The iPod is on life support

The iPod might not be dead, but it's certainly dying, a victim of its own popularity and convergence devices.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

When you think about Apple, you think iPhone, iPad or maybe even Mac. However, if you go back a decade, one product the company was well known for that has now sunk below the radar is the iPod. In recent years sales of this once flagship product have been eclipsed by the iPhone and the iPad.

Are the days of the iPod numbered?

Last quarter Apple sold 6 million iPods. Not a shabby number compared to Mac sales of 4 million, but a drop in the ocean compared to iPhone sales of 26 million and iPad sales of 17 million. Also, bear in mind that the cheapest Mac -- the Mac mini -- starts at $599, while the cheapest iPod -- the diminutive Shuffle -- is an absolute bargain at $49.

Apart from a spike in sales during the holiday season, iPod sales have been slowly declining for over three years now. Once Apple could count on about 10 million iPod sales a quarter, and double that over the holidays, but now that number has been cut by a third, and continues to fall.


Two things killed the iPod. First, there's an awful lot of them out there. Apple has sold a shade over 350 million iPods since its debut in 2001. That's a lot of iPods, and I can tell you as having owned quite a few over the years, they're incredibly long-lived bits of kit. Everyone who wanted an iPod more than likely has several laying about the place already.

The market is literally saturated with iPods.

Another nail in the -- tiny -- iPod coffin are smartphones and tablets, convergence devices powered by both iOS and Android that do what the iPod did, plus a lot more besides. Why carry an iPod and a cellphone when you can carry a single device?

The next chart clearly shows the how iPod sales first flat-lined and then started taking a dive. This dive steepened into a nose-dive as soon as the iPad came on the scene.


The decline is smooth and, so far at any rate, quite predictable. In a few quarters sales of the iPod will be below that of Mac sales -- which have themselves flat-lined -- and the era of the iPod will be truly over.

The iPod's job is done. It encouraged people to buy other Apple products. And it's a strategy that worked well.

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