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The Final iPod?

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The death of Apple's landmark portable media player (PMP) has long been predicted, least of all by Apple itself. During the iPhone's 2007 keynote, Steve Jobs famously called the iPhone the ultimate evolution of the iPod: the PMP had become an app, a small but significant part of a much greater whole. With the unprecedented summer refresh, it's time to discuss just what Apple thinks the role of its legendary product should be.

I have previously written about why people should still buy iPods at all. After all, the original iPad Mini was selling as low as $249, and iPads were quickly becoming the superior gift for young children. Furthermore, the Apple Watch was waiting in the wings. But things have changed a bit in the iPod's favor, such as Apple depleting its original iPad Mini inventory, the less-than-expected success of the Apple Watch, and the launch of Apple Music.

Things have changed a bit in the iPod's favor

That final point is significant. With the launch of Apple Music, the company removed the its iPod offerings from the top navigation bar and buried it at the bottom of a very long Music page. Streaming music has been heralded as the successor to personal digital libraries, and buying trends seem to substantiate that claim. Yet here we are, two weeks after a launch that has sought to disrupt the entire music industry, and we now have a 128 GB iPod Touch: the one thing that fans have wanted for the last 3 years, even more so since the retiring of the iPod Classic. It's not just any update, either. It packs an A8 processor, M8 motion processor, 1 GB of RAM, and an 8 MP iSight camera. Yet for all of the upgrades under the hood, the 2015 iPod Touch maintains the same frame as the 2012 model (minus a button for the lanyard loop). In fact, aside from a literal fresh coat of paint, the new iPods look exactly the same as before, with only the iPod Touch receiving any hardware upgrades at all.

We now have a 128 GB iPod Touch, but why now?


So why now? The iPod line serviced thrift (Shuffle), timelessness (Classic), and experimentation (Nano) in a portable package for a decade. This new lineup is stuck in time while its sales numbers continue to march down to zero with every passing quarter. For Apple up refresh this line to zero fanfare in the middle of the night, in the middle of the week shows that the company is about ready to put the line out to pasture, but not before maximizing revenue on remaining inventory. The Shuffle and the Nano may die out (in the case of the Shuffle, I say good riddance), but the iPod Touch seems to be Apple's hedge against the future of the music industry. Taylor Swift, Prince, and Neil Young have recently highlighted the fundamental flaw in streaming libraries: collections can disappear at any time for literally any reason. This is why Apple has a user's personal library in its own section of Apple Music: a safe haven from the musical maelstroms of fickle artists. The bump in maximum storage to 128 GB also seemed to be a shout-out to iPod Classic enthusiasts that this generation of iPod Touch is that device's spiritual successor.

The spiritual successor to the iPod Classic, but in what way?


But a successor how? Given Apple's previous road map, the Touch may be following a little too closely in the Classic's footsteps. It's certainly not a priority for Apple to keep the iPod alive, but giving it the very best internals currently available seems to suggest that the company is future proofing the device as much as possible. Considering that the last update was 3 years ago, the current iPod Touch remaining on sale until at least late 2018 seems like a solid possibility. A slower update cycle is one thing, but the iPod Classic met its end 3 - 5 years after the final design was released. As for the other iPods, being completely untouched seems to indicate that the Apple Watch will soon take over their roles (as well as deliver a higher margin). The iPod Touch, meanwhile, can rest easy knowing that it has been given a stay of execution.

We'd best enjoy the 2015 iPod Touch while we can. It may very well be the last iPod we ever see.

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