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Apple Discontinues the iPod, Ending an Iconic Era in Personal Computing

The original iPod.
The original iPod. Source: Apple

The iPod—a product that almost single-handedly changed the trajectory of hanging-on-for-dear-life Apple Computer to the now $2.5 trillion Apple Inc. —is dead.

More than 20 years after its introduction revolutionized the music and personal computing industries, Apple today announced the discontinuation of the last iPod standing: the iPod Touch. Like the many generations of touchwheel models before it—including the Classic, Mini, and Nano—Apple has ceased production of the Touch and will discontinue sales once the current inventory has been depleted.

Apple 7th Generation iPod Touch lineup with red, black, gold, silver, pink, and blue models shown.
The 7th and last generation of Apple’s iPod Touch. Source: Apple

The last update to the lineup came with the 7th Generation iPod Touch. Despite being released in 2019, the device is definitely long in the tooth. Despite the screen, security, camera, and processing advances of the iPhone, Apple brought hardly any of those things to the Touch lineup over the years. Though it did feature a Retina display, the 7th Generation Touch was powered by the A10 Fusion, had an 8MP rear camera, and still proudly sported both a home button and a headphone jack. Touch ID was never brought to the device, let alone the front-facing camera system and silicon combo powerful enough for Face ID.

Due to the popularity of the iPhone, the rise of streaming music, and the lack of updates to the iPod line, the device faded into obscurity in Apple’s lineup. Whereas the Touch used to be a great starter device for kids, it has largely been replaced even in that role by iPads and second-hand iPhones.

Beyond the Touch though, the iPod’s impact on not only Apple, but consumer technology in general can’t be denied. It got the world hooked on having their entire music collection be portable. And though that used to mean relying on a tethering an iPod and its spinning hard drive to a Mac to import dozens of gigabytes of ripped CDs, today we are wirelessly tethered to 90 million songs whenever we want them thanks to Apple Music, Spotify, and the advance of mobile networks.

That’s why this day is bittersweet. No one would want to go back to the old way of getting music after having drunk from the fire hose of streaming. But there was something intimate and personal about the iPod. The scratches it accumulated, or the stickers it wore. The experience of transferring physical CDs to it. Maybe most importantly, its dedicated purpose. It was an elegant device that did one thing very well: music playback.

Yes, our phones and other devices mean a lot to us, and the combination of Apple Watch and Airpods are a remarkable evolution of media portability first imagined by the iPod. But iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple Watches are all things designed to do “everything.” In a perfect world, Apple would discontinue the iPod Touch and bring back the iPod Classic—this time with WiFi, Apple Music support, and a high-end DAC like the Wolfson inside the famed 5th Generation Video. The same folks forking over $500 on AirPods Max would likely love to hand over $500 to Apple for this type of revamped iPod…but it’s probably never going to happen.

But if you’re like us, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep enjoying one of the old iPod models today. In fact, OWC carries excellent replacement batteries, screens and digitizers for several legacy iPod models, along with the tools and install videos you’ll need to keep your iPod alive for years to come.

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