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Farewell the iPod. Now what? May 14, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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And so, it’s gone. The iPod.  As noted by the IT:

Apple has discontinued the iPod music player after more than 20 years on the market. The most recent version of the device — the iPod Touch — has not been updated since 2019 and many of its features are now incorporated into other Apple devices and services. Apple said it would continue to sell the Touch, the last remaining generation of the iPod on sale, “while supplies last”.

Here’s an overview from the Guardian.

The iPod was always great. Well greatish. Essential for those of us who downloaded music or ripped CDs. But often with frustrating battery life and too small capacity. I only owned a small number but got my hands on a fair few and my sense of them was that they were flawed but brilliant. Across twenty years I’d have to say the stick like iPod shuffle, which was the first I purchased, with just 512 MBs capacity was oddly great. No screen, just a click wheel and away one went.

There were successors – those like the Nano which added a screen and storage but they seemed interim steps. The first Touch was amazing. The first time I saw one was when a friend had purchased the device. It was as if it had fallen off a flying saucer, with touch screen, apps, etc. Now this was the future I’d been promised back in the 1970s. Capacity though was less amazing. That was all too typical of the way the actual future had developed.

The later Classics were pared back but their flaw was the fact they used a drive rather than SSD for storage and the only one I ever had, although it had 160 GBs of storage, didn’t last more than three years before it had a catastrophic drive failure, which was absurdly short a period of time. That was replaced with a later version iPod Touch which had so so battery life and indifferent storage until recently. Replaced that a year ago with what was clearly the last iteration of the Touch. Now this, for some reason, despite having the same form factor was vastly speedier and better with respect to battery power. And 256 GBs was a sweet spot, in so far as a year or so later I’ve still not quite filled it It’s getting close but so far so good.

So by the above standards given my experience of owning various iterations it should last for, what, up to five or six years, assuming the battery doesn’t go awol. But what then? I guess the only way forward will be to repurpose an old phone. I’m in the Apple ecosphere, I’ve used Android phones with my Mac etc, and they sync okay, not great. And that makes non-Apple MP3 players, however good they are and some are very good indeed, a little bit more of a challenge. There’s an argument, and it is a very good one, that there’s no need for multiple devices that can fulfil similar functions, that they are wasteful of resources and energy. I’ve always liked the idea of a dedicated music player – and in truth they long predate mobile telephony. But… I can see the push towards using an older phone when the current iPod decides it’s played its last.

Any suggestions? And what experience have people had with MP3 players or did the rise of the streaming services simply brush them aside for you.

Meanwhile on RTÉ an interesting point was made that the introduction of the iPod changed the gender profile of music listeners, with women listeners increasing markedly as against the status quo ante when male listeners had predominated, with an impact on what was then popular. Yet I can imagine it to some degree, music shops tended to tilt male, live music – at least rock and adjacent areas too. A truly portable music device – more portable than its spiritual predecessor, the Walkman, would be key to changing that. It’s a really interesting thesis.

Comments»

1. rockroots - May 14, 2022

Not having a very smart phone, I’ve never used a streaming app, and in any case I spend a fair bit of time in a part of the country that has no broadband and very limited phone coverage, so it would be pointless. I avoid Apple on principle so I bought an MP3 player from Archos about ten years ago. 250GB memory and – like yourself – almost but not quite filled. I’ve used it nearly every day since and it’s been remarkably durable. The battery at this point needs to be topped up daily and I did look into either swapping out the battery or upgrading last year, but there’s just no equivalent on the market anymore. If/when it expires I have no idea where to go next.

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Blade Sprinter - May 14, 2022

Build your own with an Arduino. You can swap out the guts of an old ipod/drive. Instructables has a howto, and there’s more on Youtube.

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WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2022

Soldering though, isn’t that involved? Can’t speak for rock roots but while I’ve pulled apart iPhones and replaced batteries and other components using iFixit tutorials not sure I could go for the full-on building it up in that way. That said for those who could it’s a great idea.

The Archos’s were very nice devices. And while Zunes don’t get a lot of love I always thought they were pretty neat. Also, the GUI and menus on the original iPods through a fair range of iterations was developed by a non-Apple company contracted by them, only learned that today. I always liked them, thought they were well designed and it goes to show that Apple wasn’t the only game in town on that side.

What Hi-Fi is pretty solid on products (I admire the point about one device that the Con is ”
-Pushes entry-level price higher”), here’s some alternative MP3s (mind you the prices are ferocious on some of them).

https://www.whathifi.com/best-buys/portable/best-portable-music-players

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2. EWI - May 14, 2022

That was replaced with a later version iPod Touch which had so so battery life and indifferent storage until recently. Replaced that a year ago with what was clearly the last iteration of the Touch. Now this, for some reason, despite having the same form factor was vastly speedier and better with respect to battery power.

The chips within, now designed by Apple themselves, are light years ahead of even their cousins in the rest of the ARM ecosphere in terms of power-per-watt (battery technology has alos improved a bit). And the up-scaled M1 chips for the new Macs are like magic, genuinely at least five years ahead of every other processor manufacturer.

Meanwhile on RTÉ an interesting point was made that the introduction of the iPod changed the gender profile of music listeners, with women listeners increasing markedly as against the status quo ante when male listeners had predominated, with an impact on what was then popular.

iPods got away from the painful PC roots of MP3 players and created an easy-to-use appliance, which gave privacy (dare one say agency) to women in listening to whatever they wanted to. Podcasts (something which iPods brought into popular existence) also hew quite egalitarian and even female, compared to say, the likes of corporate media.

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WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2022

That’s very persuasive about podcasts etc. It certainly spurred them on. And their prominence today has to be a function of that original push – right down to the name (which another thing I only just learned, the word pod was taken directly from the pods in 2001, someone working for Apple at the time made the suggestion).

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3. Liberius - May 14, 2022

The design and functionality of the iPod was something Jobs obsessed over during its gestation period. The issue of limited storage was cracked by Toshiba developing a cheap 5GB disc drive that could hold about 1,000 songs. Apple swooped and signed them as exclusive manufacturers, slamming the door on Creative Labs which was simultaneously working on their Zen MP3 player.

Above from the linked Guardian piece, the first MP3 player I had was one of those Creative Zens, not really surprised that Apple attempted muscle them out, it was far better and more durable than the only Apple product I’ve ever owned which was one of the 2nd-gen iPod Nanos, working with that abominable and slow iTunes software to manage it was a pain then it died after only 13 months, it was even out lived by the €25ish AA powered one from Argos that was bought as a quick replacement, it’s probably why I’m so hostile to Apple products, waste of money.

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WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2022

Would Irish consumer law cover a product that stopped working after 13 months? It’s unfortunate you had that experience, I’ve used multiple devices from them over the years from iPods to computers and only had that Classic referred to in the post and one iMac stop working, both though were out of warranty and apple care.

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Liberius - May 14, 2022

Probably true but the then 17 year-old me wasn’t exactly knowledgable about consumer law, which I suspect would be true of most people at that age and even older. As to the durability of other Apple products, given the extreme cost of them I’m not willing to “for-science” it at all, especially with the lack of easy user repairability of their devices, it’s not worth the risk.

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WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2022

Understandable on both counts!

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