To placate the masses of people hungry for a “video iPod,” Apple released the fifth-generation iPod in October 2005, then modestly refreshed it in September of 2006. Though its battery life for video playback has improved, users have never been fully satisfied with the squint-inducing size of its screen – a factor that led Apple to announce a larger, “widescreen iPod” feature for its upcoming iPhone. But as a consequence of iPhone’s introduction, many believe that Apple will wait until after the iPhone’s June launch to announce a standalone iPod with a similar screen.
Since everyone’s expecting that a sixth-generation, widescreen iPod will eventually be released, we asked our editors three questions: what do you think will happen? What should happen? And is Apple becoming too slow with updates its customers want and expect?
Below, you’ll find our answers to these questions, and more. Please add your thoughts to the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Bob Levens, Contributing Editor, United Kingdom: “I am finding myself feeling rather lukewarm about the prospects of the next iPod. Why? Hopefully Apple will release the 6G iPod ASAP with a touchscreen and slick interface as used on the iPhone. If we have to wait until the iPhone has debuted, then that’s going to be a long gap, for those of us living outside of the US, for a new iPod-related product. What will they launch to keep us quiet until then?
As long as the 6G has a decent battery life – maybe even break the mold and have a removable battery – a large sized display, with perhaps an option to increase the size of the text displayed for those who wear reading glasses, then anything else is probably going to be unused by me. The iPod, for me, is a portable music device, and if it will hold my library I am happy.”
Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief, United States: “When the fifth-generation iPod was introduced, there was a collective ‘oh, okay’ rather than a ‘wow’ from the crowd, and I don’t think anyone expected that we’d all be stuck with a 2.5-inch screen as our best iPod video option for this long. The continued absence of a replacement has, in my view, comforted and encouraged those who would suggest that Apple’s more concerned about marketing than brilliant technology – the sort of perception that can harm a company’s goodwill and possibly stunt its growth. I’d partially blame the iPhone for this: my gut feeling is that Apple is so concerned with the impact of new iPod launches on eventual iPhone sales that it’s going to risk continued domination of one market just to have a shot at a 1% share of another market. History will decide whether that was a wise or foolish choice; I really hope that Apple will put the horse in front of the cart again and focus its attention on releasing better iPods, sooner.
To be clear, I want a widescreen 6G iPod much more than I want an iPhone. As excited as I am about the iPhone’s design, 8GB of storage capacity and a shared phone/media battery mean that it won’t be a replacement for my full-sized iPod. Every single person I know who hasn’t yet bought an iPod has been holding out for the much-fabled ‘widescreen video iPod,’ and most of them are not going to buy into the iPhone because it’s not priced right for their budgets, or the features aren’t what they needed. They’re not going to change their minds just because the iPhone’s out and the 6G’s not: they’re going to wait until the right device emerges at the right price, and purchase it. If Microsoft or Sony offers something close to what people are expecting, at the right price, they just might jump on that instead.”
L.C. Angell, Senior Editor, United States: “I’ve never seen a company stretch out a product’s life cycle like Apple has done with the fifth-generation iPod. Even though sales haven’t exactly slowed to a crawl, it has definitely been Apple’s most unexciting iPod for a while now. That said, the 5G iPod becoming long in the tooth was caused by the extended development of the iPhone—Apple didn’t want to steal any of the iPhone’s thunder by introducing a widescreen iPod beforehand. And Apple still doesn’t want to. I wouldn’t expect a widescreen video iPod until right before Christmas this year. Apple is going to give the iPhone the spotlight as long as it possibly can before the mob of angry iCustomers come knocking at the door of Apple HQ demanding a phone-less widescreen iPod.”
Dennis Lloyd, Publisher, United States: “Although I am very content with my 5G, I wouldn’t mind a larger screen for in-flight movies. It will happen and I think it will come some time after the iPhone (June) is unleashed on the public. It’s a long overdue update. We’ve heard the rumors for a very long time – a 5G case with full screen and touch screen controls a la iPhone. It will reinvigorate the iPod economy; accessory makers will have an entirely new device to develop for. Many wanted the 6G yesterday, but I think the wait will be worth it. Hold on to your hats, because it’s going to be an exciting ride this year.”
Jesse Hollington, Contributing Editor, Canada: “I think it’s important to remember that the net-savvy, tech-savvy crowd is generally not representative of the whole iPod user base. I suspect the silent majority of iPod owners are very happy with the current 5G and many may have only the vaguest idea that something else is on the horizon. While Apple has taken a long time between updates here, with the ‘Enhanced 5G’ being an obvious mid-cycle release intended to buy some extra time, the 5G iPod still seems to be selling quite well, particularly to the crowd that is looking primarily for a music player. Commentary in our own Discussion Forums indicates that there’s actually a large number of people who are almost dreading what the 6G iPod may become after seeing the iPhone. People who want a device that is primarily a music player are still very much attracted to the Click Wheel design of the current iPod, and are frequently only looking for a higher-capacity device, not one with extra bells and whistles. I personally suspect that the device that ultimately debuts as the next-generation iPod will be sufficiently revolutionary to justify the length of time since the last update.”
Christina Easton, Contributing Editor, United States: “Apple’s next move will undoubtably be to introduce a widescreen iPod. I think that it would be in Apple’s best interest to offer something comparable to or better than the iPhone for the iPod line, because the iPod line needs to have some kind of feature that positively distinguishes it from the iPhones. I love the current fifth-generation iPod; I keep wanting bigger and better versions, having started with a mini and then moved up to the fifth-generation, 60GB model, I’m ready for the next iPod right now. I would love to have something with better battery life and a less scratchable screen.
Apple really should have announced the widescreen iPod before the iPhone. Everyone has been waiting for a better-screened iPod for a long time, and it won’t just bring in new customers. People who have been holding out on replacing old iPods will be buying this one for sure. The only people who will be upset are the people who are buying 5G iPods right now, because they’re effectively spending money on old technology.”
You’ve heard our thoughts – what do you think? Your comments and thoughts are appreciated below.