Nobody should be surprised that Apple’s new Apple Watch has probably sent its competitors back to the drawing board; that’s pretty much Apple’s modus operandi for new tech. What is a bit surprising is that Apple may have just sounded the death knell for one of its other products even as it announced the Apple Watch.
After introducing Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage again on Tuesday to introduce what he called “the next chapter in Apple’s story,” the Apple Watch. The watch is classic Apple, with a simple interface and a nod to the history of watches in the form of its Digital Crown. That last element is the thing that will send competitors like Samsung and LG back to the drawing board, as Apple took a familiar watch element and turned it into an indispensable user interface control for the Apple Watch.
Where competitors like Samsung have sought to just pack feature after feature into a watch form factor – including one Samsung smartwatch that can make its own cellular calls – Apple, as it always does, went simpler. No cameras for the Apple Watch. No cellular radio. Just a focus on making the touch interface as versatile as possible. The fact that Apple Watch units can communicate with each other, and that the watch can also be used to make secure payments — that’s just icing on the cake.
Seeing Apple outdo its competitors, though, is old hat, as evidenced by the way the iPhone and iPad consistently outsell their competitors. Nobody even comes close. This is a phenomenon stretching back more than a decade, back to the device that started Apple’s current hit streak: the iPod.
And that brings us to our point. The iPod is now on Death Watch.
How so? First, consider the continuing decline in iPod sales since the introduction of the iPhone. Apple now makes more money from app sales through its iTunes Store than it does from iPod sales. This is largely because the iPod was supplanted by an even more wildly popular device, the iPhone. Nowadays, most of the iPods sold are just iPhones without the, y’know, phone part. And sales have been steadily declining as more and more people just opt to get the phone.
So what do declining iPod sales have to do with the Apple Watch? Aside from apps and movies, the iPod is mainly for music listening, no? Well, one bit that Apple sort of glanced over in revealing the Apple Watch is that users can store music on the watch itself. The Apple Watch has all kinds of wireless technology built into it, and among those is Bluetooth, allowing the Apple Watch to connect to your iPhone.
But Bluetooth could also connect to, say, a pair of wireless Beats headphones? See where we’re going with this?
With an Apple Watch and a pair of Bluetooth headphones, where’s the need for an iPod Classic or iPod Touch? The Apple Watch would have better health tracking capabilities than an iPod Touch, as well as better on-device controls for music playback. It would also have the small form factor of an iPod Shuffle or iPod nano. All that adds up to the iPod going the way of the dodo in the coming years.
Don’t believe us? 9to5Mac just reported that the iPod Classic – the kind of clickwheel-based iPod that kicked off Apple’s win streak more than a decade ago – has finally disappeared from Apple’s online store.
Of course, this won’t be the sort of thing that happens overnight. The Apple Watch currently requires an iPhone or iPod in order to be fully functional, even though Apple says you can store music on the watch and take it out for a jog while leaving your iPhone at home. Also, if you look at the chart above, you’ll see that the iPod always sees a spike in sales in the holiday quarter. That’s no doubt due to parents buying them for their kids in droves. Still, a healthy amount of people buying iPods are doing so for the music playing capabilities, we’re willing to bet, and those people are going to find an Apple Watch is much more in line with what they’re looking for.
Subsequent versions of the Apple Watch will no doubt increase its capabilities, even as Apple hones its design and, more importantly, brings down the price. The first generation of the Apple Watch will debut early next year, but you can bet that future generations will be more powerful, and you can also bet that you’re going to see fewer and fewer iPod sales as the Apple Watch grows in popularity.