I Come To Mourn a Click-Wheel…

userpic=ipod…not to praise it. During its revamp of the Apple Store this week, Apple quietly and without ceremony removed the iPod Classic from the line up. There have been wistful reminiscences, but most have just been nostalgia. The belief from much of the world — especially the connected and early adopters — is that one no longer needs to carry all your music in your pocket. Who needs storage when you can have streaming. In my opinion, these folks have “drunken the kool-aide” of the music industry. Here’s why this is deluded thinking:

  • Not every location can stream. You can’t stream music when you’re on an airplane, in a subway, or far away from modern communications. Often, these are the times when you most want your music.
  • Not everyone has unlimited free bandwidth. Streaming often uses limited cellular bandwidth or requires you to pay for wireless (if free wireless is not available, such as on an airplane). This is one reason why the cellular providers don’t want phone manufacturers to put lots of storage on phone and to have bandwidth heavy apps. They make money off you.
  • You don’t physically possess your music. When your music is in the cloud or streamed, you don’t own it — you lease it. The cloud storage provider could delete that music at any time, and you would have no recourse. When you have the music stored on your device you possess it. You can copy it. You can make backups. You can make CDs or cassettes or other physical media. It is yours to edit and play with.

Further, the death of the iPod Classic is a movement away from the single purpose device. Single purpose devices can be devoted to doing one thing very well. Multi-function devices, such as phones, often do multiple things at varying levels. The 128GB of storage on your phone may sound large, but it means your music is competing for space with your photos, text messages, videos, and applications. So why don’t they give you more storage? They would rather you back up your data to the cloud (using bandwidth, possibly using storage you pay for, and making it susceptible to security breeches).

The iPod Classic was a simple device. It played music, video (and a few games). It had a simple interface which was notable less for the click wheel, and more for the fact that you didn’t have to look at it to use it. This made the device usable by the visually impared — something that is not true for smart phones today, which have no tactile feedback

Did the iPod Classic have its problems? Sure. There are those that complained about the hard disk, but the hard disk is suitably reliable if you realize it is a hard disk and treat it carefully. SSD may be more robust to vibrations, but it has more significant wear issues over time. There are iPods from its first introduction that are still being used. How long does your SSD device last?

There is a complaint about sound quality, but that comes from people who want lossless audio. You could store lossless audio on the iPod, but space limitations rapidly hit you. There is the Pono player coming out that encourages lossless, but it has a horrible form factor and doesn’t solve the space problem: you have 64G internal, and up to 128G on an SSD card that you can swap for different libraries.

Apple has written off the true music collector. Had they come up with a simple update to the iPod Classic that moved it to the lightning connector and a 500GB or 1TB drive, they would have had a significant sales bump as all those people currently owning Classics replaced them. They opted not to, because they see their future in streaming and leasing music, not selling music and supporting the listener.

As for me? I truly love having my entire music collection with me at all times. It allows me to listen to all of it — and to all of it I do (I have playlists that help). My iPod is with me on the van in the morning, in the background playing while I work, providing podcasts on the way home, and playing music to put me to sleep. It plays and is used in environments where a phone cannot stream — on the LA Metro underground, on an airplane, and in other isolated locations. As such, I’ve already got a backup iPod Classic 160GB in the shipping stream — I’ll alternate it with my current player, which I play 8-10 hours daily, and which has 34,606 songs (and 34,899 tracks overall). I’ll look into other players if they offer the same storage and can move my iTunes metadata. Of course, I could always just upgrade the drive to 240GB. Once I have a backup, that might be an option. That might just do me for a while…

…a few months, at least  :-).