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A Plea to Apple - Don't Kill the iPod Classic

Andrew Williams by

A Plea to Apple - Don't Kill the iPod Classic

Apple fans around the world are starting to get excited, nervous eyes surveying bank balances and fingers totting up the months to go until mobile contracts runs out - because the iPhone 5 is set to launch on September 12. It'll be a momentous day in the tech world, as the geekier side of life spills out to saturate the mainstream media and fill the mouths of everyone in the office.

But it may be a sad day too. It may be the day Apple finally kills the iPod Classic.

Rumours of the decade-old hard disk drive iPod's demise have done the rounds for some time now, as units shifted continued to diminish. In Apple's last earnings call, iPod sales were down 10 per cent, and the Classic only accounts for a fraction of total iPod sales as-is. These days, an iPod usually means an iPod touch.

My iPod Classic - battered and bruised, but loved

But this isn't the main reason why Apple might kill the Classic next month. The iPhone 5 will introduce a new connector, one much smaller than the current 30-pin model.

To keep its products Apple-simple, it's likely that the entire iPod range will be given a spring clean to support this new microUSB-sized standard. And it is the perfect opportunity for Apple to nudge the doddery old Classic into a grave that has probably been dug for some time now.

iPod sales are on the downward slope (via Wikipedia)

Don't Do it, Apple

I'm here to plead Apple not to. The main reason is fairly obvious - no other Apple player offers the storage to let you carry around a whacking great big music library. And the closest it gets is the 64GB iPod touch. Less than half the storage, almost twice the price.

The beauty of the hard-drive iPod's trajectory, from launch to today, is that as our digital music libraries got bigger, so did the storage of the little blighter. Back in 2001 when the first iPod was launched, it used a 5GB hard drive.

Now that seems almost impossibly tiddly - it's small even for a microSD card. But back then, in the days when the digital music generation was wriggling pupa-like across the web, downloading tracks off Napster using 56k dial-up modems, it seemed miraculous.

Storage soon shot up as hard drive tech developed, right alongside the spread of high-speed broadband across the country. Of course, back in those days many of us will have spent hours ripping MP3s from those shiny discs we used to buy. Such cherished, tedious memories.

It's Not an Apple Thing

Begging for a near-obsolete Apple product to stay on shelves may sound like the height of Apple fanboyism, but my own story features more years of Apple resistance than those bowing at the altar of the "big A."

Back in 2003 I bought a Creative DAP Jukebox, one of the very first hard drive MP3 players. Paid for through dozens of hours of loading frozen livers onto the local supermarket's shelves, it was one of the also one of the first big tech buys of my teenage life.

With a 6GB hard drive and a body no smaller than that of a portable CD player thanks to the 4AA batteries that powered the show, it was a laughable thing compared to what we have today. But at the time it seemed magical. Being able to carry around 1000 songs was a revelation. It didn't skip when you moved around to quickly like a portable CD player - I was convinced 128kbps MP3s were the future. And so were hard drive MP3 players.

The gruesome twosome

Seemingly unphased by the figurative "geek" sticker I was wearing on my forehead, the love affair with HDD media player continued through the format's heyday. The criminally underrated (but Atari Lynx-sized) 20GB Rio Riot and classic 40GB iRiver iHP-140 were my next tristes, and happy memories of both remain.

But then it started happening.

The hard drive MP3 player market started to dry up, and slowly the things stopped appearing. Names that were once big in the market either went bust or faded into obscurity.

There came a time when resistance was clearly ridiculous. Up against the 5th generation iPod with its colour screen, sleek design and 160GB hard drive, the iRiver iHP-140 just didn't cut it any more. To eBay it went.

And afterwards, I bought my first ever Apple device, a 160GB iPod Classic.

In the years since, despite having owned numerous iPod touches and an iPhone, the Classic has remained the one daily companion. It has visited every country I've been to, and walked most of the roads I've been down. And I'm not ready to say goodbye just yet.

Into the Great Beyond

Terribly sentimental, isn't it? The real issue is that there's not yet something to replace it.

Streaming services like Spotify and Napster are fantastic - no arguments there. But even forgetting the lapses in their libraries, we just don't have the 3G infrastructure here in the UK to make using them as our main music sources particularly viable yet.

iPod Classic

My work commute involves a train ride, and thanks to some sort of mobile internet black hole, I lose connectivity for a good five minutes out of a 20 minute trip. This is in London, folks.

Offline playlists? Sure, but it's still no replacement for 160GB Classic, which lets me carry around every music track I own. Until I can get a Spotify service that works wherever I go, day-to-day, I won't be ditching the old dear.

Apple, you used to be all about the music. Do a music fan a favour and let the old dog lie on the mat a little longer…

Go to comments

Andy 10

August 7, 2012, 8:00 pm

Agreed. I love the iPod classic and have owned them ever since they came out.

I tried moving over to an iPod touch and didn't like the interface, which was not good to use while listening to music in bed. I don't want to have to open my eyes to jump forwards and backwards in a track. You can do this with the lovely wheel interface of the classic.

Ergonomically I think touch screens have quiet a few disadvantages, made worse by Apple's stuborn refusal to have physical buttons on the case.


August 7, 2012, 9:21 pm

What's even worse - and we can probably thank Apple for this one too - is the gradual move towards non-expandable memory as well.

Not only has there been a sudden drop in flagship storage due to the shift from HDD to SSD, but now there's a shift towards that being all you'll ever get.

In a similar way to the size of MP3 player storage gradually increasing, so is the available size of MicroSD cards. Granted the latest and biggest are rather expensive, but that doesn't matter when you can double your storage now, and then triple it later down the line when new cards are available for a decent price.

64GB in-built plus a 128GB MicroSD is bigger than the largest iPod Classic, but you won't find that expansion ability in an Apple product - that would result in a removable storage card that you can plug into a card reader and bypass iTunes. The horror!


August 8, 2012, 2:03 am

Good article Andrew. I had an iRiver iHP-140 40GB for ages - it was absolutely fan-bleeding-tastic. In spite of its err, quirky OS and frustrating 'joy' stick, I still think that this was / is the best MP3 player / recorder yet. If even had an optical I/O. It was a shame that little hard drive was small in capacity and quite noisy and the battery wasn't great and the screen looked like Tetris and the Chrome bits all bubbled up on mine and the headphones and in-line remote were awful....

Hang on, actually it was a bit rubbish in areas! The best buy out there is to get a busted iPod classic, bin the hard drive and replace the battery with a higher mAH version, pop in a cheap 64GB 133x CF card via a £2 adapter and you're good to go.


August 8, 2012, 3:51 am

Utterly agree. HDD densities have more than doubled since the 160 came out - let's have a 300-400GB classic (or double up to the two platter drives again and gimme 750GB). Finally I'd be able to carry all my tunes on me (and no, I'm not a rampant pirate, i'm just old....).

Mark Peter

August 8, 2012, 12:35 pm

Agree with everything said here. I really don't have the time or the patience to create playlists - I just prefer to dump my whole core collection and go. I also have two years to go on a BMW lease with iPod connectivity and the Classic is just the perfect fit. I think I'll get some resilience and either buy a second new Classic or follow ElectricSheeps recommendation and refurb a busted one.

My first MP3 player was the Sony Walkman NW-HD5. Better than the iPod of its time in almost every way but the desktop software was even worse than iTunes and a million miles away from Mediamonkey. Threw it in a drawer in the end and its still there...

M. Long

August 10, 2012, 8:09 pm

Terrific article. I've got an iPod Classic (or 'Video' as it may have been called back then - I'm not enough of a fashion victim to want to keep up to date with all the different generations like one of those rich saddos who changes their car every time a new numberplate comes out). I use it every single day. It's built like a tank, has most of my CDs on it - which I still buy, as CDs are often cheaper than downloads and give you something you can sell on eBay - and tonnes of audiobooks as well. I use it when I'm working, when I'm travelling, when I need something to help me drift off to sleep... It does everything I need it to and I've never felt the desire or necessity to upgrade it. I'm probably Apple's worst nightmare!

Peter Gold

February 6, 2014, 9:06 am

Does this still apply? My 80gb is now full and I need to upgrade. My old Creative 20gb has finally gone to the graveyard. Had a great sound but finally stopped working.

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