Remember the days before proper smartphones and streaming services? People used to have to, y'know, listen to music offline from the songs they had on their respective devices, usually MP3 players. Of course, that's all changed within the last ten years, but Apple could be about to revive the old trend, and I for one am all the happier for it.
The iPod line of products has been one of those that you could be forgiven for thinking that even Apple had forgotten about, especially given that its last update came in May 2019, a full four years after the sixth generation. What Apple in reality need to do to make this reboot successful is not only improve on the last generation, but actually set it apart from previous ones. It was always pushed as being a second-rate iPhone, and for a lot of people in the early days of Apple's smartphone journey, an iPod offered the masses the chance to have a piece of the iOS pie for a fraction of the cost of an iPhone.
There is of course still a place for that kind of device, but maybe it's time for the actual prospects of the new iPod Touch to expand. Recent years have seen a renewed interest in audio performance and the entire principle of an audiophile community who yearn for the best sound quality possible, usually through their endeavours in Super CD or lossless file formats such as FLAC. Intriguingly, Apple seem to be setting up for the audiophile driven campaign for a new iPod Touch given that the device was not only added to a list of compatible devices for Apple Music but also the fact that Apple Music Lossless is now a thing.
Just as an aside, when I say 'Lossless audio' or similar terms, what that means is
the audio isn't compressed, as opposed to MP3s which are lossy. Audio compression, in the same way as video compression, can be a real thing, but for the average Joe out there, it's barely noticeable, apart from in the ballooning file sizes of FLAC sometimes. For those in the enthusiast space when it comes to audio performance however, having the right stuff in the form of hardware and actual music is key to ensuring the best experience possible and a standard MP3 player and Bluetooth speaker really isn't going to do. With that being said, if Apple do choose to market the iPod as a player for audiophiles, then maybe there's a chance of the player having some life left in it.
This move to audiophilia in the mainstream is one that has really formed a key part of this wider analogue media revival, even if it's only in a select few instances. For instance, vinyl has seen this notable resurgence, largely thanks to the all-encompassing idea of authenticity becoming more and more prominent, whilst CDs have seen a notable decline, although in the case of the compact disc, the writing has been on the wall for the last twenty years. Going back to vinyl for a moment, it becomes this intriguing anomaly in a fast-moving digital world, as it makes no logistical sense why the mainstream consumer would choose to purchase vinyl to listen to when millions of songs exist on Spotify and Apple Music. I could, for instance, classify myself as a collector of vinyl, given I've got a few different records that exist, but weirdly, I've never played them. They get bought, get framed, and go on display and that's it. However, in the wider community of enthusiasts and in some instances for consumers, vinyl is bought to be played.
In this instance, vinyl acts as this case study from which it actually becomes easier to understand the situation any new iPod Touch variant finds itself in upon release. The fact of the matter is this: Apple, much like the rest of the smartphone industry, seem to be guilty of culling useful features from their flagships, In some instances, these have been what would be considered in today's world as legacy options such as removable batteries or expandable storage. There is one major feature though that has been dropped from seemingly all phones and intriguingly, it has only been phased out over the last couple of years: headphone jacks.
The potential reintroduction of an iPod could bring both forms of stability and tradition back to the market in the form of the reincarnation of the 3.5mm audio jack. The last generation of iPods did actually have headphone jacks, and to remove them if the device goes full-on audiophile would be technological suicide for Apple. They will of course encourage users to pick up a pair of AirPods, or if they’re minted, a set of the over-ear AirPods Max to keep users in the Apple ecosystem, but including a headphone jack of course broadens the headphones that can be used no end.
By doing so, Apple not only pleases their potential target market, but also could reinvigorate the trend of having the port back on phones wholesale. Some outlets, such as T3, are hoping for more classic features than simply the headphone jack, and wish for the return of the classic click wheel, or just the iPod Classic in general. Whilst they acknowledge that it might be “completely impractical” for Apple engineers to dig out an old mould for the sake of nostalgia, the remote for the new Apple TV 4K features a throwback to the buttons of old.
If Apple can position a new iPod Touch correctly in their already vast lineup of products, they’re undoubtedly onto a winner. Whilst it may seem a tad impractical given the vast functions available with smartphones these days, taking a back to basics approach for a good-old music player might just act as a reminder of what Apple did best.