On the first day of this diary, we spent a good portion of time simply setting the iPod Classic up. The conclusion? Using the device isn’t quite as seamless in 2023 as it was in the 2010s. Technology, it turns out, keeps evolving.
Thankfully, the worst of that’s all behind us. That means today’s diary can focus predominantly on the experience of using an iPod Classic as the main driver for all my audio devices. Let’s dive right in.
Saturday, 08:32am: Running
I like to start my weekend off right: by torturing myself. Yes, it’s time to run. My usual setup consists of a pair of AirPods Pro that I connect to my Apple Watch, which stores a selection of music, podcasts, and audiobooks to keep me entertained throughout the process.
Immediately, I encountered a road bump: there was no easy way to connect my wireless earbuds to the iPod. Technically, a Bluetooth adaptor would work, but I didn’t have one to hand. This meant I needed to dig out a pair of in-ear headphones for my jog.
I wish I could tell you this was a fun experience — but that’d be a bald-faced lie. The cable for the wired headphones was too short to fit in my pocket, so I had to grasp the iPod in my increasingly sweaty hands. Despite this, I was thankful for the lock button on the MP3 player, as that stopped the device going haywire while it was getting sopping wet and salty.
The whole experience felt deeply inelegant. I’m now so used to exercising with wireless gear that switching back to cables was deeply jarring. I will ask one question, though, was the iPod Classic ever a proper running device? Surely that was something the Nano or Shuffle were far more geared towards?
Whatever the answer, I can unequivocally say that the iPod Classic is no longer fit for fitness.
Saturday, 10:07 am: Shower. Yes, shower
I love portable Bluetooth speakers — especially the durable models. One of life’s great pleasures is taking a long shower with some excellent music, and this is something the UE BOOM 3 excels at.
But, yet again, we bump into another problem. While the previous version of the speaker had an aux cord, the BOOM 3 doesn’t. That meant no music in the shower. Life with an old iPod is turning into a trial.
Saturday, 11:15am: Hanging out at home
Saturday morning is a great time to tick off some tasks; so it’s time to tidy the house.
Normally, I play music from my iPhone or MacBook, using AirPlay to send the tunes straight to the Bluesound Node, a wireless streamer hooked up to my amplifier. Joyously, this hardware does have a 3.5mm input, meaning the iPod Classic can slot into my system perfectly.
Here, I had the opportunity to rediscover the MP3 player’s fantastic On-The-Go playlist feature. Effectively, if you hold down the center button in the clickwheel, a menu pops up. This includes a range of features — like starting Genius or browsing an album — but my favorite was always On-The-Go, which allowed you to add tracks to a generic playlist.
This is an enjoyable way to queue up songs as I’m getting the house into order. Although, I will say one thing: having to walk over directly to the iPod or carrying the stereo remote to change volume is a bit of a hassle. It’s much more convenient to do this with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
Saturday, 17:45pm: Heading out
After a day relaxing at home, it’s time to go out and meet some friends at the pub. Going for an evening walk with a pair of headphones and the iPod is where the device truly comes into its own.
Despite all its downsides, there’s still something magical about it. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s familiarity, but scrolling through a list of artists without any distractions remains a wonderful feeling. Yes, it’s a bit slower than an iPhone, doesn’t have a good search option, and the screen is dated, but, I’ll be damned, it’s still a terrific bit of kit.
I’ll also say this: people love it when you take an old iPod out with you.
Saturday, 21:15pm: Home time
As brilliant as the iPod once was, it’s really showing its age in 2023. The last time I picked up the device was about four years ago and, even from that point, the consumer tech industry has accelerated forward.
Screens are better, the majority of devices use solid-state memory (SSD), and headphone jacks are getting scarcer and scarcer. On top of that, as iTunes has disappeared and macOS evolves, it appears that reliable support for the iPod has fled.
Saying all that, it’s still a beautiful device with an iconic design, and can be a delight in the right circumstances — it’s just that these instances are getting fewer. Nowadays, iPhones are so flexible, easy to use, and powerful that they make the iPod look like something from a different century.
But you know what? I still love it — and this experiment has convinced me I need to upgrade and modify my iPod to see if that makes it more suitable for 2023. Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.
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