Are Apple going to discard customers with large music collections?
September 1, 2010 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Do you think Apple are going to discontinue the iPod Classic in the near future?

I have an 80gb iPod Classic which I love but it's just run out of space for all my music (I have over 80gb of music and this will only continue to increase). I'll no doubt invest in a 160gb model soon, but my music collection will outgrow that relatively quickly. I have no interest in getting an iPod Touch, mainly because I like to use my iPod for listening to music, and don't want to pay hundreds of pounds for features I won't use. Plus I really prefer a physical interface which I can operate without looking at it, as opposed to an impractical touchscreen. Most importantly I want to be able to have access to my entire music collection all the time, and want this to continue even as my collection grows into the hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes. I would hate to have to mess around deleting albums just so I could fit new music on my iPod, and I would be really pissed off if I had the urge to listen to an album only to realise I'd been forced to delete it for space saving reasons. I'm worried that with the recent updates to the entire iPod line but excluding the Classic that Apple are gearing up to ditching the Classic altogether. What are the chances of this happening? If they dump the classic there's no way in hell I'm paying double the price of the classic for nearly 100gb less capacity. So is there a good chance Apple will continue to provide a high capacity non-touchscreen player? Ideally I'd like them to continue the classic line towards a 1 terabyte model and beyond, but I'm guessing this is wishful thinking.
posted by Spamfactor to Technology (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My opinion after the conference today is that Apple is indeed trying to kill the Classic and replace it with the iTouch. However, this strategy may backfire.

The touch-screen Nano model is already facing criticism from people like yourself who prefer buttons to screens. The lack of video playback is also troubling. The Nano has also proven to be the most dynamic of the iPods in terms of design -- it has undergone numerous drastic revisions.

What I'm trying to say is that Apple is taking a big gamble with this strategy, and it might not pay off. If it doesn't you may see the return of the Classic. It has many fans. But as of now, I'd say Apple has put it on death row.
posted by hiteleven at 5:42 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I realize I spent more time talking about the Nano than the Classic in my answer. What I was getting at is that Apple may see customer demand for the return of clickwheel devices like the old Nano and the Classic. And that's where a new mega-Classic like the kind you're after may fit into their strategy. This would especially be true if you could beam HD movies from a 1TB Classic onto your television via Apple TV.
posted by hiteleven at 5:48 PM on September 1, 2010

The future is in the cloud! Why carry a massive hard drive with you when you could cache a small amount of music locally and access the rest wherever you are from remote servers. You can already (sort of) fake this on the iphone with dropbox ,mobileme, and spotify. With Apple's purchase of lala last year, everyone has been waiting for this to be rolled into itunes.
posted by Oktober at 5:52 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The "Apple Mega-Classic" sounds good to me. The best thing about a clickwheel ipod is that I can lie in my bed with my eyes shut and listen to music, and still be able to change songs, shuffle albums and adjust volume without having to open my eyes or move more than a single thumb. If all Apple offered are touch screen models I would end having to swap this for peering at a bright screen and using two hands every time I want to do anything. That's fine for an iPhone but for enjoying music it would be a real pain.
posted by Spamfactor at 5:52 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like John Gruber's take, and he's generally on point with these things:
"Dan Frommer wonders whether Apple is set to eliminate the hard-drive based iPod Classic next week. I wouldn’t be shocked if they did, but I bet they won’t. The iPod Classic is like the Mac Pro — not something that sells in huge numbers compared to Apple’s mass market products, but it fills a lucrative and important niche. Some people really do want 160 GB of music in their pocket."
posted by rockstar at 5:54 PM on September 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @Oktober I see what you're saying but I want to be able to access my files whether I'm at home or lost in a desert or on a plane over the Atlantic. If I have to waste time searching for wi-fi hotspots there's no way I'm entrusting my music to the cloud.
posted by Spamfactor at 5:55 PM on September 1, 2010

The future is in the cloud! Why carry a massive hard drive with you when you could cache a small amount of music locally and access the rest wherever you are from remote servers. You can already (sort of) fake this on the iphone with dropbox ,mobileme, and spotify. With Apple's purchase of lala last year, everyone has been waiting for this to be rolled into itunes.

As I indicated, HD video may belie the cloud model. Streaming would be dicey, and cached storage would require a lot of space.

There's also the thorny issue of who owns your music in the cloud. This is already an issue with the Kindle, and iTunes certainly makes it difficult to extract that music that you purchased...but it can be done. Might not be so easy in a cloud interface.
posted by hiteleven at 5:59 PM on September 1, 2010

It's fairly clear the iPod Classic is a low-priority, low-volume product at this point, but it serves a distinct niche of high-volume media consumers, which are good customers to keep happy for the iTunes media-sales side of the business. Sure, it's possible that at some point they might choose to discontinue it. No one here has any idea what Apple's future plans are; a chatfilter straw poll of MeFites' opinions will leave you no closer to knowing this. But why worry about it now? If they announce they're discontinuing the Classic, you can still buy yourself a new one from the remaining retail stock. You don't have to predict the future to get a final new iPod when that happens.
posted by RogerB at 6:01 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is interesting, I was just talking about it today.....I own an 80 or larger (I forget, it's been a while) gig ipod, I've owned 3 or 4 prior to that one. I also have an iphone.

My conversation was with a friend who was asking me about what I thought about the iphone 4, and talking about the price of a new 32 gig iphone, and whether it was enough.

Now, I'm pretty into music. I listen whenever possible, and I'm always aggressively seeking new sounds. Before I digitized and sold it off, I had maybe 1500 cds and 700ish albums, and now have over 200 gigs of stuff. I was constantly chasing a bigger and bigger ipod to accommodate my ever-growing collection. When I got my first iphone, I was really happy to only have to carry around one device, but lamented the was either 8 or 16 gigs, but I found it impossibly small and wondered how I would ever whittle down what I wanted to always have with me to that extent. I've had 16 gig phones for the past 1.5, 2 years or so.

But after a few years, I found an odd thing....I recently got the 16 gig iphone 4, and I've been struggling to put more than 5 gigs of music on it. I don't feel like my habits have changed much so....I'm not sure. Maybe shuffling has rendered the whole thing moot. Maybe my playlisting has gotten really refined. But I've gotta tell you, it's hooked to my computer right now and I was again going through my itunes library, and I don't think I added more than an album or two. And at this point in my life, I'm probably listening to more music than ever commute is a few hours each day, plus whatever I'm listening to at lunch, throughout the day, etcetc.

So, to make a short story long, you might find yourself feeling a little liberated by the sudden limitation of space. I sure do.

As for the physical button feel, I'm with you. I got pretty good with that clickwheel, and miss it.
posted by nevercalm at 6:06 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Post preview, what you wrote about changing volume, advancing songs, etc could be accomplished with either a remote for an iphone or a set of headphones with a button controller built in....I'm fairly sure you may have one already, just sayin)
posted by nevercalm at 6:09 PM on September 1, 2010

Most importantly I want to be able to have access to my entire music collection all the time....

I was like this with my 32 gb iPod Touch, had my entire music collection and didn't want to delete anything for fear of missing that music. When my free space reached 300 megs or so, I said fuck it and removed about 8gigs worth of stuff from iTunes and put in another folder to add back in later. While painful at first, I'm happy to have about 10 gigs free to fill up with new music.

The point here is that having everything in your music collection sounds nice, but you can only listen to one song at once. Make some decisions, put some of the older stuff by the way side. You're stressing yourself out by trying to hang onto everything forever.

...and want this to continue even as my collection grows into the hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes

The iPod classic holds 160bg. The largest iPod touch hold 64gb, same as the largest iPod touch from last year. Apple is no hurry to increase size, so you'll either have to make due with what you have or switch to another player.
posted by nomadicink at 6:15 PM on September 1, 2010

I really liked using the Smart Playlists on my iPod Shuffle, so it would rotate a selection of things I hadn't listened to in a while (say, 2 months). I did it by album, as I tend to listen to the same artist for a while, and it worked very well.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:22 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

So, to make a short story long, you might find yourself feeling a little liberated by the sudden limitation of space. I sure do.

Spamfactor, I can't speak to the physical button issue the you mentioned, but this same exact thing happened to me. I had one of the original ipods back in the day and my whole library at the time fit in it. I would really just end up listening to the same album over and over again. Paralysis of choice perhaps. Then I got an 8gb 2g iphone. For the last three years I have had to carefully curate what I am going to put in there and I tend to listen to many different albums. I thought it was just me until I read what nevercalm wrote. The only reason I would want more space now is because I tend to listen to higher quality mp3s than I did three years ago. For me, 8-16GB is a sweet spot.
posted by milarepa at 6:27 PM on September 1, 2010

Buy 2 160s now. Honestly, it seems like you might be overestimating how quickly you will get to hundreds of gigs or even a terabyte+ of music. If you also use your iPod for videos, than maybe you will need more than 160 gb sooner. However, think of how long it has taken you to acquire over 80 gb of music. It obviously won't take you the same amount of time to double that, but unless you consume music at an astonishing pace, 160 gb (and if you keep your 80 gb one and use manual mode, you could have 240 gb across the 2), should do you for a while yet.
posted by elpea at 6:30 PM on September 1, 2010

Response by poster: @elpea yeah I'm guessing it will take quite a while before I have a seriously large amount of music I need to store, but I'm not very old so I've only been collecting music for a few years and only seriously collecting it for a short while, so over the course of my life it will no doubt expand pretty substantially. Trouble is by the time I reach that stage mp3 player technology will have advanced in ways I can't imagine. I can't really be bothered with worrying about that. I just wish the mp3 fairy would give me an ipod classic body containing unlimited space so I'd never have to think about it again.
posted by Spamfactor at 6:40 PM on September 1, 2010

I have both an iPhone (4, which replaced a 3G) and an iPod Classic. I have substantially more music than will fit on the iPhone. I in no way find the space limitation on the iPhone to be liberating. In fact, I virtually never listen to music on the iPhone because it gets too frustrating to not have the songs I want available.

At one point, I very carefully went through and tried to select the subset of music I'd want to have on the phone. I spent many, many hours on it (much of that was spent rating songs so my "my top rated" playlist would be solid). Even so, I still regularly found myself wishing I had other music available. As one example, there are many times that I just shuffle a playlist of songs, but sometimes I also like to listen entire albums (archaic, I know). There are no albums whose songs I like uniformly enough for them to all end up on the phone via the "top rated" playlist. So it leaves me to try to pick and choose which I might want to listen too, and apparently I failed miserably. Because during the relatively short period of time in which I tried to replace my iPod with my iPhone, I was having literally daily frustration about not having something I want to hear on the phone.

Aside from my inability to successfully "curate" a list of songs to transfer, predicting what I'll want to hear, it's just another chore I don't need. I'm constantly buying more music, so even if I did come up with a magical subset of my music that covers everything and fits on the device, I'd regularly be needing to delete stuff from it to make room for the new stuff. Yes, I could manage that, but I have better things to do with my time. It's much easier to just plug in the device, have everything sync over, and decide what I want to listen when I want to listen to it instead of days or weeks in advance.

Almost all of this goes double for the iPods I keep full-time in our cars (because I don't like having to constantly plug/unplug my main iPod for in-car listening). Having my entire music collection always available in the car is awesome. Having some subset is less awesome.
posted by sharding at 6:58 PM on September 1, 2010

They updated the songs that are shown on the photos of the Classic in the store. That seems kind of pointless if they are killing it in the short-term, or just clearing out the channel.
posted by smackfu at 7:01 PM on September 1, 2010

On carrying everything around: I used to feel the same way; even on my 16G iPhone i originally had some artists' entire catalog. Then I realized that I always skipped half the Black Sabbath tracks anyways and no one was going to check my iPhone to see if I was a True Blue Beastie Boys fan or whatever. And so the ruthless paring began and frankly I've not ever in the past year thought "Hey, I wish I had blah-de-be-blah song on here instead of at home". Well, maybe once or twice.

I used to be an absolutely rabid Police fan, and I realized today while flipping through that I have exactly one Police song on my iPhone: Does Everyone Stare.
posted by chazlarson at 7:12 PM on September 1, 2010

If they dump the classic there's no way in hell I'm paying double the price of the classic for nearly 100gb less capacity.

I know the feeling. I'm not an apple fan, but I liked having 160GB of music in my pocket. I bought the 160GB classic because they didn't make a 240GB.

I'm in a spot now where my classic's drive died (after about a year), and I don't want to get another apple product. So I've been trying to research other mp3 players that carry huge collections. And there just isn't a lot out there. I have a buddy who tried to solve the same problem with the Archos 500GB tablet. He doesn't really love it. Says it's bulky and non-intuitive. Plus, it does a lot of other things he doesn't need, and didn't really want to pay for.

It's starting to seem that Apple is the only game in town for mp3 players of this size. If the pull out of the market too, then there may not be a lot of options left for serious digital music collectors.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:41 PM on September 1, 2010

Like shinynewnick, I cope with the space limitation by having a smart playlist that uploads a selection of music I haven't listened to in several months.
posted by arcticseal at 7:52 PM on September 1, 2010

The distribution of capacity desires / needs if normal, probably has you way out to the right. Most people don't need 160 GB, I am betting, let alone a TB.

Apple will address what their market research suggests will sell, and if suddenly there is a huge ass demand for 1+ TB iPods, I'd be surprised if they didn't address it. Check their financial statements. Does this look like a company that isn't selling what they make? Do you think that Marketing and Engineering departments at Apple don't talk to each other? Do you think there is a reason for them choosing 160 GB as large enough?

At some point, you have to constrain designs or you never get to the end of the specification so that something can be built. Economic, production, and technology factors impact what is possible and what is sold. It's a product.

That said, memristor technology seems a possible medium term (2-3 year) storage alternative that may meet power, size, cost and reliability specs for music players, and you might soon get what you want. You can also look for the 1.8" HDD form factor drives in capacities larger than 160 GB if they are ever available and consider hacking the thing yourself. Also, for a few million bux, Apple might be convinced to make you a special unit, or you could hire an engineer to design one for you. (I am available for less than a few million if you are interested!)

Nothing is impossible. A lot of things are impractical, though.

To me, it appears Apple is going to keep the Classic. Old Faithful has some fans, if this post is any indication. Maybe you'll get a 320 before long.
posted by FauxScot at 8:16 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

On re-read, ".. Almost nothing is impossible."
posted by FauxScot at 8:16 PM on September 1, 2010

I switched a couple of months ago from a 160 GB iPod Classic to an Archos 5 IT 500 GB, and have found it to be a much better device than the iPod. It's a little bit buggy, but so was my iPod. However, it does a hell of a lot more, as it runs Android. What other pocket device can you take into a coffee shop, browse the music blogs, download a rar file, unrar it, and then listen to it without needing any other computer ?

It does have some drawbacks - it is being discontinued, the mp3 player isn't quite as fancy as the iPod, and it is a touch interface.
posted by rfs at 8:36 PM on September 1, 2010

At my peak, I had enough downloaded music that it would have taken 8 months, 24 hours a day, to play it all. In other words, I was your target 160 consumer. Indeed, my 160 was full to the brim when my wife gave me a 32 GB iPhone 3G. I've scarcely touched the 160 since. Wouldn't replace it. Though there's going to be a flood of them listed on eBay over the next several years.

The new Apple TV is a streaming-only device. This is a clue.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:40 PM on September 1, 2010

According to Engadget, the iPod Classic Is Alive and Well (for now at least).
posted by willnot at 9:13 PM on September 1, 2010

I think it's most likely they'll keep the Classic as-is until flash memory prices allow them to sell a 120 or 160 GB Touch. I bet someone has run the numbers on this (flash memory prices against ipod touch price points) but cursory googling has turned up nil.

I too wish for what you wish for, and moreso that they rev the Classic interface to remove the infuriating. It seems unlikely, though, given their current trajectory.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:32 AM on September 2, 2010

The future is in the cloud! Why carry a massive hard drive with you when you could cache a small amount of music locally and access the rest wherever you are from remote servers.

The future is right. At least for me, the cloud is not the present. When we get to the point where I can be underground, say on the subway, and get a wifi signal that gives me instant access to my whole music library, I'll be ready to jump on the cloud bandwagon. (Or should that be the cloud zeppelin?) I'd need to be able to access it on a boat in the middle of a lake, in a cabana in Mexico, in the woods...

For me, the joy of my 160GB iPod is listening to one song or album with no plan on what to listen to next. Then, when the current album ends, I like to flip through my entire music collection to find surprises and old friends. I haven't even bothered putting any music on my iPhone, because I don't want to have to choose.

In addition to how much of a music fan you are, I'm guessing some of this has to do with age. I've been collecting music for 30 years. And though I get new albums, I can't think of any old ones I'll never want to listen to again. So I have a lot of "active" music.

And though my home is wired and I work for a tech company, I frequently find myself in places where I can't get 3G or WiFi connections. It makes me so happy that, when I'm in those blindspots, I can still pull out my iPod and listen to any song I want.

I also listen to audiobooks. I listen to THEM on my iPhone. The other day I was out and about, and I reached the end of a book. I paused on the street to download another one. I had a great 3G signal on my phone. But's app told me I'd have to wait until I was connected via WiFi. I knew that wouldn't be for another few hours. FAIL.

Writing this, I feel incredibly spoiled. I managed to exist for most of my life without access to everything all the time (though I was one of those dorky kids who used to keep hundreds of cassettes in his locker and carry dozens in his backpack.) But I AM spoiled, and it's Apple's fault. I don't want to go backwards.
posted by grumblebee at 8:03 AM on September 2, 2010

I'm like you and prefer the click-wheel to the iPod touch.

I have an iPod Video instead of your iPod Classic and when my library grows larger than my 80GB, my plan is to keep my Video and upgrade the hard drive via this kit.

I couldnt find a kit for the iPod Classic, but here are the instructions on how to do it if you can find the correct kit/hard drive.

Good luck!
posted by Fiat124 at 8:29 PM on September 2, 2010

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