iPod: What's Next?

Apple officially released the iPhone 4 today.  So far it has been a huge hit selling 600,000 units in preorder and selling out of stores all over the world.  It is estimated that Apple will have sold between 1 and 1.5 million phones by Saturday. Reviews generally been positive regarding its high density display, front facing camera, new design, improved call quality, and improved performance.  The iPhone 4 will still be hard to come by probably through mid-July.  Then what? Well, September is right around the corner and that’s typically when Apple updates the iPod.  With all of the advances of the iPhone 4, what will the new iPods look like? Here are my predictions based on my own knowledge of how Apple works (I have no insider knowledge).

Let’s start with the iPod Touch.  Since the iPhone got an upgrade, I expect the touch to get one as well.  I think Apple will keep the 3rd gen as the low end for $200 at either 16 or 32 GB.  I’m not sure if Apple will spring for the Retina display or the new case design for the higher end touch, but I’m thinking it will get the A4, a 3MP camera that can take video and photos, and a gyroscope.  Capacities will be 64 and 128 GB at the current price points of $299 and $399.  This may be the year that the touch gains either FM or HD radio support.  I could see Apple releasing an app that works on the iPhone 4 and 3 GS as well (both have FM tuners).  Now Apple could add a Retina display and new case design but I’m not sure if they are reserving that feature for the iPhone 4 for now.  I don’t expect a front facing camera, even though Apple said that it expects to ship millions of Face Time devices (read: not just iPhones) this year.

So what about the nano? I don’t see the basic size and dimensions of the case changing much.  They may redesign the case to get rid of the tapered appearance (a new trend towards squared shapes that is debuting with iPhone 4) but I’m not so sure about it.  One thing I do expect: an improved camera that takes pictures in addition to videos. Another thing: capacity increases.  I expect 16 and 32 GB versions at least.  16 GB has been the highest capacity nano for two years.  It’s time to expand.  I could also see a price drop into the $99 entry-level range.  Other than that I don’t really see anything revolutionary happening… unless they drop the click wheel and replace it with… a touchscreen!

I don’t think there will be any changes to the shuffle unless they turn the entire thing into a screen.  I just don’t know what else they can do with it.

So that leaves the iPod Classic, which has remained virtually the same for the last two years. It currently costs $250 and comes with 160 GB of storage. It’s the only iPod left that uses mechanical storage (a hard drive).  With flash capacity now available in 128 GB sizes, it may be time for the Classic to say farewell.  The benefit of the Classic this year was that it offered a lot of storage at a low price.  Now Apple can’t sell a 128 GB Touch for $250, but they might be able to replace the hard drive in the classic with Flash and sell it for that much.  Maybe add a new interface, camera, and FM tuner? While it may seem pointless, the Classic is an important price point for Apple.  It entices people who have lots of music and don’t care about games or apps.

So those are my thoughts for September.  Mostly evolutionary upgrades to the existing iPod lineup.  Apple could throw a twist in and add a touch screen to the nano, throw a screen onto the shuffle, and nix the hard drive in the Classic.  This could be an evolutionary or revolutionary year for the iPod line up.  I’m not sure what it will be yet.  Oh, and there will be “one more thing”: iPhone 4 on Verizon. Available in November.  You can quote me on that.

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