Apple has announced that it’s discontinuing the iPod Touch, the last remaining model in its lineup of portable music players. In a news post on Tuesday, the company says that it will sell the current Touch “while supplies last.”
While Apple may be done with making dedicated music players, the company says that “the spirit of iPod lives on” in all of its devices that play music, such as the iPhone, iPad, and HomePod Mini.
The iPod Touch going away marks the end of an era. As Apple notes, it introduced the first iPod “over 20 years ago.” The original FireWire-equipped model acted as just a portable music player, and Apple made models that were pretty much exclusively for listening to audio up until 2017 when it discontinued the iPod Nano and Shuffle. While the iPod Touch has been embraced by some iPod enthusiasts as the new classic music player, it also found a following for those who wanted an iPhone-like experience but didn’t need a phone.
While the iPod Touch has had its fans, the writing’s been on the wall for a while. The seventh-gen iPod Touch Apple discontinued Tuesday was introduced in 2019 via a press release. While the iPhone 11 would be released later that year, the 2019 touch had the same A10 processor as the iPhone 7. The sixth-gen iPod Touch was launched in 2015. Despite people like me crying for a simplistic music player designed for the age of streaming, the time between releases and older hardware made it clear that Apple wasn’t looking to spend much time on the iPod.
It’s hard to blame the company for that. Most people aren’t particularly interested in carrying a second device that does something their smartphone is perfectly capable of (see also: the drying up of the point-and-shoot camera market). Tony Fadell, one of the developers of the original iPod, mentioned in an interview with The Verge that the iPod team knew the iPhone could end up overtaking music players. “It became very clear to us that there was a real threat from mobile phones, feature phones. They were starting to add music, MP3 playing, to the cell phones that they were shipping at the time,” he said.
Apple didn’t see that as a problem, according to Fadell. “At Apple, every single thing that was tried — at least under Steve — needed to ship because it was existential. You couldn’t make the iPhone successful because you were cannibalizing the iPod business.”
While the iPod may soon disappear from store shelves, it’s hard to completely do away with something so iconic. We’ll likely continue to see iPod modification projects from enthusiasts or web experiences designed to evoke nostalgia for the age of dedicated music players. Apple didn’t invent the market for them, but it did rocket them to popularity — now, the torch has been passed to companies like Sony and Fiio to keep the legacy alive for hardcore music enthusiasts.