Amid New Product Introductions, Apple Puts iPod Classic Out to Pasture

Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Apple held a media event where it showed off a slew of new products, including two new models of its highly successful iPhone, several variants of the Apple Watch, and Apple Pay, a mobile payments system that could revolutionize how users pay for everyday purchases. However, along with the debut of the new, came the end of the old. While Apple was unveiling the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch before an appreciative crowd in Cupertino, California, the company was simultaneously discontinuing one of its most successful products in history: the iPod classic. Soon after the media event, the iPod classic was scrubbed from Apple’s website.

First introduced in 2001 by legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the original iPod was marketed as the successor to the Walkman that could enable you to carry “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The device’s introduction followed the creation of Apple’s iTunes and the iPod soon became a must-have product in what was then still a nascent digital music download and portable media player market. The iPod classic’s iconic click wheel interface and accompanying white EarPods soon became the gold standard for the digital music player market as a whole. Apple later introduced other versions of its popular media player, including the iPod shuffle, the iPod nano, and the iPod touch.

However, in the years following the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple’s iPod began a gradual decline in popularity. While some of this decline can be attributed to the appearance of cheaper alternatives from other digital media player competitors, the primary reason behind the iPod’s falling sales was due to cannibalization from the iPhone. Since the iPod’s digital media playing functions were subsumed by the iPhone’s capabilities, consumers saw less reason to own a separate device dedicated solely to digital media playback and storage.

apple product salesAs seen in the chart above based on data from Apple’s SEC filings, the rise of the iPhone matched a corresponding decline in Apple’s iPod sales. According to Apple’s latest second quarter report, iPod unit sales saw a year-over-year decline of 36 percent in the June quarter.

Despite this sales decline, Apple’s iPod still accounted for a majority of the standalone music player market at the end of 2013 with a 72 percent share, according to NPD Display data cited by Apple Insider. However, with the rise of cloud storage and the increasing popularity of music streaming versus digital downloads, the large storage capacity of the iPod classic has become less and less of a necessity for most music listeners.

The original iPod featured 5GB of storage, while the last iteration of the device offered 160 GB of storage. With the iPod classic officially discontinued, the highest storage capacity now offered in Apple’s line of digital media players is 64GB. This means that Apple’s latest iPhone models now have more storage capacity than its media players, since the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are both available in 128GB versions. While there will likely always be some demand for a standalone digital media player from certain music enthusiasts, it appears that the debut of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus marked the end of the iPod classic’s long run.

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