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Is it worth reviving your old iPod Classic?

It turns out there's still plenty of value in this iconic bit of retro tech, especially if you're heading off on a long flight. 

Last updated: 22 March 2023


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In a world of smartphones and constant internet connectivity, an offline media player seems a little redundant. But with an overseas holiday on the horizon, and a phone whose battery isn't what it used to be, I wanted to see if my humble iPod Classic was still up to the task.

It turns out an iPod still has its place in 2023, as a device that can partly remove your dependency on a smartphone for entertainment. Even today, an iPod is still a perfect travel companion.

The pros

Despite being close to 15 years old, the iPod still has almost to 30 hours of battery life. Not only is this enough for all but the longest international hauls, it means I can put my phone (which barely lasts the day) aside, ensuring that it won't be dead on arrival at my destination.

I'm also not dependent on an internet connection, something that isn't ubiquitous despite what we've grown used to. It could be due to coverage, or costly roaming fees, but mobile data isn't always an option, especially mid-flight.

Now yes, you can play use your smartphone for offline listening, but background processes can still quickly drain the battery. That's not an issue for my iPod which is primarily designed for just one thing.

While there are advantages to the endless supply of songs offered by streaming services, the content glut can be overwhelming. An iPod is limited to music you own which makes browsing considerably easier. You don't need to dive in with a particular plan and may even enjoy coming across an album you haven't listened to in a while.

Making modifications

If you're sick of the limitations imposed by iTunes, you can try installing a custom, open-source operating system. I went with Rockbox, one of the more popular alternatives for the iPod Classic.

It removes the requirement for music management software so you can just drag and drop files and expands support for almost all file formats, including lossless audio such as FLAC. There are even a bunch of unique interfaces available for free.

iPod Classic with Rockbox

A slightly banged up, 160GB iPod Classic running Rockbox with a custom interface.

The cons

Of course, there are some hardware drawbacks to using legacy technology. Bluetooth, for example, wasn't added until the 2nd Gen iPod Touch, so chances are you're stuck with wired connectivity alone which may not suit your headphones.

While my iPod is still in good working order, it may not be long before the hard drive conks out or the battery stops holding a charge. Replacing these parts is possible, but tricky, and may even result in irreparable damage.

Ripping CDs and manually organising a digital music library is a slow process and may not even be an option, as it's getting harder and harder to find computers with a disc drive

There are also disadvantages to using an offline device. Ripping CDs and manually organising a digital music library is a slow process and may not even be an option, as it's getting harder and harder to find computers with a disc drive. You may have even more trouble finding podcasts that aren't restricted to streaming or playback through specific apps.

But the pros outweigh the cons. Though I can't see my trusty iPod Classic replacing a smartphone and streaming for day to day use, it will be my travel buddy until it completely kicks the bucket.

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