The iPod nano and shuffle were the last vestiges of a much simpler era
Sometime in the summer of 2009, I accompanied my father to a local gadget store to buy a fourth generation iPod nano (the nano-chromatic one, that allowed users to change songs by shaking it). It was to be my first Apple product, and I was pretty excited about finally getting one. Unfortunately, the 4 GB version was out of stock at the store, and there was no way we would have bought the pricier 8 GB model (8 GB was plain overkill in that era where HD video was a rarity). And there went my grand listening-to-music-on-my-iPod-in-the-schoolbus plans. As a compensation of sorts, my father bought me my first cellphone. Compared to the stunner that the iPod nano was, the phone was absolutely utilitarian in design. I was satisfied with the phone though, since it could do much more than what the iPod could. Besides, my parents assured me that I could always buy that iPod later. Sweet!
What the twelve year old, naïve me did not realise was that the iPhone had established its success at that time, and that its competitors had already started making their way into the market. The iPod had gone from being Apple’s flagship product to just an icon on the iPhone’s home-screen. Seriously, why would you even consider buying an iPod when you could have “An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator” all rolled into one product? The smartphone revolution had truly begun, with broadband level internet speeds being available on mobile phones and the coming of age of app stores. Apple still made and sold iPods, but those were becoming more insignificant each day. Needless to say, I never bought an iPod, as I never felt like buying one instead of buying a new smartphone. And now that Apple has killed off the product that kickstarted the company’s return to greatness, I regret not buying the 8 GB iPod nano that day.
The iPod (no, I do not consider the iPod touch an iPod; it is just an iPhone that cannot make calls) belonged to a time when listening to music was an activity in itself. Before the iPod happened, music aficionados woud spend hours curating and organising tracks just to prepare for this activity. They would rip, mix and burn the music they wanted to listen to, and it was these people whose lives were completely changed by the iPod and the iTunes Store. The small device with the clickwheel simplified things greatly, and created a generation of music lovers in the process.
Listening to music in the post-iPod era is different. Most people would not remember the last time they were streaming music on their smartphones and not doing any other task at the same time. In a world of never ending Instagram Stories, an increasingly large number of people are suffering from FOMO. Nobody likes scrolling through the lives of others on their smartphones everyday, but there is something about this activity that makes us do it over and over again. Multitasking has become the norm, and while most people still listen to music (on their phones, obviously), chances are that they’re doing it while composing a tweet or browsing for a product on Amazon on that same phone. Conventional wisdom tells us that doing more than one task in a short span of time would make us happy, but that does not seem to be the case. If anything, people today seem to be perpetually lost in a world formed by their social media feeds and group texts. The closest we ever come to reality is when our phones are running out of battery and we can’t seem to find the charger. Our urge to interact with new people has been replaced by the urge to try out that new app everyone seems to be using. What place would the act of enjoying music find in this society where we are always unsuccessfully trying to keep up?
The iPod’s demise has truly pushed us further into this world we all hate.