Dec 2004 | -b- said...

Our designer thought this was a joke for weeks, until it actually appeared on Apple's site. I was talking to him about how we needed to "get in on the iPod action with a sealeable bag system or something" and he was like whatever. Then I sent him link to the sock!

30 Dec 2004 | Rimantas said...

Interesting, so many rational comments.
Humans are not only rational, humans have emotions which are applied to inanimate object too. Humans tend to treat inanimate objects as living ones. Have you ever talked to your computer? Your car?

What Apple is good at - it is at creating emotional ties between its products and their users. Pleasant ties.
You may use something because you need functionality provided - and hate product you use. Or you may use and love it. When you love you not necessary make rational decision.
So you may rationally like your little player and buy a plastic case for it.
Or you may love your little cute player and buy him (oops, not "him" but "it") some socks to keep it warm and protected.

30 Dec 2004 | Don Schenck said...

The Sock, itself, isn't what Apple's selling.

Think about it. Apple is selling (quite successfully, I'll add) the idea of an aftermarket for the iPod. It's a brilliant move. It moves consumers and manufacturers toward your product. It's a killer marketing ploy. So good, in fact, that Ford courted aftermarket supplies before announcing the Focus.


30 Dec 2004 | Don Schenck said...

Somebody ... anybody ... fix my HTML, above.

31 Dec 2004 | Larry said...

The real reason Apple is brilliant is because they treat their customers like human beings and create their products around real world use.

Oh yeah, and when I mean human go to the Apple site right now.

The message to help the Tsunami Victims (Which takes all the sales real estate) has been up for days. I dare say before any of the other major tech players.

Since you are at the site, empty your wallets with donations, because at the end of the day, life is the only thing worth supporting.

01 Jan 2005 | Michael Romero said...

Simply put, Apple is Apple because Steve Jobs is at the helm and he'll always value innovative design over anything else. It consumes him, as it has always consumed him, and I would wager that this is why he is content to let Apple continue as a high end "brand name boutique" computer company kept afloat by the little white box that finally showed what that whole digital life revolution is all about.

That being said, the Sock is just friggin cool. There's no other way to say it.

02 Jan 2005 | Anand Shiva said...

The sock is pretty. Agreed. But usability-wise, it's a pain. You gotta take ya ipod outta the sock if you wanna work the buttons or see the screen. You'll probably start to leave the ipod out all the time. And then, one day, you'll chuck the sock aside altogether.

Now I must say that I like the idea of the sock though. It's simple...and that's attractive.

However I came across these. And though they're not socks, I think they're right up there with the socks for appeal.

But they're shit-expensive.

Now I'm torn.
$30 for 6 socks that I'll probably end up chucking away or $100 for a leather case that I might grow tired of one day?

hell, maybe the ipod is best used naked.

05 Jan 2005 | e-head said...

well, here's what I have to say about it:

05 Jan 2005 | Gregg G said...

Jack: First, Apple doesn't sacrifice anything for "cute".

I love Apple, but I had a big blueberry turd on my work desk next to my power book that proves this statement utterly false.

We can argue over what "cute" means all day, but I never heard anyone comment on how "sleek and sophisticated" the original iMac was.

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