The iPod classic’s final act

The end of the road is in sight for the venerable iPod classic. Meriting barely a passing mention during Apple’s “Let’s Rock” press event on Tuesday, the device is now available in only a single 120GB model for $249. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

The iPod classic: I’m not dead yet.

The 120GB iPod classic is now Apple’s only hard drive-based iPod model. All of the other offerings in Apple’s catalog use flash memory to store songs. And as flash memory density has increased steadily year after year (and as Apple has gobbled as much of the market’s NAND inventory as it can get), using a hard drive to store songs on a portable device has seemed increasingly anachronistic—it’s like putting a record player in a car. (They did try that once, with less success than the iPod.)

Most consumers seem content with the iPod nano as the “sweet spot” of the iPod product line—a color screen and all of the capabilities of the iPod classic in a smaller, thinner package. Better for working out. Better to carry with you unobtrusively. As evidenced by the announcements Tuesday, Apple seems to be putting more and more innovation into the iPod nano, combining the best features of the iPod classic (a robust color screen, the click wheel) with the best features of the iPod touch (tilt sensitivity).

If the iPod touch is the wave of the future, the iPod classic offers a more rearward-facing view. It’s the Model T to the iPod touch’s Lamborghini Reventón. But the classic retains appeal to some users, like me, who value its capacious storage capabilities.

But lost in nostalgia I am not. For my part, I had hoped in vain the press event would yield the final death-blow to the classic line. I pined for an iPod touch interface mated to a 160GB hard drive. I brashly told friends and colleagues that I would happily drop $500 on such a product in a heartbeat. So I guess I’m off the hook for making such a purchase for the moment.

But at $250 for a 120GB classic, I think the time may finally right for me to retire my loyal 30GB fifth-generation iPod, which has served me very well for the past few years. My iTunes library long ago outgrew that system’s paltry capacity, but the flash-based iPod models currently on the market still don’t offer the storage space I need for my jumbo-sized music library, which I don’t want to be without when I go out for a road trip or even to the grocery store.

Perhaps if I were more well-organized or less obsessive about my music collection, I’d feel the same way as all those nano users. But the nano doesn’t appeal to me. I want the massive storage capability that only the iPod classic is able to provide, even at the risk of having a bulkier, more bloated product. To continue the car metaphor, I like a big, roomy sedan, even if everyone else is content with a subcompact.

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