The Future of iPods and iTunes

The iTunes Store app icon

If I could have one wish fulfilled from Apple this fall, it would be a new and substantially improved iTunes for Mac. Here’s what I would like:

  • Fragment the content found in iTunes into a few separate apps
  • Focus iTunes on entertainment content
  • Have a new app (if necessary) that manages iOS devices apart from iTunes

The reason iTunes is the way we have it now goes back to a time before the iPhone. iTunes came about to sell music, but then the iPod came out and iPods became the main thrust of the app. When we consumed music, podcasts, shows and movies in equal parts on our Macs and iPods, iTunes worked like a charm to manage everything it would from the one app. Games were not around. Apps for iDevices came after the iPhone. Pictures were exclusively managed through apps other than iTunes. You get the idea.

The iPhone changed everything. It stood to reason that iTunes would be the place Macs managed all the iPhone’s needs, since the iPod was managed in iTunes before it. Who knew then what the user experience would become?

So, remember when the marketing slogan for the iPod was “1,000 songs in your pocket.”? That sounded great at the time. How about now? That selling point doesn’t sound so hot today, does it. The best selling point isn’t a device that just manages local music (or photos we took with a third party camera that we then put on an iPod).

iPhones and iPads don’t have much in common with iPods, which is abundantly clear in 2014. Based on our use cases, we expect the iPhone to be a mini Mac of sorts: giving us all the computer power we’d ever want in our pocket. A thousand songs? Nah, how about, “A Mac in your pocket.” That is essentially what many consumers would like. And that is essentially what the iPhone and iPad are.

My thinking is that iOS devices have separate apps for iBooks, podcasts, listening to music, shopping for music, photos, contacts, et cetera. Why can’t the more powerful computer, the Mac, have a similar yet feature-rich management with a suite of apps for these separate use cases? This would look like unique apps for specific features.

For instance, put all things iBooks related in the iBooks app, and all things music related in iTunes. From a certain point of view, the one I have, it seems like a no brainer.

The reason I think this would be great is that iTunes is long in the tooth. a lot of users hardly bother to use the Mac version now, as it feels tedious and convoluted to manage iOS devices in iTunes there. It’s easy enough to manage our media right out of the iDevice, and a great number of people consume their music and other media solely through their i-thingy.

The experience of a honed iTunes on the Mac would be in a better position to compete with the other music services, like Spotify. iTunes, being the native app, could offer features that are still very appealing (even addicting) to people that also carry iPads and iPhones. People still want great music listening experiences while they work, and iTunes should facilitate this better at the desk. iTunes on the Mac could expand music services and offer new and advanced features ahead of iOS. The potential of making iTunes on the Mac the expanded full-featured entertainment app is tremendous.

Do I think I will see wish fulfillment? Not really. I think that many people want to see iTunes improved, but we don’t have consensus on the best future for iTunes.

There is one thing I would like to predict though: Around the time the iPod Classic is discontinued, Apple will have a new product released that will fill the void of iPods as we know them. That new device, meant to fill the iPod void, might a wearable such as an iWatch. In theory, it could replace iPod Nanos, Shuffles, and Classics because its mobility outweighs its need for data space. The kicker would be if cloud services were more readily useful on an iWatch, consumers might not need the storage space we’ve come to rely on in iPods.

These are just some random personal thoughts I’ve had around for awhile. If you have your own wish list for Apple, let’s see them in a comment. Thank you for indulging geeky daydreams.

Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.