Few tech devices can possibly hope to gain rival my beloved video games consoles and laptops. If I’m not glued to the latest sports and driving games then I will be surfing the net and satisfying my voracious appetite for reading. But if there was one device over the last couple of years which has rivalled these two perennial favorites of mine in my affection it has been the Apple iPod.

Apple iPod Touch

The digital music player defined the MP3 market much as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s later iPhone and iPad have come to be the dominant devices in their particular strata. If anything the iPod was possibly even more dominant, coming to be regarded in the lexicon of popular language as the short-hand for MP3 player. When it was first released, it was without doubt the coolest gadget available, and became a forerunner of the quality, intuitiveness and stylishness which Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s mobile devices would deliver.

It is sad to note then that the iPod could be on the way out. While the mobile music player is still by far the most popular MP3 player on the market, with tablets and smartphones able to deliver the same functionality and a whole lot more besides, the days of the iPod look rather numbered.

iPod sales slump

While it didn’t make a lot of headlines in the furore over Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s quarterly results, sales of the iPod absolutely plummeted compared to the same period in 2012. Apple sold over 6 million iPods in the latest quarter, which might sound fairly respectable, but this was less than half the 12.7 million it shifted during the same period in the previous calendar year.

Obviously this is a pretty dismal result under any circumstances, but Apple’s other major product lines – despite the overwhelming negative city sentiment towards their sales figures – actually all posted record figures. The iPhone 5 sold over 51 million units, while Apple shifted over 26 million iPads in the same period. The numbers even prompted the CEO of Apple Tim Cook to state that he was “really happy” with the general sales figures that the company had produced.

But presumably Cook is not turning cartwheels regarding the performance of the iPhone. Despite the fact that the player can still be viewed as very much a companion to the hugely popular iTunes software, the likelihood that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will keep the once hugely popular MP3 player going when it is selling just over 10 percent of the stock that the iPhone is shifting, at what one must presume is a much smaller return per unit, seems debatable.

Cook even gave a conference call earlier this week during which he conceded that the company was well aware that the iPod was a “declining business” even before releasing these figures. Although Apple has made alterations to the iPod Touch fourth generation during the last twelve months, the previous year saw no new iPod releases and no significant changes to Apple’s iPod arsenal.

It seems clear that with the iPhone selling over 50 million units that anyone who purchased one is going to use it to store their music, rather than buying a separate dedicated device to achieve this task. Thus, has the iPod become obsolete and will Apple discontinue it during the next twelve months?

This might seem an almost facile question with an obviously affirmative answer. But the reality is that we may actually see one more iPod release in an attempt to squeeze more value out of this iconic product before it is finally put out to pasture.

New iPod staff hired and beta testing

Such a presumption is supported by the fact that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been hiring staff with the intention of putting them to work on what one would assume will be a 5th generation iPod Touch. Among the positions currently listed within Apple’s United States recruitment section are ‘New Product Operations Program Manager’ and ‘Product Quality engineer for the iPod Product Operations team’; obviously indicating that Apple are hardly likely to be ditching the iPod in the short-term.

Aside from the fact that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may feel that the device still has some juice in its tank, the iPod also serves the purpose of providing almost a beta test environment for features that the corporation may wish to include in some of its more premium devices. For example, a major feature offered by the iPod has been its fitness tracking facility, which is already mooted to be a major emphasis of the forthcoming iWatch. Furthermore, it is thought that the solar paneling which will feature in the iPhone 6 could be tried out and in the iPod before Apple uses it in its smartphone range.

Thus, although many consumers have fond memories of the iPod, it seems that ‘memories’ is unfortunately precisely the correct way to describe our relationship with the most popular digital music player of all-time. But we should find out in the next twelve months whether there are any legs left in the iPod, and if so how much.