The iPod Has Been Relegated to the Back of the Apple Store, But with Good Reason

Looking for a new iPod? You may have to search a bit to find them during your next visit to an Apple Retail Store. Following up on reports from earlier this month, Apple Stores have now moved non-iOS iPods (that is, the iPod shuffle and the iPod nano) to the "Accessories" section of the store, which in most locations is positioned along the right or left wall near the back.

ipods apple store accessoriesImage via Adam Christianson.

Apple stopped selling the legendary iPod classic late last year, so you won't find those in any store. The iPod touch is also absent from the Accessories section, but that's because its nearly full participation in the iOS ecosystem has enabled it to keep its place on dedicated tables in the front of the store.

For longtime Apple fans, the relegation of the iPod to the same level as a USB cable or a set of batteries is a bit bittersweet. Although Apple had already started to turn things around with the introduction of the iMac, it was the iPod line that truly saved the company in the early 2000s, and enabled it move on to the bigger and arguably better products that have now supplanted the iPod.

ipod apple store accessories sectionImage via Adam Christianson.

But going beyond sentiment, the iPod is today a microscopic portion of Apple's overall business. As illustrated by Asymco's Horace Dediu, once more than half of the company's overall revenue, iPod revenue is now hidden inside a general "other" category, which itself is virtually insignificant when compared to the ever-growing might of the iPhone, Apple's growing services business, and even the smaller but steady Mac revenue.

asymco apple revenue by productChart via Asymco.

The move of the iPods may also represent logistical necessity. Many of Apple's retail stores were designed and built when the company was much smaller, both in terms of customers and product offerings. Except for the company's select few massive flagship stores, most Apple Retail locations just don't have the room to accommodate new and future products like the Apple Watch, the expansion of the MacBook line to include the 12-inch Retina model, and whatever form Apple's upcoming "Apple TV" takes. Reserving an entire table, even tucked away in the corner of the store, for a product that moved so few units just doesn't make much sense.

apple store brisbaneOnly the newest and largest flagship Apple Stores have the space to properly showcase all of the company's products (Image via Apple Retail).

Even after getting the iPods out of the way, Apple is still looking for more room on its stores' front tables, and has also recently done away with space-wasting iPad "smart displays" which were previously positioned next to each product to provide customers with pricing info and technical specifications. The company is now utilizing a dedicated "Pricing App" loaded on each device that provides that same information while using much less tabletop real estate.

But there may also be some positive results from this change for iPod fans: iPods will now be easier to buy. Most TMO readers now know that Apple Stores in major cities are extremely busy, and that trying to quickly pick up a new charging cable or check out the latest products during a weekday lunch break or the early evening rush is an ordeal that could turn anyone claustrophobic.

Under the old layout, customers interested in picking up an iPod nano or iPod shuffle had to choose their model from the table display, flag down an Apple Specialist, and then wait for them to retrieve the product from the store's "back of house" inventory or, increasingly, from a locked drawer near the iPod display table. During a busy period at an Apple Store, that process could take quite a long time.

Now, users can browse the selection of iPods from the Accessories shelves, make a choice, and simply pick it up and take it to an Apple Store staff member for checkout. Even faster, customers using the Apple Store App can use EasyPay to check out themselves on their iPhone, allowing for quick and easy iPod purchases no matter how busy the store is.

While the iPod touch may be relatively safe thanks to its role as an iOS-enabled device for those who can't have a cellular contract, this recent move to relegate the remaining iPods to the Accessories section may indeed be the beginning of the end for the product line. But there's also likely quite a bit of time between now and when the iPod officially meets its end, so don't panic during your next Apple Store visit if you don't see your favorite nano or shuffle in their usual location at the front of the store. Just take a few steps to find them in the back.