“It’s a geek’s paradise,” says iPod stan Andrew Masch, a 36-year-old programmer and member of the subreddit r/IpodClassic. “The classic iPods, the big ones that are like hard disks — you can modify them, give them an unreal amount of storage, all kinds of things!”
The iPod was first unveiled 18 years ago this October. The 5-gigabyte device had a black-and-white screen, scroll wheel with separate buttons, and even a FireWire port; it ushered in the mp3 era and revolutionized the music industry. In 2017, Apple began to phase out models like the iPod Nano and Shuffle, leaving the Touch as its only remaining iPod. But the slow death of the iPod doesn’t faze die-hards like Masch. Actually, he’s kinda happy about it.
“iPhones today are so difficult to alter to your needs,” he explains. “Apple wants you to buy upgrades, rather than fixing or modifying stuff so that it suits the actual user. But Apple abandoning the iPod means that programmers, developers and even hobbyists can build what they want without any interference from Apple.”
On eBay, there are tens of pages that exclusively sell classic iPods; on Facebook, there are groups consisting of thousands of people showcasing their customized and refurbished versions; and on Reddit, numerous threads provide tutorials on how to add terabytes of storage or ensure that an old iPod is as powerful as a desktop computer. They even share the best ways to redesign the exterior casing. And they praise the brick-like design of the original — a piece of virtually indestructible hardware, at least compared to the new glass-covered iPhones that cost hundreds to repair. “Even if you dropped one of the big bulky [iPods], it was built like a tank,” Masch says.
“I’ve always liked how simple the iPod is to use,” says John Garfield, a 32-year-old foreign-language tutor from Toronto. Garfield recently got his matte-black seventh-generation 256-gigabyte iPod refurbished after growing tired of employing his iPhone 6 for his music needs. “I was never able to enjoy listening to music on my phone,” he says. “I was always doing something else at the same time: checking my email, Facebook, etc. I wasn’t actually paying attention.” Now, however, he can listen to a Pixies record without getting a Facebook notification or hearing an ad in the middle of a playlist. “I can actually listen to the music,” he explains.
No doubt, Garfield’s reasoning has become more widespread. Even on r/Apple, a subreddit whose subscribers used to routinely hype every new Apple product available, many now lament the discontinuation of the brand’s signature music player. “I own an iPhone — but there’s no doubt I’m listening to less music than ever,” Jordan Pearson writes in Vice. He argues that as music consumption has moved to cellphones and streaming services instead of dedicated players where people also own their own music, the music industry has shifted its priorities to telling you what you want to hear and pushing the artists who can make them the most amount of money.
In the end, that’s really what this renewed push for old-school iPods is all about: cash. Most notably, keeping money out of Apple’s pocket for once. Or as Masch puts it, “There are more people, in my experience, who want to have technology they can purchase once and that lasts for as long as possible.”