2008 iPod Models

23 July 2008

It’s two months until iPod Season™ and speculation inspiration hit me today.

iPod Classic: Death or Rebirth?

I think that this year could see the end of the click-wheel Classic iPod. Here’s the reasoning: the price of the iPhone has dropped precipitously, making the price of the iPod Touch suddenly untenable. The Touch’s price has to tumble too. Where does that leave the antiquated-looking but capacious Classic?

Here’s my bombshell: I think it’s possible that the Classic could live on, but not as a click wheel. I propose that the Classic could evolve into what is essentially just the iPod menu of the iPhone. That means no Wi-Fi, no apps, nothing but what you see when you push the iPod button on your iPhone. Think about it: This would make it possible to price it below that of the Touch and maintain distinction between models, but at the same time allow it to leave its click-wheel interface behind. I’m projecting the same 80Gb and 160Gb drives as in the 2007 models. Flash is still too expensive in these frankly enormous capacities, so it may be a year or two before flash can catch up for a reasonable price.

iPod Touch Classic Screen Mockup

So that gives you a new Classic–an iPod Touch Classic–in a similar form factor to the current, but with a big, beautiful, touch screen with all the benefits that brings, and the back-to-basics concept of carrying all your music in your pocket. I imagine that to keep costs down, the same screen as used on the iPhone and Touch would be used. The Touch is still far in front of the competition, so this brings this laggard into line and viable for another year at least, until at last hard drives can be abandoned for roomy new flash technology. Being heavily stripped of features and using common components and OS would make it very affordable. Think of the savings in OS design: Apple could build their iPhone OS, then throw out everything that’s inapplicable for this model instead of maintaining another codebase.

The Touch: Let’s Get Relevant

10 months ago, I bought the Touch. I’ve never been completely happy with it because it always felt like a substitute for the iPhone. Now that I have an iPhone I know exactly why the iPhone is better: when you walk out of your house or your office, it no longer becomes a network brick. All that aside, there is a definite need for the Touch because the iPhone is attached to that most necessary of evils: a mobile carrier. Not everyone can or wants that expense.

So, we need the Touch. But why does it have to feel so cheap and crippled compared to the iPhone? This year, I think it could start to feel its own way. It already has a killer feature that the iPhone doesn’t: 32Gb. Where to go from here? It’s time to fill in some of the missing features.

Let’s start with a camera. A number of applications can use photos and as it’s a mobile device, it makes sense to capture the photo then and there instead of hoping an applicable one is in the photo library. Applying photos to contacts, anyone?

Next, it’s only got Wi-Fi to locate itself. Let’s throw in the same GPS that the iPhone 3G has. Now location-based services can be useful.

I think these two features added to the Touch, along with its focus on capacity (perhaps even 64Gb could be viable this year) would help to define it as a relevant device, different to but not cannibalising its phone-based sibling.

Nano: Oh God Let it Be Lanyardable!

This one is the hardest to predict, but I feel good about 3 sizes: 4Gb, 8Gb and new 16Gb. I think it will retain the click wheel because in order to turn it into a touch screen it would have to get Mobile OS X, and I can’t see that you could run that OS for very long on the tiny batteries these models have. Perhaps next year.

My main concern is whether I will be able to use a lanyard with it, because there is only one way to carry a Nano, and that is around your neck. The third-gen from last year worryingly was not accompanied by a specific lanyard, but luckily the first-gen lanyard fitted properly.

Shuffle: Can it Still Keep Going?

Who knows? The Nano is far superior and the price of this year’s entry model would get so low that I imagine it would start to cannibalise Shuffle sales. I’d like to see it hang around for another year. I don’t think it needs to be changed, but a new wardrobe of colours would be a logical move.

Summary

It’s important to remember that iPods evolve slowly over the years, they don’t leap ahead, except when the first iPod was introduced, and the first Nano, of course. The iPhone innovated, and the advances made their way into the iPod space, but they didn’t begin there. The ideas I’ve presented here are feasible and fit in with the type of evolution that we have experienced from Apple.

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