The iPod lives on, but not inside of the iPhone

iPod touch
iPod touch (Image credit: iMore)

If you weren't living under a rock last week, you heard the news that Apple officially discontinued the iPod. The company announced that the existing generation of the iPod touch would be the final iPod model — ever.

People flocked to social media (and to websites like this one, of course) to talk about the iPod, its effect on the music industry, Apple itself, and also many stories about how the iPod affected them personally. Many people reflected on how an iPod was not only their first Apple device but the first piece of technology that made them FEEL something when, as Apple puts it, technology and the creative arts intersect.

Apple Ipod End Of Life Ipod Touch Seventh Generation

Apple Ipod End Of Life Ipod Touch Seventh Generation (Image credit: Apple)

I spent my share of time thinking about my experience with the iPod, too. I too was among those whose iPod was their first Apple device. I remember two things when I was a kid when it came to technology: my family getting our Gateway computer (cow print box and all) and getting the original iPod nano. Queue iTunes, Napster, ripping my CDs, eventually getting a MacBook, and all of the other things that followed that simple purchase that caused me to stick with Apple for the next two decades.

While it was fun to reflect on the iPod and its history, for Apple and all of us, I also began to wonder where it goes now. The iPod is gone but, as Apple put it, "the music lives on." That statement got me thinking that, if it no longer lives inside of the device that put 1000 songs in our pocket, where does the music live now?

The iPod lives on inside of two devices: AirPods and HomePod

Airpods 3 buds without case

Airpods 3 buds without case (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

While it might be almost instinct to say that the future of the iPod lives inside the best iPhone, the longer I thought about it, the more I became convinced this is not the case. While one of the three pillars of the iPhone was originally "a widescreen iPod with touch controls," it has long since grown out of that and become almost all the things for all the people. It's your camera, your calculator, your GPS, your notepad, and, oh yeah, your phone. Add the App Store and the iPhone is about as much of an iPod as the iPad is an Apple Newton (look it up on Wikipedia).

While the iPhone is certainly the device that most of us might use to access our music, whether it be on Apple Music or another music streaming service, I don't think the iPhone embodies Apple's love of music. Tim Cook has said that "music's always been at the heart of Apple." Now that the iPod is gone, I believe that the spirit of the iPod lives on in not one but two devices: AirPods and HomePod.

Two white homepods sitting on a television stand

Two white homepods sitting on a television stand (Image credit: iMore)

The thing that made me realize that the spirit of the iPod now lives in AirPods and HomePod was actually pretty simple: it was Apple's own ads. The iPod had an iconic series of ads that featured silhouettes of people dancing to music with, you guessed it, their iPods and Apple's EarPods. Even when the iPod evolved and featured video and then the iPod touch opened the App Store to it, the focus stayed mostly on the music.

When you look at campaign ads for the iPhone, things don't really focus so much on music anymore. There's too much for Apple to cover and the iPhone is for so much more than music. The ads focus on the camera, the display, the durability of the new glass, and the latest processor — as Steve Jobs put it, "speeds and feeds." However, when you look at AirPods and HomePod, music and how a product makes you feel come right back into focus.

It's especially evident in the ads that Apple releases with AirPods, and that's an easy one to guess why. AirPods are headphones and what do you use headphones mainly for if not listening to music? Back off podcast and audiobook people — Apple isn't making ads for that. Apple's ads for AirPods don't talk about speeds and feeds but about how getting lost in music makes you FEEL. And, if you want to feel like the people in the ads, you should buy a pair of AirPods.

The same goes with the HomePod. While the device has Siri packed in which enables it to serve as a smart assistant for your entire home, Apple's marketing around the device is less like Amazon, which leans in hard on its home speaker as an assistant, and more like AirPods. The best representation of this is "Welcome Home," the HomePod ad from Spike Jonze that, just like AirPods ads, is less about the device's features and more about how it lets you get lost in the music at home. The company did something similar with the HomePod mini as well.

The music lives on

While the iPod may be gone, the music certainly lives on at Apple with AirPods and HomePod. A device that helps you get lost in the music is expressed in full with Apple's advertisements for its wireless headphones and its home speaker. It's clear that Apple sees the spirit of its original music player within each device.

It also lives on, of course, in Apple Music, the company's music streaming service. The company continues to invest in music, recently adding Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio into its music streaming plan at no additional cost to its subscribers.

With the help of Apple Music, AirPods, and HomePod, 1000 songs in your pocket has grown into 90 million songs, anywhere. While I'll miss the iPod and the history we have all shared with it, I'm excited for the future of music and where Apple will take it next.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.