back to article Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD TO DIE, and this is WHY

Apple head honcho Tim Cook has explained why the iPod classic had to die: Apple couldn’t get the parts any more. Cook explained to the WSJ.D Live conference in California that “the engineering work” required to sustain the spinning-platters jukebox “was massive, and the number of people who wanted it very small. I felt there …

  1. Cirdan

    How about getting that kind of dosh for my HDD-based...



    1. RAMChYLD

      Re: How about getting that kind of dosh for my HDD-based...

      I turned it on and it said that it wasn't available in my country. So I threw it into vat of acid.

    2. jason 7

      Re: How about getting that kind of dosh for my HDD-based...

      Actually my 30GB Black Zune Mk1 bought new for £75 in 2007 is still working just fine. Still pondering slapping in a 60GB+ drive.

      Ignore the MS connotation/baggage and take it as a PMP, it was a great device.

  2. Waspy

    and this is how economic bubbles are made...

    Dutch tulip bulb market anyone?

  3. RobH

    Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

    iPod sales are down because they keep junking the decent ones...

    People were going mad for the 6th generation iPod and the Lunatik strap - Apple's response - double the physical size of the device, kill the market and take 5 years to come out with their own 'watch' that doesn't even feature-match the iPod-strap combination.

    Then there's the Classic - it makes for a great car jukebox when used with an audio system that plays nicely with it. Better than the alternative of a big USB stick.

    Apple pushed the iPod Touch - great for the sausage-fingered masses who only want a device if they can poke the UI but a major step backwards in capacity.

    Apple killed the iPod market themselves. Nobody else to blame.

    1. Adam 1

      Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

      No. Sales dwindled because you now carry a portable computer the same size that can play music, movies, ebooks, apps and games, browse the net and take photos which often have similar capacities to the original iPod classic. It dwindled for the same reason as compact digital cameras have; there is no need to get two things when one thing does everything you need with only compromises you find acceptable.

      1. stucs201

        Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

        Lack of capacity increases also didn't help, so no upgrade sales - meaning existing owners would only buy another when their current one broke.

      2. Mark 65

        Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

        @Adam 1: with the added advantage that the portable computer you speak of will have a flat battery by lunchtime and has a poxy data capacity unless you hand over your first born. There is every reason to get two devices as the compromise of being unable to make a phone call because the battery is flat on the jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none device. Getting a high capacity iPhone to replace a music player is financial idiocy.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          @Mark 65

          Mark you totally fail to understand how these things work. Apple don't make the iPod because you find it's the best option. They make it because the mass market wants to buy it. The mass market has made it clear that a device which requires daily charging is just fine, since they generally have access to electricity, and that ~32Gb is just fine as far as storage goes. A minority who demand more space but don't want to pay through the nose may well have jumped to Android/WindowsPhone so they can slip in a128Gb SD card but the sales speak for themselves - people aren't, in general, interested.

          You almost hit the nail on the head talking about two devices re: cameras but again fail to realise that for most people, a separate camera is pointless. A minority want a separate camera but it's no longer something everyone buys, more a specialist item. That's the territory the iPod finds itself in now and it simply isn't a big enough market for Apple to divert attention to.

          If there is demand, someone else will step up and make one. Given Apple make great profit on the iPod, suggesting they killed it deliberately is silly. They go where the money is, and it's not in storing 256Gb in your pocket.

          1. Jim 59

            Re: @Mark 65

            They probably killed it deliberately because the profit margin wasn't as high as other products. Nothing to do necessarily with how good it is or how much people want it. When Google shuttered Reader last year, it was the best product on the market and had a huge following. It just didn't make as much profit as the ad-slinging search engine.

            The standalone music player market has not disappeared. Neither has the digital camera market. Both have been reduced by smartphones, but not replaced. Now you have a choice of smartphone, music player, or both. Sansa's latest will outperform any smartphone in every respect for about £40. For most people, organizing their music (or photos) is now the biggest challenge.

          2. Mark 65

            Re: @Mark 65

            @JDX: I fail to realise nothing and know exactly how it works. Why make two devices when you can just force everyone onto one that likely has higher profit margins, right? Especially when you make the base version just that bit too small and charge too much for upgrades.

            I don't fail to realise anything about most people and cameras and completely realise that most people think their phone camera takes great pictures because all they do is stick them on instagram and facebook and the shitness of the picture doesn't notice when shrunk down.

            You may note that I don't really make much note of the iPod just that having one device often results in inadequate battery and the search for a charger - seen it all too often.

            In terms of "big enough market" I believe the article mentioned the ipod line brought in $1bn. That's plenty, but reverting to my first response above, why bother when you can rape the customer for more by only offering a phone. You may notice similarities in their line of computers now the Mac Mini has been ruined.

      3. 404

        Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

        +1 for you Adam1. Youngest son (14) uses his S4 as an mp3 player, he can barely make calls, text, or any of the other myriad uses of a handheld messaging computer*. He only pays attention to texts and whatnot from us parental units for fear of losing his music, there are times I want to rip the headphones from his little head, but that's another story.

        * (His eleven year old sister? Uses every single Mhz of her S4. Frankly, I'm a little surprised I haven't been visited yet by the authorities - she gets a Raspberry Pi for Christmas)

      4. Fihart

        Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

        @ Adam 1

        Music problem with most phones I've owned is that they don't seem to support folders. Personally I rip my existing CDs into album folders and can't be fagged to tag each track.

        So unless there's folder support I end up with a list that reads Track 01 Track 01 Track 01 almost ad infinitum.

        For all its sins (iTunes for one) at least the iPod supports folders -- not that I use mine as the battery is going and it's a faff to replace.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

          If only there was some sort of way to automatically tag each track as it is ripped, perhaps matching information for the CD from the internet?

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

        "Sales dwindled because you now carry a portable computer the same size that can play music, movies, ebooks, apps and games, browse the net and take photos which often have similar capacities to the original iPod classic"

        Look again - very few phones pack anything near the storage capacity of a decent iPod. Those which do are generally the preserve of rich kids. Phones such as my Missus Samsung Galaxy have barely enough storage to retain any history of text messages ... forget tunes and photos!!

      6. Adam 1

        Re: Apple killed the competition then deliberately dumped the market...

        OK, so I have checked.

        The first generation iPod (now called classic) had 5GB storage. Even most of the 3rd gen were 20GB.

        The money of one of these "classics" could just about buy you two XPerias (not the Zs obviously), but even the cheap ones have a microSD slot. A 32GB card can easily be had for under US$20. Same with Samsungs. Amazingly, some manufacturers have discovered a way that users can swap out both storage and batteries. They figured out that if you don't glue them to the board, you can just take one out when it is flat and put another in. Likewise, they discovered these cards which can be removed and replaced with either higher capacities or just additional media. It is not quite as innovative as rounded edges but not bad eh?

        The battery life of your smart phone is mostly your screen. If you are using it as a media player, your screen is off and it will easily last a day.

        Sorry, what was I supposed to discover?

        Most people can live with just 16 - 32GB of music with them at a time. Those that cant do not form a big enough market to make the product line profitable. The writing is on the wall for them as microSD cost/GB drops and 4G makes streaming services technically possible. If the exorbitant costs for data over 4G drop over the next few years, then many will need even less storage on the phone itself. Apple don't want to be selling the iPod, they want to invent and sell iSpotify (or Beats or whatever they branded it).

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    All technology

    No matter the technology, it will end up in a museum or a dumpster given enough time. With the planned obsolescence of today's products, I guess we can't get the parts is a plausible excuse /cough. After all who wants spinning rust of any kind these days if it can be avoided?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These days they should be able to do a faithful reproduction of one using an mSATA disk and have more capacity than was possible with the 1.8" HDD anyway.

    1. Inspector71

      Rolled my own

      Done already mate.

      512GB Samsung msata drive + adapter + 2000maH battery = happiness.

    2. Velv


      So that would be the iPod Nano then

      1. Mark 65

        Re: D'oh!

        Nano refers to it's storage capacity I believe.

      2. Stacy

        Re: D'oh!


        Sounds like a great idea - any instructions? I have an 80GB classic lying around (actually, I also have ZIF SSD lying around, but can't remember the capcity...) and would love to give this a try!

        1. Heathroi

          Re: D'oh!

          this thread might put you on the right path

          1. Stacy

            Re: D'oh!


        2. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: D'oh!

          There are rumors that the iPods have a limit of 32,000 songs. Not that you would notice even with a 160GB iPod, If you get 512 GB working, tell us if the song limit story is true.

  6. Johnr

    I liked the old Ipods as they were tactile and simple. When you were in the gym and had one on your belt or arm you could adjust the volume , skip and pause without looking at it. never ran out of space with the 160gb. Yer stupid phone or the Touch you have to have the screen in front of you to operate. Like everything else new and improved kills the stuff you like .

    1. Adam 1

      Sounds like another reason to steer clear of the gym.

    2. Paw Bokenfohr

      @ Johnr: "When you were in the gym and had one on your belt or arm you could adjust the volume , skip and pause without looking at it."

      I thought that was what the controls on my headphone cord were for, and that works with an iPod or and iPhone.

    3. Tom 13


      I now have sufficient music on my PC that it will no longer update the iPod because it's too small. I'd probably buy a new one if they sold something large enough.

    4. Jim 59


      True. The world is slowly learning that touchscreens suck. Or rather, the over-reliance on touchscreens leads to suckage. If a device has both touchscreen and real buttons, the user will go for the buttons, always.

  7. Mage Silver badge


    They just didn't want to do it.

    Plenty of 2.5" HDD available.

    maybe though no OEM wanted the hassle of the stupid Apple formatting which means that such drives don't work in other things such as Notebooks, and 3rd party drives don't work in Apple's gadget.

    The procurement and engineering needed is trivial. There is a decent market for a 500 Gbyte USB backup drive that works as an iPod.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Nonsense

      2.5"HDDs would make the device too big. All HDD-based iPods used the 1.7" HDDs which had a more limited lineup. And if what I hear is correct, the new ones Toshiba was pushing were too THICK (7mm doesn't sound like much until you realize the ones in the iPods were only 5mm). From what I've heard, Toshiba no longer makes 5mm 1.7" drives.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Nonsense 2.5" vs 1.8"

        Shortage of coffee error.

        I have such a bare drive sitting here. I did mean 1.8"

        Though a 2.5" drive version could be only slightly longer than drive (for electronics) and slightly fatter (battery & screen). There are less high 2.5" drives.

    2. IHateWearingATie

      Re: Nonsense

      IIRC the iPod classic uses a 1.8 inch drive, not a 2.5 inch one.

      I guess there is far less demand for the 1,8 inch format, and as the article said that Tosh had developed one, I bet the cost was such with a *relatively* small run the cost meant it no longer met Apple's rapacious margin expectations

    3. stucs201

      Re: Plenty of 2.5" HDD available.

      The iPod classic used 1.8" drives...

  8. sisk

    I find it more likely that with everyone with the kind of disposable income to buy an iPod already having a smartphone that doubles as a MP3 player anyway that the things were doomed to die out anyway.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      If you want a standalone music player, go on eBay and find a cheap iPhone 3GS. If you just ignore the fact that it can make phone calls, take photos and videos and so on, it makes a really nice iPod.

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Good idea

        Also compatible with all the docks people had to replace when Lightning connectors arrived.

      2. Johnr

        a cheap iPhone 3GS makes a really nice iPod....

        No it doesn't. Crap battery life and no click wheel

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real reason...

    ...the battery life was putting Tims recent efforts to shame.

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: The real reason...

      My iPod Classic from 2007 is still going strong.

      Original battery life 30 hours, now gets 25 hours.

  10. bep

    I would happily replace my current Nano (Christmas present) with one with a click-wheel like the original. Touch screen interfaces are a huge step backward for this sort of device.

  11. TwoWolves

    Why not...

    Make a new classic with SD storage but the same click-wheel interface and good battery life etc.

    I feel betrayed by this axing and was only waiting for a larger capacity as my 2008 iPod is still working, as was almost every adult commuter I saw on the train this morning with an iPod classic. Its the grown-ups choice of music player as we can't afford our phones to die on us.

  12. Rick Brasche

    who cares that an older media storage system went bye-bye?

    for real world applications, solid state is superior for media players.

    Just because Apple refuses to allow you upgradeable memory doesn't mean you gotta dream of all your gigabytes you'll ever want at the time of purchase.

    Hell, most people build playlists anyway and sync those, which are easily digested by any of Apple's current offerings. How many thousand hours of tunes does anyone need in their pocket? Want more, sync the other list. no big deal.

    Or get a more friendly non-Apple unit where you can pop in whatever the largest capacity memory card is that fits your budget. wait a year and the next larger one comes along. If one goes bad, it's seconds to eject and replace with a fresher, faster one.

  13. Dana W

    Not stopping now, even if Apple is.

    I have three iPods. A 160 thick, and a 160 thin, the one I use the most though is a 2004 black and red U2 model. I replaced the battery, and dumped the 20 Gig hard drive for a 64 Gig compact flash. I want to load the seventh Gen with 256 of flash as well. I like classic iPods, and as long as I can get the battery, I will NEVER stop using them.

  14. MartinB105

    There are much better alternatives to iPod

    There have always been much better alternatives to the iPod for those who are just looking for a dedicated music player and willing to do a small amount of research.

    My current player of choice is the Sansa Clip+. Put RockBox on this thing, and you can use micro SD cards beyond the normal 32GB limit, so you can upgrade the capacity as the card technology moves forward. I currently have 64GB in mine, though I'm considering an upgrade to 128GB.

    Additionally, it supports far more formats than any Apple device, has folder browsing and allows USB Mass Storage for data transfer (no crappy iTunes necessary, works on Linux, etc.). Sound quality is also better, it's cheaper and you can operate many functions without looking at the screen.

    1. stucs201

      Re: There are much better alternatives to iPod

      Great as that sounds it doesn't help if the key feature I want is easy connection to my car's stereo, including control of the player from the stalk by the steering wheel. I'm far from a fan of Apple. but the widespread 3rd party support for the classic's 30 pin dock connector made it a useful thing.

      1. MartinB105

        Re: There are much better alternatives to iPod

        I don't drive myself, but the last car I was in had USB ports for music connectivity. I'm guessing this should allow you to use the stalk to control your music from any USB Mass Storage device, MP3 player or otherwise.

        Of course, you'll be limited to the basic functionality and supported formats of the software provided by the car rather than the fancy software installed on your device, but I don't think advanced functionality and exotic formats are of much concern to those who would choose an iPod anyway.

        1. stucs201

          Re: There are much better alternatives to iPod

          That would be a viable alternative, if I had a USB socket on my car's stereo. However I don't, neither did my previous car. In both cases the car has a fairly basic unit, which isn't designed to have anything connected to it except a CD changer - the iPod is connected via a 3rd party box (hidden behind the dash) which makes the iPod look like a CD changer to the stereo.

          Obviously I could replace the stereo with something actually designed to handle MP3s or an external player, but I'd rather have something standard looking in their than something lit up like a christmas tree (which most aftermarket units seem to be).

  15. Winkypop Silver badge

    I love my iPod classic 160G

    I use it 8+ hours a day.

    I want BIG storage capacity and I don't need 3G/wifi connectivity.

    I will cry when Betsy dies.

    Now where did I put that old 20G iPod?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks Apple...

    So what do I put my 70GB of music in iTunes on once my iPod Classic dies now?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Thanks Apple...

      The cloud, use local storage as a MFU cache.

    2. joejack

      Re: Thanks Apple...

      I also use a Sansa Clip+. Not the sexiest UI, but it's dirt cheap, good sound quality with EQ, FM radio, voice recording, standard phone charger to charge it, physical controls make it easy to control without looking at it, Rhapsody integration if you want streaming, and a memory card slot for an extra 128GB in storage. Although Sandisk really needs to up the processing power IMO. "Refreshing your media" takes entirely too long.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks Apple...

      "So what do I put my 70GB of music in iTunes on once my iPod Classic dies now?"

      Compress it by 10% and sling it onto a 64GB iPod touch?

    4. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Thanks Apple...

      You go to the nearest Apple Store and ask for an "out-of-warranty repair". Should be £102 and they'll give you a new iPod Classic. Apple stopped selling them; that doesn't mean there aren't any left. Now unlike a modern(ish) phone that they have in the store and hand over immediately, you'll probably have to wait a few days.

  17. Robert Ramsay

    I'm getting a Fiio X5 for my birthday.

    That is all, thank you.

    1. John Gamble

      Re: I'm getting a Fiio X5 for my birthday.

      Hmm. Plays FLAC files, looks sturdy, has a thumb wheel. Okay, adding it to my list of possible iPod replacements. Thanks.

  18. Mondo the Magnificent

    iPod classic

    I love the classic, seriously, the clickwheel just does it for me, I still have two, 30 & 60GB respectively.

    One in black, the other in white.

    I recall the U2 [engraved autograph] versions in red, yes U2 does have a history with the iPod classic as well as a faux par with iTunes recently too..

    Fortunately you can keep your old iPods alive, there are a few specialist sites that keep parts, like the clickwheel, displays, hard disks and batteries for them.

    I've revived a few old iPods that had failed and friends were going to junk. It's usually a battery or disk failure.

    Perhaps some developer can come up with a classic clickwheel iPod type interface for the under endowed iPod Touch? That way die hard clickwheel generation fans can feel all nostalgic when pawing their iPod Touch devices..

  19. Anonymous Coward


    Odd...nobody mention the average quality sound that the iProducts still rocking Nokia 5800Xpress puts to shame any player i put it to test.

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: Quality

      "Odd...nobody mention the average quality sound that the iProducts deliver"

      Apple's devices tend to be rated quite highly for sound quality, with only the occasional exception over the years.

      Besides, nobody's plugging these into a high-end NAD amp and multi-thousand-quid speakers anyway, so who gives a toss? The paying public—the only subset of "the public" that matters to any business interested in making a profit—certainly doesn't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Quality

        Err...nope, I'm talkng about average headphones,,,like the ones that come with the iProducts :-P

  20. Jim 59


    What MartinB105 said about Sansa Clip/Rockbox. Clips have been my choice ever since my Archos obsolesced itself around 2007. Nothing could be easier - the limitless slot keeps up with technology, compatible with everything, doubles as a chunky USB disk. Weighs about a gram. Battery 12 hours. Eventually the jack wears out but you just replace the whole thing for like £20 and swap your SD over.

    Rockbox is currently transitioning into a smartphone app, and may not be developed separately as an OS in future.

    1. Gannettt

      Re: Sansa/Rockbox

      Agreed. have had two clip+, current one is 4Gb with a 32Gb microSD card and I still need more storage! The sound quality could be a little better, but for the price, it's a winner.

      I still have my old 1Gb Iriver T30 from 2005, great sound quality, and uses an AAA battery. Goes to show if you look after things, they last! Unfortunately my venerable 256Mb Iriver IFP-990 recently developed corrupted memory, so sad, that was a very versatile and great-sounding little device.

  21. Stevie Silver badge


    I like my 16gig nano (no longer made) but was on the point of stumping up for a Classic despite the tooth-achingly unfit-for-purpose overly-converged controls* because of the capacity.

    I'm not by any means a rabid music aficionado but I have just under 70 gig of my collection digitized and since I like listening to *albums*, I do NOT sync mostly playlists "like the vast majority".

    My taste-of-the-day is eclectic and subject to whim, and I'd love to be able to follow those whims without having to use The Spice to see into the future. Looks like I'm on the hunt for a competitor's product.

    * Any device should have a separate ON/OFF switch that does not require a computer to work out the context of what is being done before it decides - 30% of the time incorrectly - what I want to happen, and no music player should require it to be in operation before the volume can be adjusted. Can't count the times I've absently flicked over to the radio only to be deafened by the change in gain.

  22. Gannettt


    I had been toying with the idea of buying a classic for about 3 years, but it was just a bit too expensive, so i put it off. now i'm able to afford it, they stop it and the second-hand market has gone bananas. i did consider a touch, but for a 64Gb the price is ridiculous. I can't seem to find any decent large-capacity audio players anywhere, any suggestions?

    Thanks apple!

  23. Julian Bond


    I'm one of those strange dinosaurs who collects music and wants to take it all with me in a device with good battery life. So what I really wanted was a 1Tb iPod Classic. And by the usual standards of the electronics industry I should have had one by now. So when Tim Cook says "there were reasonable alternatives", I'd love to know what they are. And although a Sansa plus SD card makes a lot of sense, SSD is still too expensive in >128Gb sizes. I hit the limits on my 6th gen 160Gb about 5 years ago, so definitely want 250Gb and preferably 512Gb.

    There are expensive and increasingly difficult options of taking a 2nd hand 5.5 or 7th gen Classic and fitting a 240Gb disk. But the firmware can't really cope as there are some hard limits you'd run up against.

    Getting on for 10 years ago now I had a Creative Xen based on a 2.5" disk. I really wouldn't mind the extra size and weight of a 2.5" disk based device and that would mean it was that much more likely to survive into the future.

    I know it's a small market but what is the alternative? Is there one?

  24. Mr Larrington


    I was going to buy a 160 Gb Classic but decided to leave it until after my holibobs. When I returned to Blighty the gits had stopped making it and chancers were asking $SILLY_MONEY. My old and faithful 60 Gb is down to 2 Gb free.

    I have a refurbished 160 Gb model now, hopefully this will last until the Mega-Global Fruit Corporation realises that 64 Gb is too frikkin' small.

  25. Moogal

    Those suggesting keeping everything in the cloud have evidently never had occasion to listen to music on the tube, or on a train where the reception is anything between patchy and non-existent, even around major cities.

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