Apple’s iPod touch is king of the crumbling portable media castle
With the steadily falling prices of tablets and the relative ease with which you can acquire a cheap smartphone today, having a standalone MP3 player for many people is almost quaint. There’s still an age group that benefits from that ever shrinking userbase of people who want a touch device with apps that doesn’t have a mobile radio, but is still pocketable. For the most part, these users exist between the ages of 9 and 13, and this year for Christmas I find myself with three of them. After doing some extensive research, I was surprised to find that not only is Apple’s aging iPod touch the best option out there still, but it’s basically the only option being made specifically to serve this group of users.
Being a parent in an environment filled with technology is a uniquely complicated place to be. The balance that needs to be struck in order to ensure your children are educated on modern tech, but aren’t consumed by it is an interesting challenge, especially when they watch as you strap Google Glass to your face or leave the house with multiple smartphones in your pocket. My house is currently filled with three young ladies who each came to me asking for something they could listen to music on and video chat with family on, something they usually need to borrow a tablet from me in order to do. It didn’t take me long to realize that there really is only one option out there right now, even though it’s an option that not even the champion of the market seems interested in keeping up to date.
There’s currently three 16GB iPod touch packages sitting on my desk, waiting to be setup. I was able to purchase three different colors, each with the name of their owner engraved on the back, and they arrived running the most recent version of the OS. Apple’s iPod touch is a device entirely without competition; there simply are no other companies out there offering this same hardware experience. This seemed strange to me, but with the heightened focus on tablets and smartwatches it’s possible there’s just not enough here to fight over. With no competition, Apple didn’t even have to update their hardware this year. Apple is still selling millions of iPods, and they are doing so with what is essentially three year old hardware at this point.
Hardware is only one part of this experience. After all, I could easily get a personalized case for a Motorola Moto G and my three girls would be just as happy. The colored metal and engraving options for the hardware really is just a bonus. It’s the software they are really interested in, but again as a parent I found iOS to be the better option. I’m an Android user primarily, but Apple’s parental controls and multi-device household settings are unparalleled. I can put each of these devices under an umbrella that I can control with my iPad mini, and from there I can share apps I have purchased with their devices and act as a filter for content they want to add to their devices. The App Store also lets me set up content restrictions per device, and with most of Google’s apps playing nice on iOS I can still share most of the things I’ve bought on the Google Play Store with them.
Whether or not Apple is letting the iPod touch die is something that is still widely speculated upon. There’s rumors every couple of weeks about the next generation of iPods from Apple, but there’s still nothing to back it up. Meanwhile, the lack of competition from companies including Microsoft and Amazon, whose family friendly tools would do very well in this space, guarantees that Apple is going to ride the market out until there’s no major manufacturer actively catering to this audience.
We’re moving beyond staple concepts like the family computer, and it looks like Apple is the only company offering a complete solution to address that.
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