The times they are a changin’ for those that enjoy their music on the go, and it seems that one of the things that’s changing is that the concept of a high-capacity music player is old hat. Apple finally killed off the iPod Classic last year, and although they haven’t quite got rid of the line completely, iPod no longer has its own tab on the Apple Website – instead, you have to go to Music and select it from the dropdown menu. A small change, but significant – iPod is no longer a significant revenue stream for the company, and you suspect future developments will be at a minimum – more likely, as happened with the Classic, the Nano and the Touch will carry on in the catalogue until they run out of places to get the components and will then be quietly withdrawn.
There are alternatives of course. The likes of Fiio, Cowon and others are producing some very good players that if anything offer better sound quality and more flexibility due to their use of swappable memory cards, while with many non-Apple phones you can always add a high-capacity memory card; “Take TWO devices into the car?” Anyway Grandpa, get with the program: who needs the capacity anyway when you can have everything live in the cloud and just stream it wherever you are? Whether it’s Spotify, Google Music, Apple Music or another service, who even needs to keep it on their device any more?
Well…. I do. I admit I’m something of an edge case, and that for many people all they need is their phone and a Spotify or Google Music subscription; but I have a couple of reasons to still want a high capacity dedicated music player.
One of them is for work purposes. There are times that I want to play music as part of my work, maybe set up a playlist or similar, but I don’t want to have a device that will pop up notifications or otherwise interrupt the playback; ideally as well it needs to emit minimal electrical interference in case I’m working with roving microphones. For this sort of purpose, it’s hard to beat a standalone music player; a device that only has to do one thing and do it well. (By the way, have you ever tried using a phone simultaneously for GPS and Audio Playback? It works, but be prepared for lots of journeys where the playback stops and never comes back….)
The other is to do with the streaming issue. I live in an area where basically if you can’t get onto a Wifi hotspot, you have no internet; my mobile network offers very bad 2G, and there are places where even that is patchy. This is not uncommon in rural areas; with fewer users the payback time for a cell tower is longer, and the planning issues are harder to overcome. Suffice to say I have a 1GB Data Limit, and rarely use even half of it unless I go to a city for a few days. So relying on a streaming service for music outside the house is a no go. OK, some of the paid-for services allow you to cache substantial amounts, but then, why not just get a big memory card or a dedicated music player anyway?
In some ways this just highlights that Rural areas are often the digital poor these days. Often we can only dream of the speeds of fibre broadband; mobile data is unreliable so forget working on the move. Streaming services are only relevant in the home. So while it may no longer be mainstream to carry your music around with you, it’s still going to be the reality for quite a number of us yet. So I’m replacing my 10 year old iPod Classic with a high-capacity alternative now – while I still can….