How Apple could reinvigorate the iPod line

New iPod colors mockup

It’s no secret that iPod sales continue to decline year after year. Many of the people who were once targets for the iPod now opt for iPhones or iPads.

This isn’t exactly a terrible problem for Apple to have. The company has never had qualms about cannibalizing its own products for the sake of the greater good.

But with Apple’s historic, and now renewed, love of music, it just wouldn’t seem right to let the iPod—at least its conceptual existence, and not so much the name—fade out into the sunset.

For that reason, I think that Apple should go back to the drawing board. Even if this year’s rumored across-the-board iPod update is nothing more than just a meager spec bump and minor changes—I think that ultimately, the line is due for a complete overhaul.

How could Apple reinvigorate its flagship music player? By doing the following five things…

iPod nano new colors iTunes graphics

Start from scratch

Get rid of anything that isn’t focused on music. This means that the iPod touch would no longer be a poor man’s iPhone. No longer would an “iPod” be able to run most the same apps that you run on an iPhone or iPad.

It would take a line of reasoning and a stance that’s different from the status quo.

Instead, only allow the iPod to download audio-centric apps. Think Spotify, Rdio, Overcast, etc. There’s no reason to run a mapping app on a device solely intended for music.

Right now, some who may consider an iPod touch are likely thinking: “Why spend this much for an iPod, when I could just upgrade to an iPhone, and have the real thing?”

Instead of risking that line of thought, change the audience to those are are squarely focused on audio.

iPod touch 5G

A new form-factor

I’m all for taking the iPod nano, and iPod touch, and merging them into a single device. Since this device would no longer need to run iOS-proper, with its sole focus on Music apps, it could take on a different shape, size, or dimension.

The new form-factor wouldn’t have the same requirements as the currently existing iPod touch. There would be no camera or flash, for instance. Apple could use this opportunity to create something unique, and at the same time simplify its lineup.

The new iPod could stand on its own and not be confused with its more popular cousin, the iPhone. Plus, the new form factor opens up an opportunity to improve things like speaker design and acoustics.

Apple Music teaser 001

Music everywhere

Apple has finally entered into the streaming music game with the acquisition of Beats Music, and the subsequent launch of Apple Music. Now it’s more important than before for us maintain an internet connection so that we can use Apple Music’s streaming features—so that we can use Beats 1.

How to solve this? Embed cellular radios similar to the ones that we have in our iPhones.

Apple could take an Amazon Kindle-esque route, and provide complimentary Internet access to those who purchase a new iPod and sign up for Apple Music. Basically, your monthly Apple Music fee, and the price you paid for the device, would be helping to offset the cost of the Internet access.

In this case, since there are no other apps, Internet access would be limited solely to the music apps featured on the device, or, if Apple wanted to be really strict, limited solely to Apple Music streaming. T-Mobile does something now with its Music Freedom initiative where music streaming isn’t counted against your monthly data rate, so I think there’s at least some precedent and room for negotiation in this area.

Even if complimentary internet access is a far-fetched option, we’re all very familiar with how to add an additional device to our wireless plan by now—give us the opportunity to add our iPods.

Regardless of how it’s implemented, I think it’s safe to say that this device needs to be able to access the Internet at all times to truly benefit from Beats 1 and Apple Music.

beats colors 1

Sound quality

There have been rumors of Apple working on improving the sound quality of its devices for years with so-called high-res music, but a new iPod would be the perfect device to showcase such technology. With a renewed focus on music, and a ditching of all of the extra weight and fluff, Apple could laser focus on sound quality, both from a codec perspective, and from a hardware perspective.

With its acquisition of Beats, it has also gained a wealth of music-centric peripherals, including headphones. While the Beats offerings do carry a mixed reputation, I think the quality of its headphones still exceed the quality of anything we’ve seen packed in with an Apple device up until this point.

I would also like to see Apple focus more on the external speaker. Obviously, with the limitation of surface area, a small form factor isn’t going to provide you with a wide range of quality sound, but if other phone manufacturers have taught us anything, Apple can definitely improve over its current offerings.

iPhone 5 battery life

Battery life

With simplified internals, lower RAM requirements, storage requirements, and simplified apps, Apple could make the battery of the new iPod last a lot longer than it currently does today. Imagine it being the first Apple device touted to last a full 24 hours on a single charge. That would turn a lot of heads. With a new form-factor and a simpler focus, greatly improved battery life is within the realm of possibilities.


Quarter after quarter, we’ve watched sales continue to decline. It’s gotten to the point where Apple no longer reports its iPod sales anymore. This trend will not stop unless Apple makes a significant change. Apple has to make the iPod the sexy and desirable product that it once was.

Listen to Cody and I discuss this on Let’s Talk iOS

Music is in Apple’s DNA, and I have a hard time believing they want to continue down this path of declining sales for its once flagship music player. Apple has the resources, and it has the guts to truly change the narrative with regard to the iPod. With a renewed laser focus on the basics, I believe that Apple can do that. Will they? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.