Here’s a little known fact about the amazing iPhone phenomenon: In the days since its release, the iPhone has reportedly sold well over 500,000 units. Astonishingly, there have been over 500,000 blog posts on the iPhone as well. Yes, that’s right, one blog post for each iPhone sold! But that’s not the amazing part. The truly surprising thing about all of the iPhone hype is that so little of the commentary has focused on the fact that we’re finally getting a good look at the long awaited next-generation iPod.
The iPhone is clearly a glimpse of what the iPod will look like in the not to distant future. There’s a reason why Steve Jobs has been calling the iPhone “the best iPod ever“. The problem, of course, is that the iPhone costs a fortune and requires a long term contract with AT&T. For most music lovers looking for an updated iPod, the price and service requirements are a deal-breaker.
But what if Apple were to produce an iPhone without the phone? There’s reason to believe that’s exactly what the next iPod will be. The current iPod has not had a significant upgrade in a while. When Apple finally refreshes the iPod product line here are some reasonable assumptions of what we can expect:
- Same screen size and technology as the iPhone. We’re now well into the era of the so-called “video iPod”. It’s generally acknowledged that the current video iPod is not the real video iPod, but rather a transitional device designed to fill a gap in the Apple product line until the real thing comes along. The iPhone certainly looks much closer to what we would expect a true video iPod to look like. From the screen size, to the automatic orientation adjustments, you can expect the next line of full-sized iPods to look, and work, a lot like the iPhone.
- Same touch screen interface at the iPhone. Could the current iPod interface be any more tired? Seriously, even the Zune interface looks good by comparison. The iPod interface is due for an upgrade and there’s no reason why the next iPod shouldn’t have many of the same features the iPhone has, including cover-flow, a touch screen, and gestures. Also, it really wouldn’t make much sense for Apple to have two separate interfaces for their portable devices. By using a common interface between the iPhone and the iPod, Apple could consolidate its development efforts and train users to expect a common interface. iPod users might be more inclined to upgrade to an iPhone because of the familiar interface (well, that and the fact that they want to make phone calls).
- The same operating system as the iPhone. If the next iPod has the same general interface as the iPhone it would only make sense that it would also use the same operating system. The iPhone is powered by a version of Mac OS X. This would open up the possibility that the iPod could morph into something of a full-featured personal information manager. The iPod has always had the ability to hold contact information and notes, but how amazing would it be if it could actually sync with your address book and calendar, and provide a usable interface to that information. A full featured operating system would open up a number of possible applications and uses for the iPod — for example, it could become a usable ebook reader.
It seems perfectly reasonable to assume that all of these features will be included in the next iPod. It would be a real surprise if any of these predictions didn’t come to pass. What isn’t known is whether or not the next iPod will include WiFi and the Safari web browser.
The general consensus among sites that have been reporting on the 6th generation iPod release this week is that the device won’t include WiFi. But that assumption just doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t the next iPod have WiFi?
On the one hand it’s been suggested that Apple wouldn’t risk cannibalizing the sales of iPhones, on the other hand, according to an Ars Technical article, Jobs has indicated that if there’s going to be cannibalization of Apple it might as well be by Apple.
AT&T probably wouldn’t be very happy about an iPhone without the phone — they’ve got a five year deal with Apple to be the exclusive iPhone carrier. Although, there’s not much AT&T can do to prevent Apple from releasing an iPod with WiFi capabilities and no phone. After all, it’s a media player, not a phone.
The problem is that an Internet connected iPod will quickly become a general purpose communication device. It’s only a matter of time before Apple introduces iChat for the iPod. That’s probably the point where AT&T will start talking with their attorneys.
Then there’s the Zune factor. Remember the poor Zune? WiFi was the only feature advantage the Zune held over the iPod — crippled as that feature ultimately was when the product was finally released. Microsoft is reportedly working on a second generation Zune that will undoubtedly include WiFi. It’s only a matter of time before Microsoft gets the Zune right. Apple can’t risk releasing the next iPod without WiFi.
Lots of people have iPods — over 100 million have been sold to date. The next iPod has to be so truly amazing that even people who own a half dozen iPods will look at it and say, “I want one of those”. An iPod with WiFi and Safari would be just such a device.
Will Entrekin says
Speaking of e-reader, I posted the first-ever pictures of an e-book on an iPhone today, in my blog.
Mohamed Mansour says
Sure, an Apple OSX PDA (aka new gen ipod) but technically, that pda will be one expensive pod.
Too much hype for what?
I don’t know what the big deal is. You can spend plenty of money on a good cell phone, iPod and a PDA. Why not just carry one device and be done with it?
I think if they made your dream device, you’d still bitch about the price. Sometimes you just can’t please everyone.
iPhone, phone, music player, PDA, Web Browser, and sexy to boot!
iPhone Nano, phone and music player, and sexy to boot! * Coming Soon
Video iPod, music player, PDA, Web Browser, and sexy to boot! * Coming Soon!
iPod Nano, music player and sexy to boot!
iPod Shuffle, music player and sexy to boot!
The iPhone Nano will be a very basic phone that syncs with Address Book, nothing more. The Video iPod will be an iPhone minus the phone.
Man, I live outside the US of A, and I don’t care about the phone, but I will pay whatever it takes to have an Ipod like Iphone. The most beautifull gadget in the world! How come nobody thought of that before? All the genius of all the phone companies?? Nobody? That’s why we have to hate Steve Jobs! He just care about the american people.
I’m agreeing with this idea. I would by the cellphone-less iPod the day it came out.
To Rhett, the phone part is more problematic if one thinks about it. I have a Verizon contract, plus signing up a new one with AT&T and paying for that plan are all barriers to the iPhone for me. And lastly, all the folks outside the US.
pressure-less UI doesn't belong on a DAP / PMP says
Sure we could be looking the next wave of new technologies coming to the iPod but the iPod was not made a success due to these gimmicky features. Usability of iTunes, superior capacity and battery and an amazingly intuitive physical interface made it king. Put a larger screen and kill my ipod battery? no thanks. The current ipod video with the smaller screen is struggling with battery life, I can’t imagine a bigger screen helping. I’d rather Apple would branch out a make a seperate PMP before converging all these ‘features’ and killing what the iPod had going for it.
What about an iPod with Bluetooth? So as I can use BT headphones along with my current BT cell phone(Cing 8525).
Also battery life will stay the same or increase with advances in tech. So larger screen would also come with a newer improved battery. Same with all the other features.
Also Apple isn’t going to release “all” these features at once. That would mean they would have to come up with something new every 6 months to year. They are going to pace themselves so as not to run out of innovative ideas.
d patterson says
iPod w/ wifi + skype = bye bye iPhone.
Personally, I love the current iPod UI and the clickwheel, because I can operate it with one hand… Can you imagine how frustrating it’d be to have to use two hands (as demonstrated during iPhone demos) to change songs or whatever whilst going for a run, driving, etc..?
I would kill for this
@NZer: I agree with you. While cycling I can control my iPod from outside of the pocket where it’s in. I wouldn’t really give up on that easily.
ARCHOS IS BETTER:
160 GB of Storage
WiFi – download, upload, stream, browse the web
VIDEO RECORD & playback
Supports more video and music formats
Larger Touch Screen
iPods are pathetic.
I think you’re spot on. I think the new iPods will contain WiFi as well as Mail and Safari: the main thing about a cellphone is being able to be online virtually everywhere, and, well, to make regular phone calls. For that, you’ll still need an iPhone.
Maybe not in Estonia, or in other countries which are virtually covered by free WiFi services, but everywhere else, the iPhone has a huge advantage even if it only adds GSM and EDGE (and soon 3G) as an extra feature over the iPod.
Apple has a dilemma on its hands right now: the iPod needs to advance, it hasn’t been updated in a while, and if sales (or even sales growth) start to slow, Apple’s stock price will tank. Therefore, the new, “Phone-less iPhone” iPod will need to hit the market sooner or later. On the other hand, Apple’s investing a lot into building its iPhone business, and since it’s huge a strategic move, the iPhone enjoys some temporary priority over both the Mac and the iPod. If a new iPod would cannibalize some iPhone sales, its launch will need to be held off for a while.
Apple needs strong iPhone sales before it can launch a competing product, i.e. the “phoneless iPhone” iPod.
I think Apple will probably introduce the new iPods either before the Christmas buying season, or, if their research indicates that a mere facelift and/or price cut would suffice, at the Macworld Expo in January. By that time, the iPhone would accumulate some impressive sales numbers.
I would be surprised if the new iPods were to emerge sooner than that.
Kevin Cannon says
Interesting post, but your analysis is based on incorrect assumptions, and a misunderstanding of how Apple works.
The reason the iPod is a success is because of it’s distinct lack of features. It succeeds because it does one thing really really well, and said no to all the superfluous features. You asked why shouldn’t the iPod have wifi. The answer is because it would add to the cost and doesn’t make it a better music player.
You just said the iPod with wifi would become a general purpose comunicaiton device. Well, that product is the iPhone. There’s no point having wifi, unless you have a backup network, to browser on when you’re no near wifi. the iPod couldn’t do that. Making suggestions based on technical possibilities, rather than real peoples’ use of products is not something Apple generally do, and that’s why they’re good. They don’t add a feature noone will actually use, because it seems like the thing to do.
What you may see, would be a widescreen iPod. However, listening to music is far more popular than watching video on the move. People can listen to music, walking, jogging, cycling, snowboarding etc… so for those people, watching videos on the move just isn’t that important. If you only listen to music, why do you need a large screen?
You may see a widescreen iPod, but it’s entirely possible that iPhone is designed to fill that gap. Portable video players are a much smaller market than portable audio players for the reasons listed above, and I’m not sure Apple are willing to make their ‘normal’ iPods look like a poor relation to the ‘video iPod’ without a damn good reason.
I’ve been saying this for ages, though you certainly went into more detail than I had.
Kevin Cannon, I have never seen a more accurate or well spoken reply. You hit the nail right on the head.
Kirk mentions: “how amazing would it be if it could actually sync with your address book and calendar, and provide a usable interface to that information.” Of course, the iPod has been able to do this for years.
Just do it Apple … Do it NOW so we can have a 6th Gen iPod … so we can finally be happy!
Thanks everyone for the responses and the varied feedback. One thing I’ve learned today — sitting through jury duty without an iPhone is rough.
@Scott – You’re right. I left out bluetooth. There was actually speculation a while back that the next gen iPod would offer bluetooth but not WiFi. Who knows at this point. Although wireless stereo headphones would certainly be great.
@Nzer – you’re right also. Usability in certain situations would be a real problem. The touch screen interface is certainly not a good choice for people who use their iPods while exercising, etc. I think it’s clear that the iPod family may grow, and that the click wheel option may be around for a while. Also, common controls can be moved to an inline remote on the headset.
@archosfanboy – thanks for pointing that out. I’ve been blinded by Apple Mania. And again, I’ll raise the issue of the Zune (which already has WiFi – as stupid as it may be right now). Clearly, other manfuacturers are going to be offering WiFi as a feature on their portable media players. I can’t see Steve Jobs standing back while everyone else WiFi to their players. When he presents the WiFi enabled iPod it has to be a huge announcement. It won’t be the same if Steve’s standing up their during his Stevenote saying “Oh, one more thing . . . we’ew FINALLY adding WiFi to the iPod”.
@Kevin – I agree with you in theory. Apple is all about simplicity and products that just work. That’s why we love them. However, the current iPod has already started down the slippery slope of general purpose media player and portable entertainment device. They’ve even added games into the mix. And don’t forget, the iPod is also supposed to drive iTunes sales. These days iTunes is more than just music, and we have every reason to believe that more video content is on the way. I’m still not sold on the concept of mobile video, but quite a few people are. The next iPod will be as much of a mobile video player as it will be a mobile music player (sort of like the current generation, only better).
@rdas7 – question: do you really believe the current generation of calendar and address syncing on the iPod is usable? I usually dump a handfull of notes and contacts on a manual basis, but it’s hardly seamless, and certainly not something I use on a regular basis. To be blunt about it, it’s currently not very Apple-like.
The iPod must migrate to OSX to build in more capability and compatibility. Even with the iPod Apple cannot quit competing.
But there will always be a place in my heart and hearth for the iPod Nano. Mine contains music, audio novels, bird calls, nikeplus, family photos, and Italian phrases. All this on a gizmo so small that if I drop it, it fairly floats to the floor. I can stick it in a jeans pocket without a care. I have bought several for friends; it’s that cheap.
I hope Apple allows form to lead function with regard to the Nano.
Shoot, who am I to stop another person from spending 600 dollars on an iPod. And they yelled at me when I bought a PS3! lol
I’m not seeing a device of this sort costing $600 as others have assumed. Remember, it’s not a phone. Other similar devices are being sold at the sub-$400 level. Th Archos WiFi device is selling for under $300 on Amazon. Microsoft is selling the Zune for around $250.
at first, because of your opening statement, i thought your article had been written on july 1. by july 6 or 7, apple had already sold well over 1,000,000 iphones. presently, some reports say sales have reached 1,500,000 – 2,000,000.
Mark: Yes, I’ve read numerous sales claims. I decided to go with a conservative estimate. All of the sales figures we’re hearing now are estimates and completely unofficial. We won’t know anything for sure until Apple’s next quarterly report.
I hate to say I told you so, but . . . Looks like those iPhone sales weren’t anywhere near the numbers we were hearing shortly after its release. I’m starting to think my 500,000 estimate may have actually been a bit high.
Hi all, I talked to an apple rep w/ the admin office of Steve Jobs — I sent him a letter regarding the fact that not everybody can get and/or use AT&T, even if you would want to — anyhoo this lady was SUPER nice ( I was REALLY surprised to get a call, but they DO take customer letters serioulsy)
I asked her about the “activated” for ipod wifi use only iphones that you see for sale on eBay, wondering if they would become “unactivated” w/ the next itunes update.
She told me that would be a VERY expensive iPod! I then asked if apple was coming out w/ just an ipod wifi gizmo, and she said that traditionally a new ipod was released every year and that a new one would be released septemberish, she did NOT answer my question directly, but I asked if I should read between the lines and that I should wait til fall to get the iphoneless ipod? She said she couldn’t comment on that.
SO…..I’m hopeful that the next gen ipod WILL be what lots of us are looking for!
Wow. You called it.
Thanks Steve – I hate to say I told everyone so, but …
Hey there, Apple Top News, way to be right on top of this story!!! It’s hilarious to watch what these stupid hardly-better-than-spam-blogs do sometimes.
Archos 704 says
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