As reported by Chris Welch of The Verge and many others, last week Apple announced that it was finished selling the iPod. There is one exception — the iPod touch — but that has always been just an iPhone without the phone. As for the iPods that were truly iPods, Apple is no longer selling them, and all iPod models are now destined to appear on Apple's webpage for vintage and obsolete products.
Many folks have been talking about how the iPod was the precursor to the iPhone, and that is certainly true. But this past weekend I was looking at my old iPod nano 6th edition — the penultimate version of the iPod nano — and thinking about how it was a precursor to the Apple Watch. That version of the iPod nano was introduced on September 1, 2010, and I used it for many years. One of the things that I liked about it was the ability to have something very small — much smaller than a traditional iPod or iPhone — that you could clip to your shirt and just have earphones coming out. It was so light that you barely noticed it when it was clipped to your clothes. You could walk around and do chores, exercise, etc. without carrying anything heavy. But unlike the iPod shuffle which, in its second through fourth generation, could also be clipped to your clothes, the iPod nano had a screen so you could actually see what you were doing with it.
There were many folks who looked at the iPod nano (6th edition) and thought that this would make a good watch. Indeed, Apple included a clock as one of the built-in apps (even one with Mickey Mouse). Just two months after the iPod nano (6th edition) was introduced, attorney Nilay Patel (who was then with Engadget) wrote a review of the iPod nano as a watch in light of the numerous iPod nano wristbands on the market.
Thanks to the Apple AirPods and similar Bluetooth earphones, you can now achieve much of the advantage of the iPod nano watch, as long as your iPhone is in the same room. But the real replacement for the iPod nano watch is to use an Apple Watch with music loaded on it along with AirPods. That way, you can walk around and do your chores, exercise, etc. even when far away from your much larger and heavier iPhone, and without any wires getting in your way.
Having said that, the technology is not quite yet where I want it to be. Loading songs onto an Apple Watch is slow and clumsy. Playing songs with just an Apple Watch and AirPods usually works OK, but isn't nearly as reliable as using an iPhone with AirPods. And loading podcasts onto an Apple Watch is even less convenient. You can use apps like Overcast and Watch Player to transfer podcasts, but playback is not always smooth. And the developer of Overcast, Marco Arment, recently announced on Twitter that syncing to an Apple Watch will probably not work once watchOS 4 comes out later this year so the feature is likely to be removed. Surely Apple will get this all working well at some point; hopefully, that point is sooner rather than later.
Let's all raise a glass to the iPod. It was the device that many credit with saving Apple in the 2000s. It helped to bring about the iPhone, which is one of the most useful and amazing items in the history of technology. And it also played an important role in inspiring the Apple Watch. As Steven Levy wrote in his fantastic book chronicling the history of the iPod, the iPod truly was The Perfect Thing.