Back in 2001, the release of Apple’s iTunes brought me back to listening to jazz, and a little of rap and R&B music. A few years before then, I was reluctant to shell out $15 for music CDs only to get a couple of great songs. And above all I wanted iTunes go with me wherever I went. Toting around CDs in the trunk of my car wasn’t my idea of music appreciation.
But then a few years later, the iPod changed everything. It broke every barrier between me and my music. And now though I can’t go anywhere without my iPhone 4, the iPod Classic still remains my favorite and most used MP3 player. In my humble opinion, Apple should maintain and continually update the Classic until it can replace it with something even better.
Back in its heyday, the original iPod and its six generations that followed made Apple the coolest, hippest, and most forward thinking tech company on the planet. “What’s on your iPod?” entered the American cultural lexicon because it meant that for the first time in history, music lovers could have most, if not all, of their music library on a single, thin 3×5 portable device. For those of us who grew up listening and dancing our way through songs on vinyl records, 8-track cassettes, miniature cassettes, and countless CDs, the release of the iPod on October 23rd 2001 was in fact a revolution in how we accessed and listen to music in the 21st century.
iPod Classic Vs. iPhone
But since the advent and popularity of the iPhone, Apple has largely abandoned the iPod Classic. While the Classic is still being sold, Apple has not updated the music player in over a year. So will Apple soon discontinue its game changing portable player? I’m not sure. Can the iPhone or iPod touch replace the Classic? For serious music listeners with say over 5,000 songs in their music library, I say no.
Unlike the iPhone, the iPod Classic can hold, according to Apple, up to 140,000 tracks on the 160GB hard drive. I recently purchased the latest model of the Classic because my 5th Generation iPod was damaged. As much as I tried using the Music app on my iPhone, all the tapping and the meager storage space of the iDevice just doesn’t serve up the music experience of the Classic.
If you ever owned a version of the iPod Classic, you might agree that the Click Wheel is the heart of the player. You literally dial up the songs you want and click to start listening. There’s no need to turn the device side-ways to browse albums Cover Flow style, or tap a few screens to locate a song or album. On the Classic you can easily dial between your entire Music library, or by song, album, artist, and genre categories. There’s no apps and notifications to get in your way.
The click wheel is still also good for quickly rating current playing songs, and in the latest version of Classic you can press and hold that middle button to add a song to an On-the-Go list, browse the song’s other album selections, or start up a Genius playlist of related songs. These features are also on the iPhone, but to me the navigation is not the same. The iPhone feels like what it is – a smartphone, not a music player.
The other reason the iPod Classic remains in my car at all times is not only because of its portability, but because of a little feature called Shuffle Songs. With Shuffle there’s no big or mundane decisions to make about what music to listen to next. Shuffle is your personal DJ.
When you can’t decide between Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or “Good Girl Gone Bad,” Shuffle serves up your least played songs alongside your musical favorites. Shuffle is limited only by the size of your library. And when the library grows into thousands of tracks, it will serve you well.
Your Entire Library
The iPod Classic is also one of three external drives on which I back up my entire music library and family photos. Even ’til this day I’m amazed that I can fit all my music on one device. Sure Apple now offers a way to back up your library to the cloud, but the iTunes Match service costs you $25 per year to keep and access your library there. And ultimately Apple wants you to keep buying songs from its iTunes Music Store.
But I don’t want portable access to my music library limited to a Wi-Fi or 3G connection, especially when I’m traveling by car or plane.
Sure there are many advantages to accessing your music on the iPhone or other iOS device. They have perhaps more reliable flash memory with no moving (HDD) parts to break down; wireless syncing, a bigger display, and the ability to run other music related apps – most notably very affordable streaming music sites like Rdio and Spotify. But these advantages don’t make up for the storage capacity of the iPod Classic and its easier navigation features.
As a lover of music I’m not even sure I need or want the iPhone to have the capabilities of the iPod Classic (can it ever?) Maybe in the same way the iPhone can’t ever be a fully fledged digital camera, it perhaps also can’t be a fully fledged music player. But on the other hand Apple could do the right thing by the iPod Classic and increase its storage capacity to 250GB for those with even larger music libraries, and if possible, add wireless syncing ability with iTunes.
So is all this wishful thinking on my part? With emergence of cloud data storage, has the iPod Classic become outdated? Should this article be a eulogy instead of a love letter for a great device? Let me know what you think. Should Apple keep the Classic for at least another decade or two?