What “new iPod” concepts tend to miss.

I frequently hang around iPod-related places. Even in 2021, these little devices have some use, specifically being distraction-free devices that focus on one thing (for the most part) and doing it well: Music.

There have been a number of people clamoring for Apple to release a “new” iPod for the 20th anniversary happening this year. Some going so far as to even make concept renders for what a new, circa 2021 iPod would look like.

Most of the time, these concepts–while looking pretty slick–miss the point of the iPod: The simplicity of it.

A lot of said concepts seek to modernize the iPod by putting smartphone-esque features into them. Touchscreens, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, installable apps, you name it. The problem is–again–these features all mostly go against the simplicity of the iPod and how dead simple it was to use. The other problem is, well, Apple already sells such a device: It’s called the iPod touch. And yes, they still sell it to this day.

The perfect “new” iPod concept–at least in my opinion–is one that embraces what old iPods do well, while maybe adding some additional nice-to-have features alongside them. The interface is pretty good as it stands, just giving it a fresh coat of paint (and making it more performant–the 6th gen iPod OS was not very quick) would be good enough. Keep the click wheel, because there is absolutely something to be said for an audio player that you can manipulate without looking at the screen.

For the aforementioned “nice to have” features: I may have trashed on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth two paragraphs ago, but I think they’d be fine in such an iPod. Wi-Fi for Wi-Fi Sync (like the iPhones can do) and Bluetooth for AirPods. I do also think some music streaming support should be rolled in (allowing them to be downloaded/installed as the user wants), but due to the nature of the iPod, it would be for mostly keeping an offline set of your streaming catalogue seeing as your iPod wouldn’t be constantly connected to the internet (unless you’re home, that is).

Now, for taking this whole concept thing in a direction that no one else has thought of: Were Apple to make a new iPod, it should aim at competing with dedicated audio players currently on the market by building in high-quality components. I’m not asking for audiophile snake oil, but there’s clearly some room for improvement here when I can wire up my AKG K271s to my iPods and the sound is noticeably better than the audio coming out of the dongle connected to my iPhone.

Just build in good components, a good DAC, maybe even a built-in headphone amp for harder-to-drive headphones, and market it as something meant for the listener who wants nice, crisp audio. Apple going after the higher-end audio market isn’t exactly unprecedented either, look at the AirPods Max for example.

Even if Apple did all this, a lot of these concepts (mine included) assume that Apple would even make such a device. And as much as we want it, they won’t, and mostly because such a device is too niche. Most people have moved on to BT headphones and are too married to the idea that they’d rather have one device that can do everything than going back to the mid-00s when you had to carry multiple devices on your person.

But…if Apple did…I think they’d do a decent job going after the portable hi-fi audio market. Just a thought.