The iPod could be heading towards renewed relevance, thanks to the addition of a new WiFi syncing feature. Though the revolutionary product line still holds roughly 3/4ths of the PMP market share, that product category declines in relevance every year. In a world of smartphones and tablets, there is less demand than ever before for a limited product like the iPod. In January, we saw a 10% drop year-over-year in sales.
In order to stop the iPod from going into free-fall, Apple is investigating a new WiFi syncing feature. The ability to sync your media libraries up over-air, no cords necessary, has long been a twinking gleam in Apple's eye. But actually implementing the feature has been fraught with difficulty. The addition of a carbon fiber body is believed to reduce the signal issues that have plagued previous attempts at WiFi-syncing.
This feature will likely be iPod-exclusive for its first year or so of market existence. The iPod Classic and Nano are both likely to gain WiFi syncing in a revamp later this year. While that feature won't roll out to the iPhone right away, it seems inevitable once the kinks in the tech get worked out. When that happens, the iPod will once again struggle to justify its existence in a world of rapidly increasing smartphone adoption.
Which leads us to an interesting question- just what is the purpose of the iPod line? While inexpensive models, like the Shuffle, will continue to make sense until smartphones drop further in cost, the rest of the line seems less and less necessary with each passing day. At this point, it seems like Apple is using them as 'guinea pigs' for new features as a way to squeeze a little extra novelty out of the iPod line.
That's a sensible plan. It extends the iPod's lifespan and allows Apple to ensure features like WiFi syncing work perfectly by the time they hit the iPhone/iPad. But it also signals a very big shift in the Cupertino-based company's attitude. The iPod is quickly reaching its sunset.