After a milestone journey of 21 years, the Apple iPod is no more. On 5th May 2022, Apple Inc. officially announced that it shall discontinue the iPod product line with Apple iPod Touch remaining on sale until supplies last. Coming a long way from the vinyl and cassette era, to high speed smartphones and Airpods, today we are witnessing the end of the ‘portable music device’ era creating a historic moment in music. As the world bids farewell to iPods 20 years after its launch, BeatCurry is here to give you a quick glimpse of how music devices have evolved over the last 4 decades. Let’s take a quick look.
Kritagya Kriti | BeatCurry Team
1979: Sony Walkman
When Sony released the first portable music product, the Walkman in 1979, it was a real game-changer. It liberated music fans all around the world from the constraints of only being able to listen to music at home or while driving a car, to carrying your favorite playlists with you. This made music accessible to everyone, everywhere.
The Walkman was innovative in the way that it combined portability with a wide range of options while listening to music. You were no longer tied by the restrictions of terrestrial radio stations, which were notoriously difficult to listen to, and had limited portability and even more limited choices. While a whole host of technology companies introduced portable audio cassette players, they all were referred to as the Walkman itself. Sony sold over 400 million units of Walkman and retired in 2010.
1984: Sony Discman
The Sony Discman was a handheld CD player that was released in November 1984. The Discman made an immediate impact when it debuted. In reaction, larger home CD players were obliged to lower their pricing, causing a market upswing across the board. CD sales surged as a result. Artists started selling millions of copies of their music. CDs surpassed cassettes in sales during the early 1990s.
Despite that, the Discman didn’t succeed to create the impact as that of the Walkmans. In comparison to the Walkmans, they were expensive to buy and cumbersome to carry. Although a cooler version of Walkmans, an innovation that combined CDs and portability, it never really created the expected impact in the market.
1994: MP3 Players
Even though it was only utilized on computers at the time, the portable MP3 format was introduced in 1994. The MPMan F10 was introduced in 1997 by SaeHan Information Systems of South Korea, and it was first sold in the United States in 1998. MP3 players were revolutionary because they eliminated the need for physical media and replaced it with digital files. This product changed how people looked at music. With the new millennium came the rise of the MP3. The format was initially debuted in 2000 with the Samsung SPH-M100, which was the first mobile phone to have an in-built MP3 player.
2001: Apple iPod
iPods are probably the biggest musical invention of the last 40 years of portable music devices. In terms of appearance, interface, and the sheer volume of songs that could be stored on a device, Apple’s iPod was a game-changer right then. Because iTunes was developed concurrently with the launch, you could simply maintain and update your library; you could create an entirely new playlist in minutes with just a few clicks.
Apple was still very skeptical at the audience’s acceptance of a product solely focused on music consumption but Apple’s impact was massive. In its first 14 months after launch, they sold over 600,000 units of iPod and closed 8.2 million units in 2004 alone. As of December 2019, the company had sold about 400 million units across all platforms. The high points for this device had a lot more to do than storage and music listening. It was much more about its sleek designs, innovation, use of technology and the status symbol element that people went on for.
Mobile phones started having in-built music players in September 2000. Smartphones were a different ball game though. A tablet, phone, camera, and music player all in one, for many, the smartphone has replaced the need for any separate portable music player. Faster internet, mobile apps and streaming apps enhanced the overall utility of the device.
The advent of smartphones and apps like Spotify, YouTube, Amazon Music, etc have truly changed the accessibility of music for all. Spotify was launched in 2008 and now is the most popular app to play music on all smartphones and personal computers. The introduction of high-end earphones, headphones, and now wireless earbuds have come in all shapes, sizes, and specifications to enhance the way we listen to music. Smartwatches add to the portability of music.
This year as we see the discontinuation of iPods by Apple, it leads us to believe that a separate portable device for music consumption is probably gone for good. It is the end of an era. We have come a long way from heavy cassette players to the small portable earbuds that provide an unbeatable music listening experience. As we witness this in today’s time, it’s imperative to note the ever-evolving nature of technology. What it teaches us is that a product launched today that’s envisioned for the future, might turn obsolete and outdated tomorrow, and all we’re yet to expect is the next big revolution in music with the help of technology.
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