Taking New Bets On the End of iPod Classic

By  |  Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm

With iPod sales down for the last two years, predicting the death of iPod Classic is now an annual tradition.

Business Insider’s Dan Frommer is the latest journalist to question the iPod Classic’s future, ahead of Apple’s September 1 music event. The usual arguments apply — without Wi-Fi, apps or a touch screen, the classic iPod is looking pretty stale — but his prediction hinges on whether Apple will introduce a 128 GB iPod Touch this year. After all, the current iPod Classic’s hard drive holds 160 GB of media, and retiring it doesn’t make sense unless another device can take the high-capacity throne with flash storage.

I’m with Frommer’s logic all the way, but I doubt that 128 GB flash drives will even be ready in time for the next iPod Touch.

The 128 GB flash drive does exist. Toshiba, Apple’s frequent source for mobile device storage, created a 128 GB flash drive in June, with samples to be available in September. Full production begins later this fall, according to Electronista.

That timeline pretty much rules out 128 GB drives for the next-generation iPod Touch. Apple’s tendency with new iPods is to start selling them on the day of its press events. Given that Toshiba’s 128 GB drives won’t even be available for testing until some time next month, they simply won’t be ready for Apple’s products unless development sped up significantly since June.

Besides, the price for 128 GB at this point would be astronomical. At present, the 64 GB iPod Touch costs $399, compared to $250 for the iPod Classic. I’m guessing the price for 64 GB flash hasn’t dropped considerably since last year, because Apple doesn’t even offer that capacity in the iPhone 4. I just don’t see the iPod Touch making such a huge leap in storage.

If Apple proves me wrong, I’ll be shocked. Otherwise, anyone want to start making bets for next year?

Update: Commenter Hamranhansenhansen points out that the iPod Touch uses two memory chips, as confirmed by iFixit’s teardown. That means Apple would only have to use two 64 GB chips. This still seems unlikely given that Toshiba’s 64 GB chip — using the same 32 nm process as its larger counterpart — won’t be ready until the fall either, and even less likely if you believe Apple won’t use larger chips than those found in the iPhone.

 
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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Stiv Silva @iamstiv83 Says:

    Yeah I agree! The jump from 64 to 128SSD is unlikely at least for the next year or two.. I have an ipod classic because my music collection is approx 140GB excluding music vidz and movies. I just don't see any other player that is as easy to carry as the ipod classic… I do wish they would up the size.. would love to have a 250GB+ that wasn't bulky to carry like the wolverine or the atheros 5 500GB model…. so bottom line I'm going to have a small internet tablet to carry just my music & vidz.. which sucks….

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    I like the idea of the Classic staying around in some form, and I'm not making any predictions. But it wouldn't completely stun me if it went away next week. More than any other tech company, Apple is willing to abruptly kill its darlings, and it almost always does away with stuff before most of the world figures out it's toast. If Steve Jobs has decided that the Classic is a dead end, it could vanish, even though there are clearly some folks for whom lots and lots of storage is the single most important media-player feature.

    –Harry

  3. John Baxter Says:

    There is another supply angle from which to approach this: how long will the physically small drives used in devices like the iPod Classic be manufactured?

  4. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    iPod touch uses 2 chips for storage, the iPhone uses just 1. So a 128GB iPod touch would have 2 64GB chips in it, not 1 128GB chip. However, iPod touch typically just has 2 of the exact same chip from the iPhone (yet another economy of scale advantage that Apple takes), which this year would suggest another 64GB iPod touch.

    It looks like Apple's strategy this year with iPhone was to improve everything but the storage. The users who really want or would use 64GB in an iPhone or 128GB in an iPod touch are a very small minority compared to those who would want or use an HD video camera, front-facing camera with FaceTime, A4 SoC, redesigned enclosure, and so on.

    The thing is, there are so many streaming music options on iPod touch, that even if you go from a 160GB iPod Classic to a 64GB iPod touch, the amount of music you have actually goes up. When you're in Wi-Fi you can use Pandora and other streaming services, and you can buy music directly on the device. There are apps for making your own music. It has Voice Control for the car (play album, play artist, next song, previous song, pause, what song is this? and so on). You lose a lot in an iPod Classic to get that extra storage.

    I think this issue doesn't depend on storage but actually depends on what they do with the nano. If they have another click-wheel nano, then they will probably just keep selling the Classic for one more year like a jumbo nano. However, if they radically change the nano with a touchscreen and possibly iOS and FaceTime, then the Classic is likely toast.

    One thing for sure, hard disks are on the way out at Apple. All iOS devices are SSD-only, and all Mac OS devices have an SSD option.

  5. Brandon Backlin Says:

    Dan has a good line of thinking. However, those capacity gurus are probably more apt to buy something with even more storage, or with those extra capabilities built-in to the software (having to install apps would leave less space for media).

    It would be hopeful (maybe wishful) thinking if Apple bought 64gb flash chips just for this model.

  6. JaredNewman Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out about the two chips — iFixit's teardown from last year confirms it. Updated accordingly.

  7. Seumas Says:

    The end of the iPod Classic will be the end of my purchasing iPods. I have zero interest in the functions of the Touch or Nano. I just want to play music, audiobooks, podcasts, and videos. Battery life and storage space are the ultimate concern, for me. I also have no interest in streaming services or Pandora or anything else. The iPod Classic is an ideal player that provides a ton of space and a nice little screen for watching things, when you need to. I've been hoping to see the next Classic refresh take us to at least 320gb. Reducing it to 128gb or forcing me to use a Touch or a Nano would result in me shifting to a non-Apple solution on my next player.

  8. BBiphone User Says:

    I was nvr keen on touch screen. Then I got myself and iphone and to my surprise I like it, coz I can view my attachment so much better vs BB. I hv an iPod classic (gift) but with the iphone, I don't make use of it anymore. I don't use the iPod for movies just songs and audio books. I won't be keen on the iPod touch. I rather pay a bit higher and get the iPad to watch movies and stuff.

  9. RadioKJ Says:

    I completely agree. If my current iPod becomes unusuable and my only option is to go with some all-in-one device which I will never use, I'm leaving.