Likely on its last legs.
At a Glance
The iPod classic has not been updated in over four years and is likely to be discontinued rather than refreshed. Timing remains unclear, but may come alongside or soon after the release of a 128 GB iPod touch.
- 160 GB capacity
- Click wheel interface
- Silver and black color options
What We Expect
The iPod classic is the direct descendent of Apple's original iPod released in 2001 and offers the traditional click wheel interface introduced nearly a decade ago on the iPod mini before making its way into the fourth-generation iPod. With the iPod classic lacking iOS and touchscreen support, the device's main function over the last several years has been to provide customers with an iPod product option offering significant amounts of storage for their music collections. The current version of the iPod classic contains a 160 GB traditional hard drive, offering significantly more capacity than the 64 GB of flash memory found in the high-end iPod touch.
We expect that the current iPod classic will simply be discontinued at some point in the future rather than being updated, but it is unclear exactly when that event would occur. Speculation has suggested that Apple is looking to wait until it can offer the iPod touch in a 128 GB capacity before it discontinues the iPod classic, but that jump has yet to take place.
In More Detail
The current generation of the iPod classic was introduced in September 2009, and while the product's demise has been rumored a number of times over the past several years, Apple has so far continued selling it in silver and black color options at the same $249 price point.
Back in early 2011, Toshiba introduced a 220 GB 1.8-inch hard drive that could have allowed Apple to increase the capacity of the iPod classic, and tightening supplies very soon after led to speculation that the device could see an update or discontinuation. By September 2011, Apple had removed its click wheel iPod games from the iTunes Store. No such games had been added to the store since February 2009, but the complete removal of the games section from the iTunes Store fueled rumors that the iPod classic would soon be discontinued. Ultimately, however, no changes were made to the device or its availability.
With Toshiba and other manufacturers having halted development of 1.8-inch traditional hard drives long ago, there appears to be essentially no chance that the iPod classic will be updated in its current form. By far the most likely scenario at this point involves the product simply being discontinued, but the timing for such a move remains unclear.
While the iPod classic sells in low volumes compared to Apple's other iPod products, it does have its devoted fans who appreciate the ability to carry much or all of their music collections with them on the go. As a result, speculation has suggested that Apple may be continuing to sell the iPod classic until it can offer another product option with storage capacity at or near the level of the iPod classic. From Apple's existing iPod lineup, the iPod touch would be the natural device to take on that role, but it currently maxes out at 64 GB of storage, and so the thinking has been that the iPod classic will be discontinued once the iPod touch makes the jump to 128 GB.
With Apple having introduced a new "space gray" iPod touch color in September alongside the introduction of the iPhone 5s and the holiday shopping season already in full swing, Apple will undoubtedly not be making any further updates to its iPod lineup in 2013, suggesting that the iPod classic will live on for the time being.
Apple traditionally updates its iPod products once a year in the September-October timeframe, and thus it would seem most likely that a potential 128 GB iPod touch would not appear until late 2014. Apple has, however, shown that is willing to do minor mid-cycle updates to its mobile products as was seen with the 16 GB fifth-generation iPod touch in May of this year and the 128 GB iPad several months earlier, meaning that Apple might be able to surprise with an iPod touch capacity increase as soon as the first half of 2014, clearing the way for a discontinuation of the iPod classic.
During Apple's fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Tim Cook referred to the iPod as a declining business. Currently, iPod sales make a up just two percent of the company’s revenue.