Saturdays with Stephen: It’s Time for Something New

Behold, the current generation of Apple’s iPod line. From left to right we have the fourth generation iPod shuffle, the sixth generation iPod nano, the iPod classic (or the sixth generation iPod), and the fourth generation iPod touch. While we’re certain that there will be a substantial iPhone refresh this coming Wednesday, there is no way of knowing what else may be planned — at this event, or at the rumored October event. However, it is apparent that the iPod line needs some attention, and it’s time for something new.

Could Apple be planning on doing away with its legendary click wheel? Are we going to see a discontinuation of the iPod shuffle? Could the iPod nano replace the iPod shuffle altogether? Are we going to see noteworthy new features in a new iPod touch? What has Apple been doing for the last couple of years while letting the above iPods sit on the back burner? What could be planned for the future of the iPod? We don’t know, but hopefully we will find out soon. I think that the iPod line is due not only for a refresh, but a complete overhaul. It’s time for a new product line (or two). It’s time for the iPod to re-emerge as one of Apple’s most innovative products.

The iPod shuffle has been around a long time. The original “stick” model — which happens to be my personal favorite — was released all the way back in 2005. At the time, the baseline 512 MB (yes, megabyte) model was the most affordable iPod at $99 and was half the price of the 2 GB iPod nano. The next generation model was smaller, followed by an even smaller 3rd generation model that moved all controls to Apple’s headphones. Finally, in the most recent model, Apple decided to revert back to what is very similar to the 2nd generation design.

The iPod nano in its current form is actually most comparable to the early generations of iPod shuffles. It is barely larger than the second generation shuffle and is currently priced at $129. Every time I pick up a current generation iPod nano I can’t imagine needing a device any smaller, and with the number of features it offers at such a good price, it seems that it has almost replaced the iPod shuffle already. What if Apple were able to design an iPod nano that could match — and replace — the iPod shuffle, both in price and features? Would we see a removal of the iPod shuffle line completely? Probably not, because of the continued popularity of the iPod shuffle with athletes and younger audiences. However, it is interesting to note how similar the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle have become.

The iPod classic has run its course. The only real purpose it serves is offering a large amount of storage for those with very large music libraries. As flash storage continues to become more affordable, I think we will finally see the discontinuation of the iPod with click wheel. It may not be this year, but what I think will finally happen is that we will see larger capacity iPod touches, or a larger capacity, flash storage, iPod classic. Speaking of theĀ iPod touch, it’s ready for a refresh. Most notably falling behind are the current models’ 256 MB of RAM and low quality cameras. On the latest build of iOS 6, the current generation iPod touch feels sluggish compared to the iPhone 4S and the iPad.

Whatever the case may be, I think Apple has something big up its sleeve this time around. We don’t know when the big day will be, but there’s always the possibility that it will be this coming Wednesday. Maybe Apple is saving the big iPod updates for the rumored October iPad mini event. Maybe Apple is planning a third “music” themed event. Regardless of when they will be announced, I think it’s time for a new model, a new concept, a new product line. Something is going to change, I don’t know what it is yet, but the iPod lineup is due for something new.

What do you think? Which lines of iPod do you want to see a refresh for? Are there any features you’re just itching to have in future iPods? Sound off in the comments!

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