Last Week Apple Broke My Heart

Red_AppleA thought piece

by Thomas Mathie

Last week Apple broke my heart. During the strammash that is an iPhone release … including the frenzy of the Watch … they quietly and with no fanfare withdrew the iPod Classic. For a music fan like me, it was devastating.

I currently have three iPods and two iPhones in use. I have two x 80 gb classics and one x 160 gb in service. I also have a 16 gb iPhone 4 that I use as music player. It has about 10 gb of music to review along with music-related apps like SomaFM and the BBC’s iPlayer for use when in WiFi range. I have one other iPhone (a 16 gb 5) that I use as my main phone. The battery is such (due to Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, etc.) that the only music-related task I use it for is listening to podcasts such as my own, Circumambient, on occasion.

Everyone good with maths will note I carry 352 gb of potential music storage. Even if I discount my main iPhone, that’s still 336 gb of tunage. That’s a lot of music.

The thing is I both need and want that amount of storage.

I need it for all the music I *have* to listen to — music to review for the various blogs I write for (including Make Your Own Taste) and music I have to vet for both my netlabel (weareallghosts) and my podcast. I get sent a lot of music and I faithfully go through everything I receive. Not much gets thrown away.

I also want to carry that amount of storage around with me because, simply put, I’d be lost without my tunes. If I feel like listening to The Beach Boys, then I can … or The Album Leaf … or Lowercase Noises … or Cousin Silas … or Pink Floyd … or Zoe Keating … or Yes … or The Tolkien Ensemble. Not all the music I listen to and enjoy can be found on Spotify or Rdio.

What’s more, I rarely, if ever, buy from iTunes. I buy from Bandcamp, preferring 320kbps, and do not need every device I own to connect to Apple’s store. Sometimes I buy music from Amazon and benefit from their autorip facility or I buy vinyl and redeem the included code (or even rip the vinyl to MP3).

I also want a device that can easily walk pass an electrical outlet without needing a charge.

I know this makes me sound like some over-forties Luddite, and I make no apology for this. Apple’s iPod Classic was a classic design and deserved to live on. Yes, it was becoming a niche product, but surely if there was still demand then it makes no sense canning it. In fact, I’d go so far as to want more capacity … a 512 gb iPod or more! I would love to listen to ALL my music in a lossless format, not just the music I need to vet for my netlabel.

Personally, I don’t think Apple wants people to own music. I think they see music as a utility that we pay a monthly bill for. I wholeheartedly disagree.

Great music is something I want to own … to have … to be able to access when and where I want … something to have and to hold. I’m not a vinyl purist, I love CDs and downloads too. But regardless, I want to own the music I wish to access and listen to. I want to pay the musician for their expression. I want to support their creativity and that of the graphic and product designers, photographers and the like who support them.

Giving away the album by U2 … in essence, forcing it on folks like a spammer … also showed Apple’s contempt for music. I know music was and is used by Apple to shift product. I know this, but it has never felt so obvious as it did recently. Owning music is about choice … your choice. The iPod Classic was all about choice. I filled it. I chose to fill all three, in fact. The Demis Roussos on there is because I chose to put it there. Pushing an album out to people, regardless of whether they want it or not doesn’t respect the music nor the listener’s choice. I love U2 or, more aptly, loved them … but this gimmick doesn’t sit right with me. Music is about choice and pushing an album to 500 million customers without giving them a choice as to whether or not they wish to receive it doesn’t seem the way to go.

Sometimes we delegate our choice. Listening to the radio, especially a fantastic radio station like BBC 6 Music, is an exercise in the delegation of choice … we give up part of our freedom and in turn are entertained with new or new-to-you music that we haven’t heard before. Maryanne Hobbs is my hero … as is Stuart Maconnie. The two of them fill the void in my life that John Peel left. This is a worthy trade-off. The same goes for listener-backed stations like the always fab SomaFM. Yes we can shuffle Spotify playlists … and I sometimes do … but this will only ever be for music discovery. We choose to discover new tunes or we choose to have music in the background. This isn’t the same as owning music and choosing to listen to the right track that fits with the exact mood you are in.

So yeah … that’s why Apple broke my heart. Don’t worry, I will recover. I will rescue a poor, lonely iPod Classic from our local Computer Exchange (aka the iPod Pound) and give it a new home. Who knows, maybe I’ll become the Classic equivalent of a crazy cat hoarder (Editor: watch it, buster!). And who knows, maybe an upstart start-up or a long-suffering competitor will fill the hole left by Apple and I, for one, will take them up on their offer … especially if they are offering a 512 gb music player that works with Mac.


P.S. … just spoke with an Apple insider and he spoke of Apple’s “need” to remove the Classic because it is one of the last devices with a 30 pin connector. He said there were rumours of 128 gb and 256 gb solid state “classics”. Unfortunately, for now, they are only that — rumours, but we can dream, can’t we?

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