Apple today (May 10th) announced it is discontinuing manufacturing of its iPod Touch, the last remnant of the iPod family. Once its current inventory is exhausted, the product line is officially retired.
When Apple first introduced the iPod in October of 2001, it marked the company’s first entry into consumer electronics. Boasting a 160 by 128-pixel video screen and a massive 5GB of memory, the device gave Americans and people worldwide a welcome diversion from 9/11’s horrors. The iPod was made to seamlessly integrate with iTunes, software introduced in January 2001 as an easier way for music listeners to rip (hopefully) their CDs and store their music. Although the iPod’s CD-level sound quality claims were a stretch, given the 128kpbs sampling rate to which files were ripped by default on iTunes, it was listenable, portable, convenient, and, most importantly, easy to use.
The iPod wasn’t the first portable digital music player, but it quickly became the only one of note. In 2003 Apple added strength to strength by embracing the AAC audio file format over MP3, thus providing better sound quality than MP3s encoded at the same bit rate, and the iTunes Store. Now listeners could buy the latest tunes directly and sync them to their iPods. Steve Jobs continued his path toward total world domination that same year by releasing an iTunes app for Windows-based computers, this to Microsoft’s chagrin as its own Windows Media Player rapidly became an afterthought.
The beginning of the iPod’s end came in January 2007 with the iPhone’s introduction. Its users seized upon the iPhone’s ability to do everything the iPod could do and more, the exception being the iPod Touch which could do everything the iPhone was capable of except … well, make a phone call. Carrying two devices became unnecessary. Adding to its obsolescence was the steady growth of streaming services as popular music’s primary conduit, with sales on the iTunes Store (recently renamed Apple Music) and the CD side of things steadily dropping every year. The iPod was now the old soldier of electronics, and while it didn’t die, it did slowly fade away.
Still, there is a fair bit of nostalgia regarding the iPod. It made those hour-long plus commuter trains I rode in the 2000s far more enjoyable — no need to be stuck with whatever cassette was in my Walkman. I could choose from whatever I had selected to sync up, which, based on my current omnipresent tinnitus, was a bit too much heavy metal played way too loud. The iPod did what Apple made it to do and did so quite well. It started Apple’s move from a strictly nerd hangout to a universally recognized brand. It also reminds us that Apple has not introduced a genuinely new product since Jobs’ passing, as he was the one who brought the iPod, iPhone, and iPad to life.
Fare thee well, iPod. Enjoy your rest in the brokedown palace.