Technology

In defence of the iPod and why the end of iTunes turns the page for Apple’s music plan

The new iPod comes in a choice of six different colours (Apple)

The new iPod comes in a choice of six different colours (Apple)

The announcement that Apple will shutter iTunes came as no surprise to tech enthusiasts, but a few eyebrows were raised when the company launched a new iPod.

The revamped iPod Touch is outwardly identical to previous versions but now sports the A10 Fusion CPU borrowed from the iPhone 7 which launched in 2016. It starts at £199 for the 32GB model, goes up to £299 for the 128GB model and finally rests at £399 for the 256GB model.

It’s the first new iPod for four years and it’s the cheapest way for anyone to get access to iOS and Apple’s huge ecosystem of apps and services. Services that now include Apple Music which now replaces iTunes as Apple’s main ecosystem for music.

Apple has been pushing users to Apple Music for a while now as music listening has changed from purchasing albums and individual songs to streaming. At the same time, the iPod has evolved into a connected device itself – you no longer need to plug it in to a Mac or PC to download files.

As such, buying the 128GB iPod Touch isn’t a sensible idea – you can pick up a second-hand iPhone 8 for around the same price.

iTunes is set to be discontinued by Apple (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

iTunes is set to be discontinued by Apple (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Rest assured that any songs, albums or audiobooks you’ve purchased on iTunes will be carried across to Apple Music. Other content you have will be ported to the other two apps: Apple TV and Podcasts. Together, these three applications are forming the trident of Apple’s music ecosystem.

Anyone wanting to sync an iPod (or iPhone or iPad) will still be able to do so via the Mac’s Finder drop-down menu. For the time being, iTunes is staying put on Windows machines.

Given the changes, you have to wonder why anyone would actually pull out their dosh and buy one of these new iPod Touch models.

A few days with the device has given me some introspection on this front, so please bear with me.

The iPod Touch has a 4-inch screen which feels minuscule these days (Jeff Parsons)

The iPod Touch has a 4-inch screen which feels minuscule these days (Jeff Parsons)

There are a few instances where an iPhone isn’t appropriate or practical. For example, parents may be willing to let young children have a gadget for music and some apps without giving them full blown access to a data plan. In that case, the iPod Touch is perfect.

Similarly, with a tiny 4-inch screen and 88g weight, the iPod Touch is much more portable. Having got so used to phones with diagonal screens six inches or more, this was a revelation.

If you’re a runner (I am and have covered many miles using an original iPod Shuffle) then using an iPod instead of an iPhone is much more comfortable. Also, no-one can bother you.

Finally, if you’re really into your audio quality then you may be interested to know the iPod Touch has a headphone jack and support for high-res audio codecs like FLAC. That means you can load it with tunes, plug in your expensive wired headphones and actually listen to music.

It comes in a choice of six colours: Pink, Silver, Space Grey, Gold, Blue and (PRODUCT)RED (Jeff Parsons)

It comes in a choice of six colours: Pink, Silver, Space Grey, Gold, Blue and (PRODUCT)RED (Jeff Parsons)

There are drawbacks: no NFC, no GPS and the camera is rubbish. But if that’s what you’re after then chances are you’re going to buy an iPhone.

This is for music and simplicity and for those reasons I can see why Apple has kept the iPod alive – even if it’s just the iPod Touch. The iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle were killed off back in 2017. How much longer Apple does keep its original breakthrough hit alive remains to be seen.

The Touch is the last surviving member of the iPod family (Image: Apple)

The Touch is the last surviving member of the iPod family (Image: Apple)

I also don’t believe iTunes will be missed very much. It was a clunky piece of software that had so many extras bolted onto it over the years it was groaning under the weight.

Apple doesn’t have to compete with Napster or LimeWire anymore, it needs to compete with Spotify and YouTube and SoundCloud. Shifting focus to streaming-based Apple Music and bringing a greater unity between the process on iOS and macOS seems to be where the smart money is.

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