Apple has announced the discontinuation of the company’s revolutionary music listening device, the iPod, after more than 20 years of production.
Released in 2001, at a time when digital music was still in its early days and MP3 players were just becoming popular, the iPod emerged as a superior music listening device that could hold “up to 1,000 CD-quality songs into an ultra-portable, 6.5 ounce design that fits in your pocket.”
Apple’s aggressive marketing campaign included now-iconic commercials that helped artists like Jet, The Ting Tings, and Franz Ferdinand break into the mainstream. The device exploded in popularity, quickly rising above the competition to become the number one portable music player.
Every Apple iPod Ad Ever (2001-2012)
In hindsight, the iPod was revolutionary not only because of its storage capacity and convenience, but because it encouraged a different kind of music consumption. As music fans turned in their cassette players and CD walkmans in favor of newer technology, illegal file-sharing became rampant, and the music industry struggled to sell physical copies of music that could be downloaded for free online.
In contrast to modern streaming services like Spotify, the iPod and accompanying iTunes store encouraged listeners to purchase personally-owned copies of individual songs and albums, and also to curate personalized playlists of their favorite tunes.
The iPod went through many iterations and redesigns over the years, including ever smaller models from the Mini, to the Nano, to the ultra-compact Shuffle. The most modern iPod—the iPod Touch—was released in 2007 and resembles an iPhone, but without cellular capabilities. It was most recently updated in 2019.
Apple last reported iPod sales in 2014, recording 14.4 million units sold. This marked a significant drop from the 55 million sold in 2008, with iPod sales accounting for just 1.25 percent of Apple’s revenue by 2014. The tech giant discontinued the iPod Classic that same year, pulling the Nano and Shuffle in 2017, leaving just the iPod Touch which soldiered on for another five years.
Ironically, the introduction of the iPhone and other smartphones marked the beginning of the end for the iPod. Once listeners could access the internet anywhere on their mobile devices, there was less need to store music files locally, and it was only a matter of time until streaming music became the norm. The traditional model of music ownership has now been supplanted by subscription-based streaming platforms, which, while preferable to illegal file sharing, are not the most lucrative way for artists to distribute their music, leaving the recording industry in jeopardy once again.
Apple has ceased production of the iPod Touch, but the company said they will be available while supplies last.