With iOS 12, Apple currently supports every 64-bit processor they've ever made, going back to the Apple A7 and the iPhone 5s, original iPad Air, and the iPads mini 2 and 3.
Rumor has it, though, that iOS 13 may no longer go back quite that far. If it's based on the processor again, well, Apple has already discontinued all the A9 devices. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The iPhone SE. The 2017 iPad 5, and the original iPads Pro 12.9 and 9.7-inches.
The A8, though, well. A lot of those are gone too. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the iPad Air 2, and just recently, the iPad mini 4. But, others… abide. Like the Apple TV 4, which Apple now calls the Apple TV HD. The year-old HomePod. And, of course, the still available iPod touch 6.
Now, the Apple TV and HomePod run offshoots of iOS, not the proper version like the iPod touch does, so there's probably less to worry about there from a compatibility standpoint.
But what if it's less about processor and more about screen size? What if, Apple and developers, are finding it more than a little painful to keep supporting that old, 2012-era 4-inch display size?
iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c are long gone. iPhone 5s and iPhone SE have been discontinued as well. But that iPod touch 6, again, is still being sold. At least for now.
That could change, though. Maybe as soon as WWDC 2019 in a few weeks. Maybe later this year during the annual September iPhone event. Sure, maybe never, but… there have been some rumors, so…
iPod touch: A brief history
The original iPod touch launched just a few months after the original iPhone, way back in September of 2007. And for a few years, while the iPod touch never quite matched the feature set of the iPhone, it at least received updates of its own, up to and including the 4th generation in 2010 which, finally, you know, got a camera not just on the front but on the back as well.
Then, in 2011, for the first time, Apple decided to skip the year. Things got back on track in 2012, though, because just after the iPhone 5 went to a 4-inch display, the iPod touch 5 followed suit.
And then promptly stayed there, in stasis, through 2013 and the advent of 64-bit, and through 2014 and the introduction of big and bigger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays.
When the iPod touch did get updated again in 2015, despite the iPhone getting 3D Touch, all the iPod touch got was new internals. Well, year-old internal by then.
The product goal, at least as I understood it at the time, was similar to the iPhone SE: Take a device a segment of the market loved and modernize it so that they could keep on loving it for a few years more.
But then 2016 and Portrait Mode came and went. 2017 and the completely redesigned, full-OLED screened iPhone X. Even 2018 and the even bigger iPhone XS Max.
Very nearly 4 years have come and gone. The MacBook Air has been updated. The Mac mini has been updated. Even the 2013 Mac Pro has been announced as getting an updated. And the iPod touch… heh. Nothing. Nadda. Zip. Zilch. The walking dead.
Or mostly dead. Because, there have been rumors. And anything with rumors has to be considered at least partially alive.
iPod touch 2019: The rumors
Rumors of a new iPod touch only really started to surface over the course of this last year. Back in January, Mac Otakara claimed they heard chatter about a new, 7th generation iPod touch in and around CES. The lowest cost, entry-level iOS device, it had always served as a gateway to the App Store for anyone the least bit curious but not at all committed too Apple's ecosystem, for kids who didn't need and whose parents didn't want them to have a phone, as a cheap music player or gaming device, and as an inexpensive way for developers to have an extra device or two around for testing.
But as it's grown older and increasingly outdated, many of those use-cases have become less and less tenable.
Also in January, Steve Troughton Smith tweeted that he found references to a new iPod — iPod 9,1 to be precise — in iOS 12.2, but one that still wouldn't include either Face ID, which, yeah, I guess, maybe, but also not Touch ID. Which is a bit of a head scratcher, given even the budget 9.7-inch iPad still has Touch ID — and Apple Pay because of it.
I mean, unless keeping costs down really, really low is the absolute and only concern for the device, convenient yet secure-enough access be damned.
Now, the current, well, current as 2015 iPod touch is iPod 7,1, so why would Apple skip 8,1 and go straight to 9,1? Probably for the same reason they skipped 6,1 and went straight to 7,1. They chose not to ship whichever models would have come in 2013 or 2014, and again in 2016 or 2017. And just like it caused a jump from an Apple A5 to Apple A8, it'll likely cause a jump again from… what? A8 to A11? Too much to hope for A12?
In February, supply chain exfiltrator extraordinaire Kuo Ming-Chi released a big old list of predictions, including an iPod touch with updated processor.
And, if it's sounding like that's the consensus: A new iPod touch that's not really new in terms of design, screen, authentication, or anything else remotely modern in terms of any other iOS device, than that's because is.
Back in March, when Apple was doing what felt like a week of new products, with new iPads Air and mini, new iMacs, and, eventually, new AirPods, it sounded like the new iPod touch would land that week as well.
But, the month came and went with nary an iPod touch in sight.
iPod touch 2019: The potentials
A spec bump. Essentially the same design and display with a new processor, memory options, and maybe cameras and colors sound like the cautious, conservative update that's rumors to be coming out way. And that's probably all anyone should really get their hopes up for.
If the design goal is, once again, to take that same device that a segment of their customers love, keep the $199 price tag, but update the internals so that those same customers can keep right on loving it for a few more years. That's probably the most any of us should expect.
On the other hand, part of me would love something more. Even a lot more. Sure, we just got a new iPad mini with a really nice, 7.9-inch display and a hella fast processor. And it can run all the really productive and creative apps in the iPad App Store, it's not the same as an iPod touch. Not for kids, not for developers, not for anyone who just wants a super-thin, no phone plan device to stick in their pockets for music, gaming, or testing.
What I'd be super-interested in is something closer akin to an iPhone XR, minus the phone part. 6.1-inch, edge-to-edge Liquid Retina display with an A12 processor and that same single camera system on the back.
That's probably way too aggressive for a $199 price point, but maybe 4.7-inches like the iPhone 8 or… and? 5.5-inches like the 8 Plus.
iPod touch 2019: The release
At this point, it's only safe to expect a new, next-generation iPod touch when you see it. We have WWDC 2019 in just a few weeks, so if Apple wants to position it as a developer device, that's certainly a possibility. The last iPod touch surprised everyone with a mid-July launch, so that has to be a possibility as well.
If, instead, Apple wants to introduce the iPod touch 7 alongside Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade, then maybe September, the birth month of iPod touch and traditional home of the iPod makes the most sense.
We'll only know for sure, though, when Tim Cook announces hit on stage.