Quick thoughts on the “death” of the iPod (It’s been dead for years, people…)

So the hot news topic du jour is Apple’s announcement that the last product to bear the “iPod” name has ceased production.

From today, according to Apple, it will no longer make the 7th Gen iPod Touch, and whatever stock it has will sell… and then be gone.

Predictably, the Internet exploded with grief over the “death” of the iPod… which I find kind of amusing, really.

It’s not that I don’t have my own retro tech obsessions, or indeed know folks who loved (and in some cases, still love) their iPods. That’s all well and fine.

It’s just that, well… and there’s no polite way to put this… the “iPod”, when you put it like that, has been dead for a good long time. Forget Python’s parrot sketch, the iPod’s been pushing up the daisies so long now that the daises themselves have been eaten by a passing sheep that’s been eaten itself.

Probably not a good idea eating a sheep that’s been eating daisies fuelled by all the nasty chemicals in modern tech, but my metaphors both collapse and digress…

What Apple has discontinued today is the 2019 model iPod Touch, which was effectively an iPod in name only. Sure, it can do all the stuff that an iPod could do in terms of music playback, but then so can an Android phone with Apple Music installed, and nobody’s calling that an iPod.

At its heart, the 2019 runs on an Apple A10 chip and iOS, which basically meant that it was an iPhone 7 without the actual “phone” bits in place.

Nice enough platform, to be sure, but it was always the tinker toy version of an iPhone, and it makes a lot of sense to say that this is a market that’s largely shifted onwards from the basic music playback model of the “classic” iPod.

So if the iPod was already dead, when did it die?

If you have fond memories of the “classic” model, that died back in 2014.

Fun fact: That iPod used Firewire for connectivity, basically Mac-only at the time. I wrote an ill-considered op-ed for ZDNet at the time talking about the odds of Apple shifting to USB, and whether that would work for them. I was wrong, and it did. Obviously.

The Mini was replaced by the Nano, and that was killed off in 2017. That’s the same year that the Shuffle also stopped being produced.

Apple’s marketing smarts here was that it wasn’t just about music playback — hell, if you wanted that, the Walkman had been around for decades at that point — but about the style of being ‘seen’ to have an iPod. Mind you, it also made you a prime mugging target in certain neighbourhoods.

Or in other words, the iPod corpse has been gently steaming away for half a decade now.

Now, the iPod was super important in its day.

We don’t get the Apple systems we have now (whether you think that’s a good or bad thing) without the iPod, hands down. I’ve been working as a tech journalist long enough that I can remember the pre-iPod days, back when Apple really did look like it was a basket case on its last legs.

Interesting hardware, some nice designs but totally niche, slightly overpriced and slower than what you could get in the PC space at the time.

Apple sure as hell didn’t invent the portable music player, but it managed the rare trick of form, function and desirability for more than long enough to fill its coffers, pay for a bunch of R&D that led to the iPhone… and here we are.

Or in the iPod’s case, there it was.

Today’s more formal announcement isn’t surprising at all, because again, really, it’s been gone for some time now.

Image: Apple

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