The last of the real iPods was discontinued in 2014, but Apple may be making a brand new one to celebrate the 20th birthday of the music player that changed everything, according to a new rumour.
The claim from MacRumors contributor Steve Moser (via What Hi-Fi) suggests an updated iPod touch coming this year (around the same time as the iPhone 13), but what if Apple decided to think different and make the ultimate audio player with a dash of original-iPod style?
Too far-fetched? Apple’s done amazing anniversaries before. The 20th Anniversary Mac, made to celebrate Apple’s 20th birthday in 1997, was a limited edition Mac with cutting-edge tech and a price tag to match. It was delivered by a guy with white gloves! What if Apple took the same approach and made a 20th Anniversary iPod? Maybe excluding the weird delivery.
The original iPod focused on its storage capacity and convenience, not its sound quality, but a 2021 version could do the opposite and focus on lossless Apple Music and Hi-Res Lossless. The current iPod touch isn’t really aimed at that market sector; it’s almost positioned as a lesser kind of iPhone. So let’s have something special for people who are serious about sound.
If Apple focused on lossless and Hi-Res Audio it’d be a great halo product for Apple Music, because of course it wouldn’t come with built-in Spotify or Tidal support. But what about the hardware? Let’s party like it’s 1999 – or rather, October 2001.
1. A headphone jack
We know Apple’s going to want you to buy AirPods Max, but they don't support Lossless or Hi-Res Lossless audio! Only wired headphones can do that with Apple kit at the moment.
The current iPod touch still has a headphone jack and we’d like to see it stay. Some of the world’s best headphones are wired, and someone who’s dropped hundreds on a set of high-end headphones for Hi-Res listening should need to downgrade or deal with dongles if they want to listen to Hi-Res on an Apple music player.
2. A great DAC (or two)
If you’re using wired headphones, one of the most important parts of any music player is its Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC). The one in Apple gear is already pretty good, but it could be even better: while reviews say the sound in recent iPhones is vibrant and involving, the best external DACs improve things further.
In fact, in order to play Hi-Res Lossless tracks from Apple Music, Apple says that you must use an external DAC – no Apple device current supports the maximum quality with only on-board conversion. So what if the new iPod is the only Apple device capable of playing that music back without the need for an extra accessory? That would certainly make it worth bringing back a music-only product.
A lot of high-end DAC setups actually use twin DACs, with one for each side of the stereo audio – Apple could really crash the elite audio party by including a twin DAC pipeline in the new iPad.
3. Stacks of SSD storage
Streaming is great, but storage matters on a music player too – and if you’re chucking Hi-Res audio files around, you’re going to need plenty of room. Many portable audiophile players include support for multiple microSD cards, meaning they can store hundreds of gigabytes – or even terabytes – of music.
Apple has never been one for microSD storage, but you can get iPhones with up to 512GB of storage, or iPads with up to 2TB. It be damn expensive, but we'd be looking for options up to 1TB on board here.
4. Spatial Audio
Stepping away from Lossless for a moment: if the 2021 iPod has a screen suitable for movies, it needs Apple’s virtual surround sound tech too. Spatial Audio is really impressive on AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, but it isn’t supported by the current iPod touch.
Apple Music will now offer Spatial Audio for tracks even without Lossless playback, so this seems like this should be a shoo-in even without a movie focus.
5. The Click Wheel
Rumours so far suggest a new iPod touch, but if we’re talking limited editions why not go the whole hog and bring back the classic iPod and the click wheel? That wheel was one of our favourite controls on any device ever, and even now using an iPod Classic gives us a massive blast of pure nostalgia. We’re quite sure this is completely impractical unless Apple actually resurrects the original iPod shape, but we’re not engineers. We’re dreamers!
A sign that this actually isn't totally far-fetched? The new Apple TV 4K (2021) uses the classic circular scrolling on its new remote. If it's coming back there, why not here, hey?
6. A mirrored metal back
The original iPods had a shiny metal back, although scratches meant they didn’t stay shiny for very long. As lovely as the current iPod touch is, we think it’d look even better with shiny metal. Or if we’re going to be really nostalgic… brushed metal.
Apple currently has shiny metal in its line-up with the steel bands on the iPhone 12 Pro and Apple Watch Series 6, so let's see it on the iPod too…
8. iPod socks
Look, if you're gonna do this, do it all the way.