Using an iPod classic in 2023


A quick history lesson


Apple is not always the first to introduce a new product, but when it does, the Cupertino tech giant usually gets it right. Think of how the iPhone single-handedly reshaped the mobile phone industry and forever changed everyone’s life, and as a more obscure example, how Apple got on the always-on display bandwagon really late on their iPhone 14 lineup but provided a much better experience than the Android side of things. 


Before the iPhone, there was the iPod. Introduced on October 23, 2001, the iPod was not the first portable music player in the post-Walkman era. It was, however, the best.


First generation iPod

Apple got a few key things right with the iPod. The design was simple, but the product was powerful and delivered user experience years ahead of the competition. 


Throughout its lifetime, the iPod lineup included a few different products, mainly the iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod classic, and iPod touch. These products were top Apple design and ingenuity – think of the click wheel. They were bold too – the third-generation iPod shuffle did not even have any buttons on the device to control playback.


The iPod worked well with Apple’s digital hub strategy. Dock the iPod with a Mac or PC and the syncing happened automatically. As simple as the design was, or perhaps more because of its simplicity, the iPod offered an unparalleled user experience. Basically, it was peak “it just worked” and then some.


While the iPhone is one of two major players in the mobile phone industry, the other being Android phones, the iPod really had no equal. Microsoft tried its hands at the portable music player game, but its Zune just could not crack the single-digit market share, making it one of Microsoft’s biggest failures.


All good things come to an end, especially with Apple who’s never shied away from killing off product lines. Apple discontinued the iPod touch in 2022. Long before that, they discontinued the iPod classic on September 9, 2014.


The iPod still has a fan base – and a large one too in a lot of people’s opinion. 


What is it like to use an iPod classic in 2023?


I recently got a 7th-generation iPod classic with a 160GB hard drive for around $200. The seller claims it was an Apple replacement unit but the click wheel looks third-party. It did come with screen and backplate protectors so I’m not complaining.


But what is it like to use an iPod class in 2023?


iPod classic in macOS Ventura Finder


Touch screen vs. click wheel 


Well for starters, I keep forgetting it’s not a touch screen. Muscle memory would have my finger going for the screen but then I’d remember it does not support touch. This did not last long and I quickly got used to the click wheel in a day or two.


Bluetooth vs. wired earbuds


There are ways to mod the iPod classic or use an adaptor to add Bluetooth support, but the stock iPod classic does not have Bluetooth support. This means I’m stuck with wired earbuds via the 3.5mm headphone jack and don’t get features like noise cancellation or automatic ear detection in the AirPods Pro. The wire can get in the way sometimes. However, I haven’t really found myself missing the AirPods Pro. If anything, listening to my music on the iPod made me appreciate my music even more.


Does it still just work?


Yes! The wow factor is still there. A quick serial number lookup shows my iPod was a late 2009 model which makes it around 14 years old. The thing still works with my M2 Mac mini. Music, audiobooks, videos, podcasts, and photos sync beautifully.


I even had this magical moment where I was playing a podcast on the iPod, and I plugged it in to sync and picked up my iPhone to listen to the same podcast, and just like that, the playback position was already synced to my iPhone. This all happened within seconds and is one of those “I can’t believe it worked” moments. 


Another example of these wow factors is, with the Hold switch on, the click wheel is disabled, this way the click wheel does not get accidentally triggered. I had thought this would also disable the controls on my earbuds, but it doesn’t. I still get to control playback and volume with my earbuds, which if you think about it makes perfect sense. 




With the music I’ve purchased over the years, I have a fairly large library and it’s easy to get music and podcasts onto the iPod. Getting my audiobooks onto the iPod, even those purchased on Audible, was easy too.


It’s not so easy when it comes to videos.


Older video podcasts, like Apple Event videos from 2007 still play on the iPod. However, newer content like my HD movies purchases, can’t sync as they would not play on the iPod.


It took me some time but I found something that works. It’s a macOS app on the App Store called Free MP4 Converter. The app has a paid version but the free one is more than enough to convert the occasional YouTube videos to a format that plays on the iPod classic. With the videos converted, I can simply drag them to the TV app and then sync them to the iPod in Finder.


Overall, using the iPod classic in 2023 with macOS Ventura has some hurdles here and there but they were easy to overcome. In fact, calling them hurdles would make the experience sound difficult. The “it just works” factor is definitely still there. If anything, using the iPod classic has gotten me to enjoy my content more because it frees me from the anxiety of constantly refreshing the YouTube feed for a better recommendation.


In the era of short videos and quick fixes, the iPod classic might just be the thing that a lot of people need.


iPod classic Now Playing screen

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