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The iPod nano and shuffle won't sync Apple Music songs, putting another nail in the new iPod coffin

Though Rene and I had speculated about Apple revamping the iPod nano and shuffle line to include some sort of Bluetooth authentication for Apple Music, it looks as though the iPod line won't get access to offline copies of Apple's newest streaming service.

When you try to sync offline Apple Music tracks to a nano or shuffle, you're met with this rather disappointing message: "Apple Music songs cannot be copied to an iPod." You'll have to rely on your purchased music for those devices, instead.

Why did Apple do this?

It's probably a record label requirement: In theory, you could sync an iPod shuffle or nano up with Apple Music tracks, then cancel your Apple Music subscription and continue rocking out to those "copied" tracks forever.

Given the small storage space of both the nano and shuffle, though, I think this is pretty dumb. For one thing, you'd at most be stealing a couple hundred to a couple thousand songs; for another, how hard would it have been to perform an authentication check every time you plug your iPod into your Mac? If iPod has expired Apple Music tracks on it, delete said tracks. If not, keep on rocking.

This makes the least sense for the iPod nano, as the device already has Bluetooth built in. You'd think Apple could include a wireless sync-style option for it like it does for the Apple Watch, but no—the nano is doomed to purchased music only, as well.

At its heart, though, this is probably an issue regarding priority and time. Apple needed to write a software update for both the nano and the shuffle to recognize and use Apple Music; instead, they get a new paint job and that's about it. (The nano is still using the iOS 6 UI, which is kind of horrific when you think about it. Jony, you really let this out of your lab?) I suppose there's a small chance that Apple could take the time to update the device's software in the future to allow for this, but I'm skeptical.

The iPod touch, alone

This leaves the iPod touch as the lone iPod in the line that can take advantage of Apple Music's catalog in both online and offline formats. It gets Apple Music because it can run iOS 8.4; Apple doesn't need to create a major software update for the iPod touch because one already existed.

As a result, if you want your kid, friend, or significant other to have access to Apple Music and a new iPod, the iPod touch is the only really viable option.

The sad truth about iPods

Much as I love the delight of the iPod shuffle line, this is the latest in a long line of moves toward making the iPod obsolete. The Apple Watch is the future for semi-offline small devices you want to listen to while on the go; the nanos and shuffles of the world are the elegant, ancient weapons from a more civilized age of wired headphones and purchased music.

Long may they live on our shelves as reminders for what we used to have.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

50 Comments
  • I still like my iPod Shuffle. One thing I don't like is the too small form factor which harms its functionality as a clip... Have you ever tried to grab one of these while it's playing? Nine times out of ten, the click wheel will accidentally trigger because the grip area of the metal is a study of ergonomic design failure. A previous version of the Shuffle had a much larger clip area.
  • Very sad to hear this. Glad you brought it up. I keep thinking all devices are created equally in a way at least if its a iPod should be able to have equal access to content. I think I've had every shuffle. Sad the headphone jack like connector for charging on each new model I had is defective though. Any slight movement of it ejects it. Its hair sensitive. Makes it hard to charge but still love the little thing.
  • Actually, I had been looking at both of them, for running. I don´t like to bring a phone or an iPod Touch (I wear a Garmin GPS Watch). I would have loved the shuffle to have Bluetooth to completely eliminate any cord and wear an almost not noticeable music player.
  • This is what I ended up doing. Not at all elegant, but it works great for hiking.
    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/33484823/shuffle.jpg
  • Hehe, that one vas beautiful :-) Still laughing
    upvoted
  • Other systems have been able to account for the lack of connectivity by requiring a sync at least once every 30 days. I don't see why this couldn't have been an option.
  • If you go to the AppleStore.com landing page, there's one product bar across the top, and another underneath. The iPod isn't listed in the top, just 'Shop iPod' beneath. Rather indicative of the product category priority. I bought a Nano when it was the smaller square kind. It's in a drawer somewhere. Apple Music is much more than what the Nano is capable of handling -- pretty obvious why they wouldn't bother with it. The iPod Touch is the iPhone gateway-device, makes sense...
  • I'm probably in the minority here, but I had a Zune HD back in the day when the Zune Music Pass was a thing. With the pass, Microsoft required you to sync once every 30 days to re-verify your subscription, and it was fairly painless. There's no reason something similar couldn't have been used for the iPod Nano and Shuffle.
  • I didn't own the Zune, but I was thinking the same thing. Really strange decision to not try to get that into a contract negotiation. I think it's strange that they decided to continue with the nano and shuffle in the first place, they seem like lost causes at this point.
  • Me too. It worked fine with Zune. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's a terrible (and typically Microsoft-Like) solution.
  • Wasn't that the plan for Xbox One games originally and they promptly got slammed (on the internet) for it?
  • There is no reason they can't authenticate the music by requiring you to connect to itunes every 30 days. That's how Zune did it years ago. I think it's just a matter of time until they update the iPod os to support it. Sent from the iMore App
  • They could implement an authentication system like Sony does with the free Playstation Plus games. You might think it would be possible to download a bunch of the free games to your system, take the system offline and continue to rock the free games despite your PS+ subscription lapsing without the system knowing. What Sony did is pretty simple. The system records the expiry date of your PS+ subscription and checks it each time you launch one of the free games. No network connection required. You'll just need a network connection to record a new expiry date. Apple could do the same thing with Apple Music tracks. Record the subscription expiry on the iPod and if it expires show a message on screen saying "reconnect iPod to iTunes to verify active Apple Music subscription. It would be problematic with iPod Shuffle (VoiceOver could do it) and would be a pain for users who don't connect to iTunes very often (they could buy annual subscriptions to reduce this annoyance. If anything, to the article's point, it just shows how little motivation Apple has to overcome this issue for a product with relatively low sales.
  • But that solution would actually take minor effort to solve a solution for a minority of users. Apple would much rather "force" the masses to buy a $200+ iPod Touch to use their precious Apple Music service.
    We users tend to forget that apple is out to make money, no longer are they concerned about improving the user experience & device capabilities.
    Case in point- still can't have multiple accounts on an iPad. I can have several accounts, including a kids account, on a $150 Samsung Tab 4 7"... But not on my $600 iPad?!
  • We can only assume that the required effort is minor. The reality may be quite different. Or perhaps they haven't got there yet. It is not uncommon for the press to conclude that a missing feature signals X,Y or Z only for that feature to be added later, nullifying their claims. Either way I think concluding that this is an effort to force people to upgrade is an unreasonable cynical take. Not only because the real way to 'force people to upgrade' is to stop selling these iPods altogether.
  • Doesn't matter. iFans will still buy them, limitations and all. Personally I have no use for online music services. The pay, pay and pay some more with nothing to show for it is foolish. I like to own what I buy.
  • I take you don't travel much.
  • A few years ago I used to say exactly the same thing. But I've come to a point where I've decided that $10/month is a reasonable fee to pay for access to virtually any song from any artist from any device at any time, including the option to download for offline listening. I see it as an extension to the music I already own - not as a replacement.
  • To each their own but I strongly disagree that $10 a month is a good price. Of course it depends on your music listening habits. $10 a month is the equivalent of buying ten songs or an album every month. I don't know many people who do that. Also, you don't get the albums you want necessarily. Streaming music is for mainstream music listeners who just want some music playing and don't really care that much what it is. The only way it's really a deal is if you are someone who exclusively listens to OLD music (most people over 35 or so), because the songs are more likely to be in the streaming catalogue and you have hundreds and thousands of albums to choose from. I still maintain that no one who is really "into" music (new music at least), and isn't rich really cares about streaming music.
  • I probably spend $200 a month on CDs, and consider it money well spent!
  • "Streaming music is for mainstream music listeners who just want some music playing and don't really care that much what it is. " You're confusing "streaming" with "radio". I have no interest in Beats 1 or any other "Apple-curated" radio stations, as I haven't found them good sources for new music that suits my taste. Their radio stations lean towards top-40 commercial music with lots of vocals, so even when they play a decent song, they screw it up by playing the wrong version of it. What I pay for is the ability to instantly stream almost any song I want, on demand. When I discover a song or artist I like, I want a convenient way to instantly hear the song and explore the artist's other songs and albums. Then I want an easy way to add any song or album to my library for easy access later. On a given day, I may easily add $10 worth of individual tracks to my library. I would not spend this kind of money on purchased music. I also find some value in some of Apple's genre-specific curated playlists. Hopefully they will expand their list of curators. One of my annoyances is Apple's integration with Shazzam. I'll hear a really great track somewhere or on the radio (college station, not commercial radio) and Shazzam correctly identifies the exact version of the song I just heard. But when I click through to see the song in Apple Music, I'm often directed to a generic radio edit of the song, because Apple's music library has a crappy selection of club tracks and song remixes. This is not a trivial matter, as quite often what attracted me to the song was a particular mix, and the radio version may be complete crap - even falling into a completely different music genre.
  • "mainstream music listeners"... shut up you hipster fagget.
  • I take it you don't pay for TV.
  • What's not to say that Apple won't update the iPods on the next go-around to support Apple Music? After all, there were lots of pundits who were saying that the iPod touch already had all the nails in its coffin. You never know with Apple until they announce it one way or another.
  • I'm an Apple die hard, but  is so predictable, why they didn't put a cellular chip in the iPod Touch? Same BS that they do to every product line they release!! Lame  lame
  • Same reason the $199 iPhone only has 16GB of RAM - it's a lower price tier product that mustn't compete too strongly against higher tier products..
  • 16gb of RAM? And y'all say Android takes a lot of RAM to run but they're only just hitting 4. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Don't get too excited, the OP made a mistake. He meant the entry level iPhone comes with 16GB memory storage. The iPhone currently has only 1GB of RAM, and the iPhone 6S will likely come with 2GB RAM. Sent from the iMore App
  • He knows that. It was sarcasm. But totally hilarious Sent from the iMore App
  • No iPhone has 16GB of RAM, surely you mean memory storage. Sent from the iMore App
  • As most of you realize, I wrote "RAM" by mistake. I was referring to storage not working memory. An iPhone with 16GB of RAM would be impressive though, lol.
  • It's called the iPhone? What would the main difference be? Posted from the Nexus 6, Nexus 5, or Surface Pro 3
  • "The Apple Watch is the future for semi-offline small devices you want to listen to while on the go" I think that's an overly optimistic prediction for the Apple Watch's adoption. I was among the first to order one but after using it for a couple of months I'm going to sell it. It's cool and the features can be useful. But it's style is not something I want to wear all (or even most) of the time. No matter how much they improve its functionality, its techie gadget appearance will forever limit its appeal for many.
  • I'd like to start the bidding at $49 ... :-D
  • My thoughts pretty much as well. I bought Apple Watch and a few extra bracelets and was fairly underwhelmed by the reality of the thing (especially for the outrageous price). I returned it after two days. The article also fails to really parse the fact that iPods are stand alone devices whereas the Apple Watch is tethered to a phone. That alone sufficiently explains why the Watch works with Apple Music and the iPod shuffle doesn't. The Apple Watch doesn't so much "work with" Apple Music as it works with the iPhone which works with Apple Music.
  • Not entirely true, as you can sync music to the watch and play it from there, without a phone nearby.
  • I don't think we'll have to wait very long before the Apple Watch gains independence from the iPhone. Putting the first generation aside, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see the Watch's potential. This makes it all the more frustrating for me, again because of how it straddles the fence between a functional device and a piece of jewelry you wear all the time. For me the barrier is the social/fashion aspect of the Watch. It's not that it's ugly, and it's anything but cheap or tacky looking. But it's just not "my style" for something I would wear all the time. Its price point is way too high for something I might only wear while exercising and it's look just doesn't feel right at the beach or in a business outfit.
  • Well, just to add a small bit of perspective here... purchased music is still, by far, the most common. Just because, ahem, some sites went absolutely apeshit about Apple Music, doesn't mean everybody is interested. I absolutely love to manage my own music right, instead of Apple's stupid algorithms doing it wrong most of the time, and a week with Apple Music absolutely convinced me that I will never pay a dime for it (great respect for Beats1 though, well done, but free anyhow). Syncing rented music is not even at the end of my list of desired features. Now, if Apple would build one single device with a decent DAC in it and sufficient oomph to power some decent headphones... that would be something.
  • I almost bought an external DAC before I did my research and concluded that any appreciable difference in sound quality was not worth the cost and inconvenience of such an external device. Unless you use your iPhone with some massive, industrial headphones, what's wrong with the built-in DAC?
  • This article seems a bit over the top to me. The fact that the tiniest iPods (items mostly bought by little children and seniors BTW), don't support the latest music service that literally only debuted a month ago doesn't actually equate to doom and gloom and the "end of the road" for iPods. Hyperbole much?
  • Except that it's a few years since these devices were last updated, and is reasonable to assume it might be a few years more before they are updated again (if at all) Perhaps it would just need a software update.
  • Tired of narrow minded techo’s views on the worth of the iPod. I’m a swimmer and have a H2O waterproof iPod Shuffle case that attaches to my goggles. I’ll definitely be updating my shuffle. There are many instances when an iPhone or Apple Watch simply aren’t practical, or are useless. Thankfully Apple run Apple, and make decisions on need and sales data.
  • I was saving up for an iPod Classic when they pulled it from the store. I've never had an iPod.
    I've been looking at the iPod nano, mostly for the built-in radio. Music I don't have to pay for! But I want the old colors. They spoke to me. These new colors are so drab. The look like car colors...
  • Long live the Shuffle. Used all but the current generation. Great sound, small package, and uncluttered! Personal favorite is the 3rd gen and it plays my ALAC. Sent from the iMore App
  • Who's going to buy these turds? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Your comment made me mad and burst in laughter at the same time XD.
    I have a childish humor I admit it.
  • There really is still a market for the iPod Nano, let alone the iPod Shuffle. I certainly do not want to strap something bigger like an iPod Touch or an iPhone to my arm while I run or work out; no way, no how. I have money burning a hole in my pocket just waiting for a good iPod Nano generation that allows me to carry my Apple Music songs with me. I absolutely would buy a new iPod Nano, if Apple made it a compelling enough buy. Apple has me eternally, shamelessly wanting more, even still hoping that it pumps some steroids into the Nano for a more significant update in the near(er) future. Shamefully, however, that makes me sound akin to a crack addict, doesn't it? :/
  • I was gonna say "bad move Apple", but the reasoning makes sense since iPods (except for the touch) can't connect to the internet
  • all this is doing for apple is giving more and more insentive to illegaly download music