Apple finally discontinued the last iPod in 2022 after a dominant two-decade run that saw the music player develop into a powerful ecosystem of products, but the ‘spirit of the iPod’ lives on in the Apple Watch. The first iPod debuted in 2001 and was the second massive success — the all-in-one translucent iMac was the first — that brought Apple back to prominence after the dark years in the 1980s and early 1990s. At the time, it was limited in scope. The first iPod only supported a maximum of 1,000 songs, was limited to use with Mac computers, and required FireWire for syncing and charging. As the product developed, though, iPods became smaller and more powerful. The end result was the iPhone and iPad, which bridged the gap between mobile and desktop computing. Although the iPod’s success and development affected Apple‘s entire product strategy, the natural evolution of the iPod was always the Apple Watch.
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Though the last iPod standing hasn’t been a best-seller — the iPod touch didn’t even have a product tab on Apple’s website and was last updated in 2019 — there is a sense of nostalgia associated with the devices. For many people, the iPod was the first handheld piece of tech that could fit both in the palm of their hand and in their pocket. Especially for the younger generations, the iPod traveled with them through their childhood, just as vinyl, cassettes, and CDs traveled with generations before. The selling point of an iPod in the 2020s was that it could be completely disconnected from the internet, providing distraction-free content consumption. Although there isn’t a direct replacement to the iPod in Apple’s lineup, the Apple Watch checks off many of the same boxes.
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The clearest difference between the iPod and the Apple Watch is that the latter is strapped to the user’s wrist, while the iPod’s home was in the user’s pocket. But is that really true? People began wearing an iPod on their wrist before there was an inkling that Apple would be releasing a smartwatch. The controversial sixth-generation iPod Nano combined the form factor of the iPod Shuffle with the multi-touch screen of the iPod touch, creating a tiny, square touch-screen iPod. It wasn’t long before customers had the idea to try out the compact iPod as a watch; in fact, media outlets like Engadget reviewed the sixth-generation iPod as a watch rather than a music player in 2010. The Apple Watch wouldn’t be announced until 2015, and the smartwatch was sluggish and difficult to use in its first few revisions.
The Apple Watch Is Great For Music
As iPhones became more powerful, there was no need for the iPod to exist in Apple’s product lineup. All of the features provided by an iPod were included in modern iPhones, which created redundancy, as people didn’t want to carry around two separate devices. There was still a market for the iPod — people who wanted detachment from the constant connection to the online world. The iPod touch also hung around as an affordable option for kids who were not ready for an iPhone just yet. The Apple Watch filled this gap in the company’s lineup perfectly. A user could forget that an Apple Watch was on their wrist while they carried their iPhone, and when it was time to leave their iPhone behind, the smartwatch provided similar functions to an iPod. It’s even possible to give a child an Apple Watch that’s connected to a family member’s iPhone.
The Apple Watch is the most convenient music player in daily use, cementing the product’s evolution from the original iPod lineup. With a few taps users can play music or listen to podcasts from their wrist without taking out their iPhone. The Digital Crown makes easy navigation through songs, albums, and playlists possible in a way eerily reminiscent of the iconic click wheel found on older iPods. Even when the Apple Watch is disconnected from the paired iPhone, users can download specific artists, albums, and playlist directly to the smartwatch’s onboard storage for listening anytime, anywhere. After the watch is connected to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, earbuds, or a speaker, listening to audio content is a breeze. The Apple Watch is the iPod that is so convenient and unobtrusive that the user forgets they’re even wearing it, and it’s what the natural evolution of the iconic product was always meant to be.