iPod classic, requiescat in pace

Yesterday Apple quietly put to rest the device that singularly got the company moving in the direction it is today: the iPod classic. It's not hyperbole to suggest that the iPod helped turn Apple into the business it is today: The most successful consumer electronics company on the planet.

Apple introduced the original iPod in 2001. It had been four years since the company grabbed headlines and rescued itself from the brink by introducing the iMac. What's more, Apple was pivoting to become a much more directly consumer-focused company; earlier that year, it had begun opening its own retail stores. The iPod gave Apple customers another reason to check out the stores.

You could store 5 GB of music on that first iPod — 1,000 songs in your pocket, as Apple marketed it. The iPod was clad in white plastic and equipped with a black and white display and a mechanical click wheel. It connected to the Mac (Mac-only, at first) using a FireWire cable, and interfaced with Apple's iTunes app, which Apple had only released at the beginning of 2001. Digital music was still a novelty. It'd still be two more years before the iTunes Store would be available — for now, people were loading iTunes with music they'd already purchased on CD.

Mac users responded enthusiastically to the iPod, and Apple followed up with a PC-compatible version in 2002. Adoption of that model was hampered by its continued reliance on FireWire, a peripheral interface that was gaining popularity on the Mac but never quite got off the ground on the PC, except for some speciality systems like Sony Vaio computers.

2003 was a big year for Apple and the iPod. Apple revised the design of the iPod to incorporate the 30-pin dock connector — a standard on its consumer products for the next nine years, until the introduction of the iPhone 5, and one that made the iPod squarely platform-agnostic in terms of hardware connectivity.

What's more, the company introduced the iTunes Music Store, making it painfully easy to pay for and download music. Apple also introduced a Windows-compatible version of iTunes in 2003, making it easier than ever for people to buy and use iPods regardless of what computer platform they had (Apple had been selling the iPod for PC bundled with a third-party software app called Musicmatch).

Many more successes followed. By its fourth generation the iPod was squarely recognizable as the same one that you could buy from Apple up until yesterday. A color screen would eventually be added, and the original iPod would be rebranded as the "classic" beginning in 2007. The device has gone unchanged since 2009, when it was updated with a 160 GB hard drive, making it the single largest music-carrying device in Apple's iPod arsenal.

The success of the original iPod spawned the enormously successful iPod mini, the even more successful iPod nano, and even the iPod shuffle, all of which implemented the same familiar circular click wheel interface to make it easier to discover and listen to your music everywhere.

Of course, times and tastes have changed. The world changed irrevocably in 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone, and later, the iPod touch. The iPod nano would eventually adopt an iOS-like touch screen interface, too. So the iPod classic was left to lumber along, the only one of its kind still in the wild.

And so, quietly, without fanfare or ado, Apple changed the iPod classic's status from extant to extinct. What's a shame about it is that there isn't a flash-based device in Apple's arsenal with the equivalent storage capacity of the iPod classic; 128 GB is as big as the new iPhone 6 gets, twice the capacity of the largest iPod touch. Hopefully we'll see a new iPod touch soon, but I don't have high hopes that it'll have 256 GB or anything. Apple's banking too much on seeing customers transition to technologies like iCloud and iTunes Match to bother with making iOS devices with tons of internal capacity.

There are still iPod classics available in the retail channel; the store I work in still has a couple for sale, and I see them available on web sites too. This isn't the first time I've lamented the end of the iPod classic, but Apple's removal of the device from its web site and web store is an unmistakable indication that the device has been put out to pasture once and for all.

Are you sad like me that the iPod classic has gone away? Or was 13 years a long enough run for one device? Let me know your thoughts.

56 Comments
  • Was a great device back in the day. 120gb version served me well.
  • I wish they didn't retire it because I know a lot of people who, for some reason, don't want to use a cloud based system like iTunes Match and so they bought an iPod Classic for their music.
  • Likewise. While I'm an iTunes Match customer, the iPod classic was the only device capable of holding my entire music collection.
  • While I still use my 120gb, it no longer holds all of my music :( So, I am therefore stuck in a donut hole--I either just edit and sync playlists to my phone daily, or I carry the iPod and try my best to manage the space and keep it up to date. I'll explore the larger iPhone6Plus, but truly, I'd pay as much for a new iPod Classic with even a 500gb, or 320gb HD as I would have to pay to upgrade to a 6Plus...however, I am not sure I'd forever be happy with 120gb in the phone, as I really do want ALL of my music in my pocket. I am not a fan of the cloud based music because if you're in a tunnel, or in a subways, you're out of luck. There still aren't many places like that with WIFI... Or an airplane.... Bring back that CLASSIC with more space (I just bought a 2tb external for $89 or something, Apple!) at an efficient cost. People will buy it, just like they will the new iPhone.
  • If you are willing to spend some cash (probably more than you originally spent on the iPod), there are 2 options for upgrading your storage. The iPod uses a 1.8" PATA HHD. You can swap it out with mSSD or a Compact Flash card. Both require adapters which are readily available on ebay and Amazon, et al. While you have the back off your iPod, you should replace the battery too. I replaced my iPod Classic's 160HHD with a 256 SSD a year ago. It runs the iPod software much faster so browsing is quicker. It is also shock resistant now. The hardest part is taking off the back of your iPod (it is not for the faint of heart). There are lots of How-Tos online. The iPod Classic is dead. Long live the iPod Classic!
  • I love iTunes Match but sometimes service renders it useless so it's always great to have your entire library on a solid state drive. :( Sent from the iMore App
  • I was considering buying the iPod Classic for the exact reason, but I decided it wasn't worth it.
  • I don't use iCloud match:
    1. it's expensive
    2. I work 50% of the year in China and data (while cheap in China) isn't fast for temporary users like myself. So getting cellular data is just more trouble for me than it's worth. Trust me, i've been commuting there for nearly 4 years and haven't found a good solution that's worth my effort. Sure, for vacation travel and national resident it's fine, but not for my 6 week at a time jaunts.
    3. Even if I were solely USA based i wouldn't use iTunes Match. There are still many edge cases (lousy cell reception) that would be just enough annoyances where i'd feel the service is not worth it.
  • I will miss it :( Sent from the iMore App
  • Good night sweet prince! I'm glad I could see the writing on the wall and bought a new 160 Gb one last year to replace my aging 80Gb one. Even though I have no less than 2 Android and 2 IOS devices, I still prefer the iPod classic simply because it does one thing well: play music. I can play all of my music even when there is no cellular access. There is no denying that you can operate it blind without looking at it to skip songs or pause versus futzing around with a touch screen. I even still use the old iPod remote (the one that added FM radio to a classic) when the thing is in my bag. It's been a good run and I hope this current one serves me for many more years until cellular is 100% and fast ;-)
  • I'll probably pick one up when I pick my iPhone 6 up next Friday.. wonder if they'll be at a discounted price since they are "backstocked" now Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm surprised it's not on the clearance section of the apple store. Wonder what they did with the existing inventory?
  • Me too! I was looking at actually buying one the day before the iPhone reveal. Hoping to catch a deal on one to use she working in the yard or just keep it in h truck Sent from the iMore App
  • The stereo in my Jeep has a built in dock for ipod. I leave my Gen 5.5 mounted in there always. Serves me quite well and hopefully will continue doing so.
  • And yet they don't add a new 128gb iPod Touch with at least an A7 chipset? Grrrrr... Sent from the iMore App
  • Should we even expect a refreshed iPod Touch 128GB nowadays ? That model would probably cost $349 (or $399 if it has iPhone 5C hardware). It's more important to unveil a new Apple TV and it'll be nice to see some action with this product. Now that we have seen iPhone 6 we can make an educated guess regarding the iPad. That's a real priority now so I believe that the Air 2 model that's coming next month will have A8 chip, faster ac WiFi/LTE, antireflective coating, tweaked volume buttons and TouchID (even if you won't use it to purchase anything). Maybe they'll drop the price and make 32GB the minimum storage capacity (as it should be). Of course they can also skip iPad Mini upgrade cycle and focus on the Pro model with 2GB RAM, larger screen etc. but now the Air 2 specs are 98% confirmed and nothing else will be done here (and nothing else is needed to be done with it since they need a completely new Pro product that'll turn heads again).
  • Actually, it does make sense. It shouldn't be that difficult to add an A7 and 128 GB in the existing iPodTouch form factor, and drop the prices of the the devices slightly for added appeal. It allows you to have all your music in one place on one device, without having to worry about wifi/iMatch connections, without memory space competing with other items and functions on the device, and keeping it in your car's glove box with it's car charger so that it's always there and ready to charge at any time, and ready to play any of your 6000, 8000, 10000 songs at any time without restrictions.
  • For Apple it doesn't make sense and we can forget about A7 in iTouch this year (it'll be incredible if they use A6). And since iOS 8 is optimised to run on devices with less RAM I bet we won't see 2GB anywhere (except a bigger iPad).
  • I still love my iPod Classic. Especially for camping it hold every one of my audio books so when I just can't decide I have options. Sent from the iMore App
  • I love my iPod Classic because i stored a lot of my music collections and at the same time i was stored also all my pictures it has a very spacious device with a 160GB. Iam very sad on this to eliminate one of the Apple family the iPod Classic. Sent from the iMore App
  • I had to look up "requiescat". Thanks for making me learn something today.
  • Douchey headline.
  • I still love my classic. It gets a lot of use and can fit my entire library. I wish they didn't retire it because I'd still like to purchase another one in the near future Sent from the iMore App
  • People want new phones and they need better tablets, no one is pissing themselves at the thought of the iPod anymore.
  • My old iPod classic was hanging on. Battery was gone, click wheel was acting up and screen was dim. I wasn't going to get a new one but after seeing it removed from the Apple site. I went to the nearest Apple Store and bought one last night. The one I had was 2007 edition. I have 90 GB of music and another 2-6 GB of podcasts. Nothing on the market, shy of streaming with unlimited data, will hold my music. The limited data plan is the main reason I won't stream. If you want one I suggest you go get one at the nearest apple store and get one. The ones in ATL still had some. I wished they would have updated the classic with solid state memory.
  • DJs still use these high capacity iPods. Oh well.
  • The "big" DJs (headliners I've seen at Las Vegas nightclubs) use USB thumb drives. Just plug it into the Pioneer CDJ, press play, fist pump, repeat.
  • Somebody's played Assassin's Creed.
  • My first Apple product was the 40GB 4th gen. iPod.
  • Same. Technically my first NEW apple product.
    I first bought a 500Mhz (!) Titanium PowerBook from my Army buddy, when it was about two years old. (Both at the end of 2003)
    Meeeemmmmrrriiieeeess
  • I am on my second classic (160GB) after my first (80GB) died when I dropped it into a paint bucket. I hope the little beauty lives forever, it's my main musical device. Rest in peace little guy, but you aren't dead yet!
  • Did you try putting it in rice? Jk
  • That messed up, I love my classic. It holds all my music in one device without ado. Hope the next gen (whatever it will be called) has as much capacity.
  • I still have a 160 GB around here somewhere.. :)
  • R.I.P. Sent from the iMore App
  • This really upsets me. My iTunes library is in excess of 750gb in music alone. Granted there is no device capable of carrying my library mobile, but the 160gb model is enough for a decent amount of playlists. I am in the same boat as Peter, where I would love to see a large capacity iPod touch.
  • Jesus. Do you have all those songs in iTunes? Sort the whole list by play count, how many songs have you listened to more than 20 times? Just curious.
  • It was great while it lasted, while it was needed. Once iTunes Match came out, I didn't need my 40Gb rev3 iPod anymore. I could keep my favorites on my phone, and download that one album to scratch the occasional nostalgic itch. The capacity of iTunes Match far exceeds 160Gb.
    $25/year is much cheaper than a whole iPod.
    I'm connect with LTE or Wi-Fi 99% of everywhere I go. What other reason would there be to have your entire library OFFLINE in your pocket or glove box?
  • Correction: the capacity of iTunes Match COULD exceed 160Gb.
    iTunes Match is limited to 25,000 songs NOT purchased from iTunes.
    iPod Classic 160Gb can store up to 40,000 songs. I assume at 128kbps.
  • What other reason? iTunes Match is 128Kb bitrate music. If you want 320Kb or lossless higher quality music then there's your reason right there. I've got an G7 Classic with a portable amp via the line out powering P7 headphones that love higher quality music files. They take more space too.
    There's no other product on the market that can do this at this capacity at any sensible price.
  • Not true. If you "own" a 128kbps version of a song that is also available from iTunes, you now have access to that AAC-256kbps version from iTunes. I ripped all of my favorite CDs at lossless, those get converted from ALAC to AAC 256, according to this article.
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4914?locale=en_US
    But I could swear I was able to dl them as ALAC. Also, the file size limit is 200Mb per song. So if you have 20,000 songs in ALAC, and every speaker system you ever plug into is capable of reproducing sound at such a high quality that listening to 256AAC makes your ears bleed, then yes, save the iPod.
  • Also, you can still load the handful of favorites In Lossless from your computer, & have access to everything else in AC256. I have about a dozen or so albums that are ALAC on my phone (synced from iTunes.app) these are my favorites, the ones I still get a chill when I hear those certain parts. Everything else is background or "I just wanna hear it now" kinda songs. Not worth carrying a second device. IMO.
  • I remember how excited I was when I got my white 32gb iPod on my 23rd birthday. It was my first apple device and it blew my mind. Eventually I sold it to buy the first iphone. In a way that old iPod is still helping me pay for new apple products as if I hadn't been given it, I wouldn't have been able to afford the iphone and all subsequent upgrades. It got me into apples' ecosystem and changed how I look at all consumer electronics. Thanks iPod, you had a good run
  • I'll absolutely miss the "classic" I currently have a 15GB, a 32GB, and a 160GB classic that I use daily. The classic is the only iPod that could hold all my music for a good price. And music is about all it did, which is why I love the classic. My first iPod was the 3rd-gen with the awesome light up touch buttons. Still my favorite iPod, if it only had more than 15GB I would still use it daily. The first iPod of mine is what sparked my interest in Apple and it's why I use a MacBook as my main computer today.
  • I still use mine and I still have about 30 gigs to fill it up with lol... Sent from the iMore App
  • Oh! I was saving up to get one of these!!
    I never had a real iPod and was looking forward to the experience (and to the massive capacity)!!
  • I have used my iPod Classic since 2010. I love it! I have had two iPod touches and still don't compare to the classic. Something about the physical buttons, storage space and quality of the device that keeps me using it daily! RIP.
  • I have mine by my bedside, and after months of ripping, it still only has half my CD collection on it (roughly 9000 tracks). It's just a little over half full. Amazing. Also amazing: I had an NAS crash last year, so my iPod Classic was the only full backup of my music. If it had all been in the cloud ... lost. I would've had to re-rip everything, and download online purchases. For that alone, a mega-storage iPod is more than a luxury.
  • I still use my 160gb "Classic".
    I bought my first in 2007, it died in 2011. Apple couldn't fix it but offered me a newer refurbished one for ½ price and i jumped on it. It's still my default device for music. don't put a drop of music on my iPhone. There's just something nice about having ALL your music where you want, when you want it (in my case, 50gb and 9500+ songs). I was praying for a refresh with all SSD and wifi for syncing podcasts on the go, but i suppose now that dream is dead. Very sad they let it fizzle out. no Swan Song.
  • Bittersweet to see Apple moving beyond the music only device which helped them triumph back in the day. Really do enjoy having a music only device for workouts and riding. They still need something more compact than the iPod touch for those activities.
  • I've had one from the start. Hopefully they'll put out a Touch with an updated capacity. My library is huge and like many I'm stuck having to cherry pick tunes to put on the device but I love having the majority of must listens in my pocket. I really want that separate from my phone and don't even want to go near a cloud system. I've put a lot of time in ripping my library (ALAC or V0) so I don't want a perceived loss in quality.
  • Yeah, passing of an icon. For many years, apple lossless tunes kept me happy and justified my Dynaudio upgrade on the GTI. Still lives in the armrest but battery is probably gone so tunes will migrate elsewhere. Either a thumb drive or new iP6+. Hopefully the latter but that depends on upcoming car selection.
  • As a iPod Video(5.5G) owner, I offer you my shoulder to cry on.
  • I love my Gen 6 Classic. I still use daily and it has been through a lot (deployments, road trips, etc.) and still works great. I have considered buying a newer one for the larger storage but figured I'd wait until mine finally dies. I guess I should start looking before nobody has them anymore :(
  • I remember getting my first (and only) iPod--the 80gb 5th generation in 2007 (a graduation present). It is still working to this day, and has all of my music and audiobooks on it. My iPhone has my music and one audiobook
  • I have an 80 gb model that I still use in my car (it has an iPod adopter). I use my phone more now at the gym, but that 80 gb is still my best way of carry most of my music with me when I travel. Or when I hook it to my old stereo that has iPod connectivity. Ya I'm using old tech, but I'm also using Bluetooth speakers with that stereo(maybe next year Sonos). But in some ways it is an necessity, because it doesn't have bluetooth. Someday I might use it more as an back up for my music collection, and maybe I'll even pickup another with larger capacity one for that. But it marks an end to a era, when you could carry all of your music library on one device. I personally would have to buy cloud storage to hold all my music, between my phone, iPod, laptop standard would not be enough. So good bye iPod, with out you my music collection will never be the same, with out you there would be no ITunes store, or iPhone. So everybody say a farewell, and shed a tear for a lost era of the iPod. Posted via the iMore App for Android