Apple has announced the discontinuation of the iPod touch after almost 15 years and seven generations, ending the entire line of iPod players 21 years after the launch of the first model. The iPod range being the oldest to be discontinued by the manufacturer, this announcement truly marks the end of an era.
The history of the iPod
Portable MP3 players appeared in the mid-1990s, but Apple felt they were either too bulky or not very ergonomic, with poor user interfaces. The company therefore decided to develop its own audio player in 2001.
The first version of Apple’s iPod was unveiled in October 2001, a little more than 8 months after the release of the iTunes software. The iPod quickly became one of the manufacturer’s most popular and recognizable products. Steve Jobs presented it as a Mac-compatible device that put “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
The first iPod was revolutionary, as it offered an impressive 5GB of storage space and a 10-hour battery life in a sleek, compact body that weighed just 184 grams. This was made possible by the implementation of a 1.8 inch (4.6cm) hard drive, rather than the 2.5 inch (6.4cm) hard drive used by competing players. Its unique appearance wad influenced by the 1958 Braun T3 radio, designed by none other than Dieter Rams. The patented scroll wheel used to control the player was inspired by the Bang & Olufsen BeoCom 6000 telephone and greatly contributed to the exceptional ergonomics of the iPod classic, as did its monochrome LCD screen.
There were a total of 6 version of the iPod classic. Released in 2002, the second generation of the iPod classic included 5GB, 10GB and 20GB models, and introduced the click wheel. The third generation (2003) was thinner than its predecessors and included four buttons between the screen and the wheel. The fourth version (2004) offered 20 and 40GB models and introduced a color LCD screen that could display photos imported from a computer. The sixth and final generation of the iPod classic was launched in 2007 and included a 120GB version.
By September 2003, Apple had sold one million iPod players. The following year, this figure reached 4.4 million units, eclipsing sales of Mac computers and prompting the Californian firm to create a new iPod branch. The production of the iPod classic was definitively halted in 2014.
iPod mini, nano, shuffle and touch
The first iPod mini was released in 2004. It was much more compact than the standard iPod and came in several colors, including yellow, blue, pink and gold. The mini did not last long, as it was abandoned in 2005 after only two generations in favor of the iPod Nano.
The same year, the iPod shuffle was added to the Apple line. This revolutionary model was the most compact of the iPod range, weighing just 22g. Focusing on simplicity, it was designed to play a selection of titles in sequential or random order (shuffle). According to Apple, existing iPod owners often left their playlists in shuffle mode. The new iPod shuffle was therefore an easier and less expensive way to take advantage of this playback mode. The shuffle was also the first iPod to use flash memory and it was deprived of screen, equipped only a control pad. The second version of the iPod shuffle released in 2006 was much smaller and benefited from a very handy clip allowing it to be attached to a belt or a pocket.
Although it is equipped with a 1.5″ color screen, the Shanling M0 Hi-Res DAP is a contemporary alternative to the iPod shuffle. Measuring less than 5cm by 5cm, this ultra-compact model takes the square shape of the shuffle and is also available in several colors.
The first iPod touch was released in 2007 at the same time as the iPhone, which can be considered the precursor of the first smartphones, but also of current DAPs. With a very similar design to the latter, the iPod touch was a more affordable alternative without the phone and camera functions. It was WiFi-enabled to allow users to browse the Internet via Safari and download music from an optimized version of the iTunes Store. The touch was equipped with a 3.5-inch touch screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels.
But these similarities with the iPhone ultimately spelled the end of the iPod touch player. The latter was supplanted by the very popular and ultra versatile smartphone. The seventh and final generation of the iPod touch was released in 2019. There are many current alternatives to this Apple player, including the Sony NW-A105. Just like the iPod touch, this hi-fi model has a touch screen and allows you to enjoy many online music services such as Deezer, Spotify, Qobuz or Tidal thanks to its WiFi and Android compatibility.
Another solution to replace the famous iPod is the FiiO M17. This top-of-the-range DAP is compatible with 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD and even MQA files thanks to its double DAC ESS to offer you the best listening experience possible for portable use.
The end of an era
After selling around 450 million iPods over a period of 21 years, Apple has decided to end this iconic range. With the growing popularity of smartphones, iPod sales began to decline in 2009. In 2014, the iPod accounted for only 1.25% of Apple’s turnover.
“Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “Today, the spirit of iPod lives on.” Apple will continue to sell the iPod touch while supplies last, but it’s already out of stock in the United States. So you’ll have to act fast if you want to grab one!
Another solution for hi-fi listening on the go
The Apple iPod is far from being the only alternative to the smartphone to enjoy your music on the go. Indeed, the DAP adopts high quality components as well as a conversion stage suitable for high resolution files (AAC, OGG, ALAC, WAV, FLAC, DSD, MQA, etc.) to allow you to listen to your music with a sound quality worthy of the best hi-fi systems.
Several brands are present on the DAP market, including Sony, inventor of the famous Walkman, Astell&Kern, FiiO, iBasso, HiFiMAN, Cayin, Shanling and Cowon, an MP3 player pioneer. Some DAPs are WiFi compatible to allow you to enjoy your online music services. In general, they run on Android and can download applications from streaming services such as Spotify, Qobuz, Deezer, Apple Music and Tidal. To choose the model that best suits your needs and your budget, take a look at our guide: Portable USB DAC or DAP: which should you choose?