End of the road for iPods

As the year 2013 is coming close to an end, one can't help but wonder where on earth are the new iPods? As it is right now, Apple has unveiled every product refresh in its lineup throughout the fourth quarter, ranging from the new iPhones to iPads models.

For many years within this period, it has always been Apple's tradition to unveil new iPods, and it's always been exciting for us to see what Apple has up its sleeve with its radical redesign of its portable music players each year.

This is the first time in over a decade that Apple didn't host an annual iPod media event and announce new replacements in its iPod hardware line up.

Right now we're stuck with last year's models of the iPod Touch, iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle.

Apple is still selling them, and there are no signs pointing that the company is going to discontinue making them anytime soon.

But there's no denying that demand for iPods have gradually withered. Everyone has portable music players built into their smartphones now, and tablets double as music players that makes carrying another portable music device unnecessary.

In the case of Apple, the iPod is more prominent as an app bundled with the iPhones and iPads.

Digital music is also heading to the cloud. Online services such as Spotify, Soundcloud and Google Play Music has liberated us from the limitations of physical storage space. If you haven't really tried this, you're missing out.

It's just that simple to fire up these apps on our smartphones to listen to the songs we want in an instant, as opposed to in the past where we had to purchase the songs and upload them to the iPods before hand.

Just like digital point-and-shoot cameras, calculators and pocket dictionaries, standalone portable music players are going out. We now have the luxury of carrying one device that does everything, from listening to music to taking pictures to checking the currency exchange rate.

If you look at the current line up of iPods, it's really hard to justify making a purchase. Do you really need that extra weight in your pocket that does pretty much what your smartphone is already capable of?

Of course, this can be rather subjective. Just as how professional photographers would very much prefer actual standalone digital cameras, standalone portable music players may still be suited for its intended target audience right now.

Avid music junkies may still find the iPod Classic (or to an extent the highest capacity iPod Touch) appealing; a separate device to store their huge library of high quality music and having access to their jams even when the smartphone battery dies.

The smaller iPods such as the Shuffle and the Nano are still popular among athletes or physically active people who need a more portable (and wearable) device for their workout tunes.

Of course, smartphones have become more practical (with an accessory to strap and protect your device while on the run) than standalone portable music players in fitness due to useful integrated fitness apps such as calorie counters and running trackers.

All this isn't going to change the fact that the majority of consumers are no longer in the market for new iPods or even portable music players in general.

I was among the very few who were expecting an iPod refresh this year because I needed a new iPod that I could hook up to my car (My third generation iPod Touch died a year ago).

Then again, my smartphone has already replaced my "iPod in the car" simply because it does more than just playing my music stored in the device. I can fire up Umano to listen to news read to me, or I can stream music from the cloud music services to my stereo.

Hence, the lack of iPod updates this year didn't really disappoint me that much.

Even if Apple decide to come up with new iPods this year, I doubt it would help improve sales figures. Apple's own smartphones and tablets are already eating up a huge chunk of its iPod market.

Case in point; a brand new iPad Mini with Retina Display which costs equally as much as the fifth generation iPod Touch makes a much better purchase; bigger screen, more powerful hardware, it's a tablet, and let's not forget that you already have an existing music player in your pocket.

But it's easy to forget that the iPod was once an important device that revolutionised not just the portable music industry but also the music industry as a whole.

The success of the iPod eventually paved the way for the iPhone which in turn revolutionised the smartphone industry and ultimately the mobile computing industry.

If iPods didn't exist, we won't have iPhones or iPads. Sure, smartphones and tablets might still surface but it would probably turn out differently.

This is why it's important to remember the iPod today, because the first iPod went on sale this week twelve years ago.

At that time, the idea of having 'a thousand songs in your pocket' was mind-blowing.