10 September 2014

I'm Serious About My iPod Classic Petition

Yesterday, I started a petition on the official White House Petitions website.  I was upset, and still am upset, that Apple decided to discontinue the iPod Classic.  A lot of you probably think this is frivious, but I don't.  I take this very seriously.  Here is why.

(I've also shared it on Change.org, here)

Let's first look at the economics of the situation. 

The last top-level iPod Classic cost $249.  For that money, you got 160Gb of storage for your music and, if you chose, videos.  No further contracted service is required.

The largest iPhone 6 - which they announced yesterday - has 128Gb of storage, but also a lot of apps.  You don't get all that storage for music.  And it costs you at least $399 - for the iPhone 6 option...... if you accompany that purchase with a 2-year cellular plan, which will run you hundreds, or perhaps thousands of dollars.  You CAN purchase the iPhone off-contract, but it will cost you at least $849.

Of course, Apple will still sell you an iPod, which doesn't involve a contract, either.  The largest of those is the 64GB iPod Touch, which is currently priced at $299.... still more than the iPod Classic, with almost three times the storage.

Let's not even get into the fragility of the largely-glass devices, which require expensive cases to prevent from accidental breakage and inevitable replacement when they break anyway.  

My point: Apple eliminated the most economical storage option from their line.  That has effectively eliminated an entire segment of the buying public.

Technology accessibility is another big part of my argument. 

In 2001, Apple "revolutionized" the portable music industry with the introduction of the original iPod.  Specifically, they included in their design a very popular and intuitive scroll wheel, which could be used to navigate your entire music library.  Back then, it was a physical wheel, but the design was improved - with the click wheel - and made more durable.  This technology was used on the iPod, the departed iPod mini, and earlier versions of the mini's replacement the iPod nano.  The configuration of the wheel, in simpler form, has been used as pushbuttons on the iPod Shuffle.

So, it's a popular interface.  But it's more than that, and to illustrate that, I want to share with you a personal anecdote.  One of my Apple devices - one of two (the other being my Classic) (three if you count my former work-issued iPhone 4s) - was a 3rd Generation iPod nano, red.  About two years after I got it, my screen started to fail.  All I would see is a white screen.  Thanks to the simple interface, I was still able to navigate my music library on my nano, blind.  That nano is still in use today - it holds my extensive Christmas music collection - five years after the screen got flaky.

By the way, I know how to do the temporary fix to the nano screen.  So that has helped me a lot, too.

My daughter has also had three Apple products.  One is an iPad mini, which we don't need to discuss here - it is a different class of product.  She currently has an iPhone 5c, which replaced a 4th generation iPod touch.  The touch needed to be replaced, because it fell two feet and shattered.  The glass was shattered.  She could see the screen, but navigation was impossible because THE USER INTERFACE CUT HER FINGERS UNTIL THEY BLED.  Since we didn't have an expensive AppleCare option on this device, we didn't get to repair it.  The economics of that situation called for an iPhone 5c, although not an immediate replacement.

And before I hear all of you say "there should have been a case on that iPod" - there was.  Not an OtterBox, which IS on the iPhone 5c. The point is, I should not need to purchase an additional case to protect something that should work from accidental dropping.  Some of you also are saying "just slap a screen protector on there", and we did THAT, too, which helped extend the life for a little while, but did compromise its usability.

If the damage was any greater and did limit screen visibility, this would have impacted the device's usability.  More to the point, it would have been a very expensive paperweight with a cutting hazard built in.

Meanwhile, my screen-challenged iPod nano still runs. 

The iPod Classic has no replacement, and is a bellwether for things to come.

Many people call the introduction of the iPod "the 2nd revolution of portable music".  No longer were people limited to whatever 16 songs a record company chose to put on a CD (itself a fragile technology).

However, that speaks more to Apple's past technology strategy, and not its present, which is a shift away from music and towards applications.  Apple is a technology company, and they are expected to innovate.  I know that.  However, when they have innovated in the past, there was always a bigger and better model coming to replace it.  Here is the timeline of iPods, as supplied by Wikipedia.

Timeline of the iPod device family. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod
There are a few things to note on this chart.  First of all, the 9 September announcements aren't included, so there will be models later on the iPhone timeline, as well as the Apple Watch. 

The second note is that when a model - like the iPod mini, or the original iPod - is discontinued, a new model - bigger and better and usually thinner - the iPod nano and the iPod Classic, respectively in these cases - was introduced. With the cancellation of the Classic, there is no model with so much storage.  I haven't yet discussed in great detail the amount of storage available on the iPod Classic.  My entire music library - nearly 20,000 songs - fits on my iPod Classic.  It's pretty close to full.  No current iPod offered could hold my entire library, and anything that comes close will cost me a lot more.  Apple still offers two pure music players - the iPod nano and the tiny iPod Shuffle.  At their current sizes, you'd need 10 nanos or 80S huffles to match the capacity of one iPod Classic. The iPod touch isn't purely a music player, and I discussed that above - it's just more than a 1/3 of the size of the Classic at its very largest.

And, sure, there's iCloud.... with 5Gb of free storage and costs for more storage - best suited for backups - and iTunes Match - so you can access your ENTIRE MUSIC LIBRARY from a tiny little device.... if you have connectivity to the Internet, either via WiFi (which isn't prevalent everywhere) or a cellular connection (which you don't get on an iPod and isn't free (unless you are a T-Mobile customer, where music is free).  It's not the same as having access to your entire music library at the top of a remote mountain getaway.  You can no longer unplug and have all your music with you.

The final thing to note is, no iPod got a 2013 refresh, nor does it look like a 2014 refresh is forthcoming.  In fact, the workhorse Classic and simple Shuffle haven't gotten refreshed in a longer period of time.  The Classic hadn't been refreshed during the entire history of the iPhone, although there have been some revisions in the amount of storage available.  So, we are looking at the death of the iPod Classic today.  By the looks of this timeline, the iPod nano and iPod Shuffle are next.

Some of you are saying we should have seen this coming in 2011, when the device wasn't even mentioned when every model got an "all-new design".  Well, we didn't.  But that sign we should have seen coming tells me that I'm right about the nano and the Shuffle.

Steve Jobs might have forgotten about the Classic, but we didn't. Source: 9to5mac.com
 What Can We Do?

As I mentioned earlier, I started a petition at the official White House site.  If you want to sign it (and please do) go to https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/compel-apple-continue-offering-ipod-classic-option/7DR7W1kbhttps://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/compel-apple-continue-offering-ipod-classic-option/7DR7W1kb.  Apple is an American company - each of their products still say that are "Designed by Apple in California".  The Obama Administration has a history of getting involved in economic, technology, and commerce issues.   For example, a petition asking for products by Tesla Motors to be sold to consumers in all 50 states got a response.  (To be fair, they also supplied the recipe to White House Honey Brown Ale).

I have also written to Apple, who have not addressed this issue publicly as of this writing.  I encourage all of you to do the same.  I am going to share this on Twitter and make sure Apple is tagged, and I encourage all of you to share on your favorite social media platform.

Please share any other ideas you have in the comments.  I sincerely hope we get through to Apple.  They need to know that there is still demand for this product.

Update: I have added a 2nd petition, here.