Back in July, Apple announced that it would be ending production of the iPod nano and shuffle, “ending an era” in mobile music entertainment and leaving just the iPod touch as its only continued remnant.
There are several factors that could be taken into consideration when pondering the death of this longstanding iconic device, but there is one obvious main culprit: smartphone technology. Smartphones have been pushing the iPod into obsolescence since the late-2000s, when they began to rapidly close in on mobile tech’s high distribution ceiling (Apple itself attested to this during its July announcement).
The simple fact is that smartphone offerings — especially those associated with the app market — have had, and continue to have a lot of room to grow, but their fledgling movement alone has been magnetic enough to permanently overshadow the iPod — and MP3 devices in general.
Initial implications of the iPod’s grim post-2000s fate can be traced to the basic hybridized offerings of early smartphones. Many of these devices, especially the first iPhone, marketed themselves on the basis of convenience via a merging of phone capabilities and entertainment functionality. Users could suddenly call their friends, search for places to get dinner, and listen to a downloaded song — all on the same device. Once this threshold had been crossed, the iPod’s days became numbered, regardless of whether or not the public was fully aware. In the following years, the iPod tried its best to keep pace with the hybridization concept, introducing cameras, radio scanning capabilities, and Bluetooth features. However, its limited origin point doomed it to always being slightly behind pace, leaving many owners to eventually realize their lack of relevance in a modern context.
The rise of streaming
A complement to the aforementioned notion, streaming is now the clear future of mobile music entertainment — this is nearly undeniable at this point. App-based listening outlets like Spotify, Deezer, and Apple’s own Apple Music service have leveraged the equally rising concept of mobile subscription to provide users endless access to their favorite music, all for a monthly fee (in lieu of the much more limited, staggered process of purchasing music song-by-song or album-by-album and composing a music library of this material alone).
The convenience of music streaming arguably the biggest adversary to ever face advocates of music ownership (be it of physical albums or purchased digital files saved to a personal hard drive). It is a conflict that could be compared to the continued books-vs-ebook debate, and while its outcome is still fairly incapable of being fully predicted, the death of the iPod is a microcosm of its impact.