The age of the iPod might be drawing to a close, but it's not quite over yet. Though Apple's portable music player business has declined to the point that the company no longer bothers to break out iPod sales in its earnings reports — or even tout the device from the homepage of Apple.com — Apple still believes it has some shelf life yet.
On Wednesday, Apple refreshed its iPod line with a new color palette and — in the case of the iPod Touch — some updated hardware as well. The company now offers the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iPod Touch in gold and new shades of pink and blue, as well as older colors like silver, space gray, and red. And it's kicked up the specs on the iPod Touch.
Though identical in form to its predecessor, the sixth-generation iPod Touch has been outfitted with a handful of new features. On the inside, it's got faster graphics capability and processing speed, improved Wi-Fi capability, and, for the first time, a motion-measuring chip that tracks physical activity. (The device still does not support Apple Watch, which requires iPhone 5 or later.) Also on board: a new eight-megapixel camera that supports slow-motion video and burst photos, and better jibes with Apple's marketing push around photography. Prices still start at $199 for a 16GB iPod Touch, but now they top out at $399 thanks to a new 128GB model.
For the iPod Touch, which hasn't seen significant enhancements since 2012, this is a reasonable refresh, particularly given the declining importance of the iPod portfolio to Apple's bottom line. In fiscal year 2014, Apple reported selling just 14 million iPods, down 45% from the previous year. That figure isn't nothing, but it's a sliver of the 169 million iPhones sold last year. CEO Tim Cook even told investors during an earnings call last year, "I think all of us have known for some time that iPod is a declining business."
But for Apple, it's still a business worth being in. Not only does the iPod continue to appeal to people who are looking for a simple portable music player or a touchscreen handheld untethered from cellular contracts, it's another possible sales engine for subscriptions to Apple Music, which Apple has been heavily promoting since announcing it last month.
"As much as we love selling iPhones, we know not everybody has one already," an Apple spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "They might decide the iPod Touch is a better starting point for them."
Stephanie Lee is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
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