Farewell, iPod – Opinion

Apple has announced that the iPod Touch will be discontinued manufacturing today (10 May). This iPod Touch is the last remaining member of the iPod family. Apple will officially retire the entire product line once it exhausts its existing inventory.

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. It was designed to integrate seamlessly with iTunes software, which was introduced January 2001 to make it easier for music lovers to rip CDs (hopefully) and store 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. Apple made 2003 a major breakthrough by adopting AAC over MP3, which provides better audio quality than MP3s encoded with the same bitrate and also the iTunes Store. The iTunes Store allowed listeners to buy new tunes and have them synced directly 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. Two devices were no longer necessary. 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.

There is still a lot of nostalgia about 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. The iPod allowed me to select from any music I wanted, even though it was too heavy for my ears. Apple gave the iPod a job well done. 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.

Good luck, iPod. Take a rest at the brokendown palace.

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