iPods on the way to obsolete?

Jeff Bertolucci
24 July, 2011
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No doubt about it, Apple just announced another stellar quarter. The company sold 9.25 million iPads in Q3, up 183 percent from the same quarter last year. It sold more than 20 million iPhones too, a 142 percent jump. And Apple’s profit more than doubled to US$7.31 billion.

So what’s not to like? Well, iPod sales fell a whopping 20 percent to 7.54 million. Nobody’s surprised that iPod sales are falling, as the standalone MP3 player is rapidly losing ground to smartphones that play tunes and do a zillion other things as well.

It’s too bad that Apple didn’t break out its third-quarter iPod sales by model. It’s a safe bet that the iPod Classic, the venerable click-wheel model that’s sooo 2007, took the biggest hit, followed perhaps by either the iPod shuffle or nano. The iPhone-like iPod touch, however, is probably selling well.

Of course, it’s too early for Apple to kill off the iPod entirely. Seven-and-half million sales in one quarter is still impressive, even if recent trends suggest that the music player’s best days are behind it.

It may be time, however, for Apple to prune the iPod tree. Two options:

Kill the iPod Classic: Sure, this old-school device has 160GB of storage and holds up to 40,000 songs. But other than DJs and music industry pros, who really needs to store that many tunes? Besides, with the arrival of cloud-based storage services, including Apple’s own iCloud, the mega-capacity music player may soon lose its mainstream appeal.

Drop one of the tiny iPods: The distinction between the iPod nano and shuffle gets fuzzier every day.   The shuffle has a clip but no screen. It’s handy for joggers, gym rats, skydivers and other sports enthusiasts. The nano has a Multi-Touch screen–a really small one, in fact. Is the MP3 market big enough for both players? Only Apple knows for sure, but I suspect that one of these models is on the way out.

As for the iPod touch? It’s a keeper. With its iPhone-like capabilities, this multi-talented media player is popular with the younger crowd. And more importantly for Apple, the iPod touch is a gateway drug to the iPhone.

Long term, the iPod’s days are numbered. But don’t write its obituary just yet.


3 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Xenophos says:

    No doubt a contraction of models will take place, but given we don’t have a breakdown of figures speculation is pointless. Apple should continue selling whichever models are profitable.

  2. Dan Miller says:

    I think Apple will do away with the iPod classic’s but leave the nano’s, shuffles and touch. Not everyone has a iPhone. And you can’t carry a iPad everywhere. People likes to have their music with them and the nano’s and shuffles serve that.

  3. Gary E says:

    Ipod Classic is a keeper. Ultra capacity takes on even greater importance as iTunes grows the video side of its shelfspace. Sure 160 GB may be “too much” for most music lovers — not not if you haul around video. Classic has yet to tap the potential in video growth…not to mention that having a half empty Ipod certainly encourages unfettered purchasing among some consumers. And please, iCloud is both unproven, and not universally available, so don’t offer it as a capacity alternative. Many areas still do not offer reliable broadband for streaming, and won’t for some time. When I travel to the mountains for the weekend or the caribbean on vacation, iPOd Classic allows me to carry a huge quantity of television and movies, in addition to a sizeable music collection.

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