Article: The Death of a Classic

by on October 3, 2011

With the Web becoming a frenzy of rumors and predictions of the upcoming iPhone event, many have been speculating what this means for the rest of the iPod lineup. We already know that the only one who could make an iPod killer was Apple, and with the iPod touch sharing more DNA with its touch-based siblings, where does that leave the iPods that cannot enjoy apps and wireless connectivity?

iPod classic (2001-2011?)It’s been almost ten years since we saw the first iPod and the various iterations of the device over the years has had both a technological and cultural impact on the way we view digital entertainment. When the iPhone came onto the scene in 2007, people now had the option of having a phone with the ability to play iTunes content that didn’t come from Motorola and was actually pretty good. Count me in as one of those who gave up a standalone iPod and a mobile phone in favor of an iPhone. Granted, the two-device combination didn’t require a data plan, but that makes the experience so much better. The iPod touch has filled the gap for people who want iPhone-like features, but may be sticking with some other phone (or no phone), but again, has become huge in its own right.

iPod shuffle

This is the easiest device to comment on because it fits into a category that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the technical types. It’s cheap, probably couldn’t serve as your only iPod, is very basic on specifications, and doesn’t offer much control. Still, it’s tiny and works well for those who want music while working out or something that can be replaced without too much financial pain. With the iPod nano being so lightweight now, the only advantage the shuffle has is cost.

iPod nano

The iPod nano has a lot of room for growth. Even though some features have been dropped with last fall’s radical redesign, the nano is more iPod touch-like than its predecessors. If Apple could offer a lower-cost version and maybe offer some additional features (Wi-Fi and iCloud, perhaps?), the nano could serve both the low-end well and also give people a good taste of the iTunes ecosystem. With iPhone users still purchasing these to use as watches or backup iPods, the nano has a lot of life left in it.

iPod classic

What was once the iPod, the iPod classic seems very outdated, yet oddly comforting at the same time. It received no updates last fall, meaning that the current drive capacity has been around for over two years, and the actual design has been around since 2007. That’s ancient as far as technology goes, but it has become a niche device for people who want to have all their media at all times. With the decreasing cost of flash media and iCloud, the 160GB iPod classic is looking less necessary, especially if Apple can crank out a 128GB iPod touch.

If anything, it looks like the iPod classic will most likely be discontinued, as the Click Wheel games have been removed from iTunes, Apple’s first foray into selling applications of one sort or another for mobile devices. These have been unsupported for awhile, so the writing was on the wall for awhile. Many were surprised it made it past last September.

The New Family

Clearly Apple’s focus these days is iOS and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not only does this give a fairly unified product family, but it also locks people in for their next iDevice purchase. What I’d like to see is the lineup naming simplified a bit—iPod nano, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Since the iPod touch has already become the iPod, why not just drop the “touch” name. This also conveys that the iPod nano is some sort of smaller, pint-sized version, which is kind of is.

Obviously Tuesday will feature some sort of update to the iPhone front and we know the iPad is on autopilot for the next couple of months, so the big unknown is the iPod family. The public’s mindset has shifted to caring more about iPhone and iPad rumors and updates and I think the popularity of these devices, especially when compared with that of the iPods reflects that. Still, if we don’t see some updates Tuesday, I suspect we will very soon.

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