Tuesday September On December 9, 2014, Apple finally killed the iPod. After almost 13 years on the market, the iconic portable music player has been retired without fanfare. The handheld device with the Click Wheel and a small color screen simply disappeared from Apple’s online storefront just as the products announced that day – the Apple Watch and iPhone 6 – were dropped. added.
Soon after, reports circulated that new models of the latest iPod bearing this original design—then called “iPod Classic”—were selling on internet auction sites for at least double the retail price. Clearly, some people weren’t ready for a future that seemed inevitable: a move away from the vast collections of MP3 files stored on dedicated music players and a world of streaming music delivered over the air for a monthly fee of $10.
Six years later, in 2021, Apple let the 20th anniversary of the iPod pass as quietly as it let the iPod Classic fade into obscurity. iPod fans, on the other hand, are growing in number as vintage players are dusted off, repaired, and upgraded with new parts. Groups of hardware modders are adding things like Bluetooth capability, Taptic Engine feedback, custom colored cases, and terabytes of quiet, power-hungry flash storage to their iPods, bringing the device fully into the 2020s. all without Apple’s blessing.
The original iPods were modular, breaking down into a display, motherboard, headphones, battery, and hard drive, all connected with tiny ribbon cables. With a little know-how, it’s now possible to add terabytes, not just gigabytes, to the latest iPod models by replacing the old spinning hard drive with a newer solid-state drive. Flash storage is more durable and compact, consumes less power, and eliminates all the hums and clicks typical of mechanical hard drives. And because SSDs are smaller, installing one frees up space inside the iPod case that hardware hackers can use to squeeze in extra niceties.
Reviving scrapped gadgets is something the hardware hacking scene loves to do. By embracing the iPod platform, hackers are turning e-waste into blank canvases of expression and symbols of rebellion against artist-unfriendly streaming services. Electronics enthusiast and musician Cara Esten has returned to iPods after years of streaming music. “I ended up going to a garage sale and someone was selling a 30GB iPod,” Esten says. “So I just picked it up. And I was like, there has to be a way to do a modern conversion… it just works from some kind of pretty basic standard interface.
She opened up her used pod and added flash storage, a new battery and a shiny blue faceplate, making it instantly recognizable as better than the average ‘Pod’. After reentering the iPod lifestyle with its reborn music player, she took to Twitter to post a simple manifesto promoting offline music listening:
Esten says it’s essential to take an iPod with her, especially when she loses data service on a commute that takes her to the cellular dead zone inside the train tunnel running under the Bay of San Francisco. “There were so many times I would listen to an album… I would duck under the Transbay Tunnel, lose the signal completely, and it would start cutting out,” she says. “I think that’s the cool thing about the iPod. No matter what, [my music’s] the. I don’t want to have to decide in advance what to listen to. My phone could be dead, Spotify could be down. Knowing that I can just put on headphones and listen to my music is so pleasant.”
Austin Lucas, a college dropout, noticed something while working in a small town cellphone repair shop. Many customers were arriving with iPods that the store, which had long since adapted its business to meet the demands of the iPhone era, was no longer equipped to repair.
“Someone came with a [seventh-gen iPod Classic] and my colleague was like ‘I don’t want to touch it.’ It clicked that every day, hundreds if not thousands of people go to shops to fix iPods and they get turned down. They are told that it is easier to go and buy one online somewhere.
That’s when he saw his opportunity. Leaving the phone business, he launched a boutique specializing in iPods, called Elite Obsolete Electronics. Since 2019, EOE has been at the forefront of the iPod renaissance. In his Kansas lab, Lucas separates iPods purchased in bulk from electronics recyclers, tests the various components, and reassembles functional iPods with a mix of new and used components.