The iPod Classic had a simplicity that newer devices have lost

The iPod Classic had a simplicity that newer devices have lost
The iPod Classic had a simplicity that newer devices have lost (Image credit: Joseph Keller / imore)

Before I got my first iPod in 2003, I had some experience with Apple products. Our family computer had been a Mac for a couple of years before we switched to Windows for compatibility reasons, and my elementary school classrooms had Macs, too. But it wasn't until that first iPod that I would genuinely call myself an Apple fan.

And these days, I kind of miss using my iPod Classic. I know that there are still dedicated music players out there, but nothing comes close to what Apple offered in the Classic, not even Apple's own iPod touch. I miss having a device made just (or primarily) for music, even though there's a lot of convenience and practicality in making music just another feature of the iPhone.

I remember that I had some kind of odd, unintuitive MP3 player before I got an iPod. The only thing I remember about it is that it was small and hard to load up with music. Then I got my iPod, and everything changed. It was still compact, but it couldn't be easier to fill to the brim with every song I'd ever owned, which was something, especially back in a time when burning CDs to your computer was still a thing a lot of us did.

And there was something fun about using an iPod that modern devices just haven't been able to replicate. I wouldn't exactly call today's modern music apps joys to use. They work just fine, and everything is clearly labeled so I can navigate through my library or browse through available music. But it's all just functional. Conversely, the iPod was fun to use whenever I played music, even as the initial novelty wore off. The joy of using something can fade into the background over time, but I don't think I had a bad user experience with the iPod.

The iPod was just a perfect device for what it did, and frankly, it hasn't been matched since Apple discontinued it six years ago. While the first iPod I owned, the third-generation model, was definitely a departure from the previous iterations of the device with buttons above the click wheel, subsequent generations put the buttons back on the wheel, and I don't know that you could find a single better experience for both digging through your music library and controlling playback in one interface.

Click. Click. Scroll. Click.

That's all it used to take to start playing music. Now, sometimes it's that simple on my iPhone, but rarely. The closest I can get to that level of simplicity now is using Siri on my iPhone. For me, that's not nearly as reliable as the click wheel (seriously, Apple, why doesn't Siri default to searching my library for my request first?).

Do you want to pause music? Play again? Skip forward or back? I could just keep my hands in my pockets and thumb the click wheel. I always found it easy to click the right button on the wheel without looking. While clicking my AirPods or pulling my iPhone out of my pocket to tap the pause button isn't exactly a hardship, none of it matches the delightful simplicity of using the iPod Classic.

Speaking of delight, there was something about scrolling through my music collection that I just loved. The classic iPod's 'clicking' sound that played as you scrolled through your music collection added to the experience of the device, and it helped subtly orient you as you moved through your library.

There are many advantages to our modern devices, like internet connectivity, a nigh-infinite collection of songs at our fingertips, and even third-party apps full of music that don't require you to use Apple's built-in offering. But the act of listening to music used to be just a little more fun. Not a lot more, but a little more, and I miss that fun. I miss the simplicity.

I certainly wouldn't trade my iPhone for an iPod Classic. I'd lose too much in that exchange. But I would also probably jump at the chance to get a new, click wheel-based iPod.

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Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.