Apple says a silent goodbye to iPod classic

The standalone MP3 player -- which reimagined markets for phones, tablets, and, now, watches -- takes its bow.

Apple iPod Classic
Apple's final standalone MP3 player, the iPod classic, lasted seven years until today. James Martin/CNET

The original iPod music player debuted 13 years ago, in October 2001. It remained one of Apple's core product categories over the years, despite declining sales and a world of listeners increasingly more reliant on streaming subscription services. Now, as Apple moves into larger-screen smartphones and wearable devices for our wrists with the unveiling of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch Tuesday, a standalone MP3 player has become too antiquated to keep alive.

When Apple's Web store came back online this afternoon at around 12:00 p.m. PT, the iPod classic -- the company's last touchscreen-less music player that first debuted in 2007 -- was gone.

It's no surprise that Apple bid farewell to its sixth generation iPod. The device eventually held as much as 160GB of music and accounted for a healthy chunk of the 54.83 million iPod units shipped at the division's sales peak in 2009. Yet those numbers began steadily sliding downward as Apple's iPhone and competing Android smartphones sales begin to eat into the MP3 market, while novel device form factors like the iPad tablet carved out a new product niche.

Through all that the iPod classic persevered. Thanks to a diminishing price tag -- $249 for the 160GB by September 2009 -- and position among music enthusiasts as the best all-purpose gadget for those that wanted a no-frills MP3 player, the iPod classic held a nostalgic place in Apple fans' hearts. Oh, and who could forget the beloved click-wheel.

The iPod Touch, which debuted in 2007 nine months after the first iPhone, claimed the title of most popular iPod in recent years. That device, which resembles Apple's smartphone line minus the cellular connection, hasn't undergone a major overhaul since the fall of 2012, the same time Apple introduced the iPhone 5. It lacks many features found in the newer iPhones, including a TouchID fingerprint sensor and an updated processor that supports more intensive apps and gaming.

Apple in June cut the price on the iPod Touch line, gave it a new rear-facing camera, and added new color selections. After three quarters in 2014, the iPod division has yet to break more than 12 million units sold, less than half of 2013 sales figures.

It seems that even nostalgia cannot keep the once-flagship Apple product from a world of larger screens, diminishing storage needs, and music we subscribe to access instead of pay for. Newer generations may not miss you, iPod classic, but you will not be forgotten.

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