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Apple's IPhone Outsells the IPod in Half the Time

Ads for iPhone 5 abound at an Apple store in New York

Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Ads for iPhone 5 abound at an Apple store in New York

A week from now, on July 23rd, Apple (AAPL) will hold its quarterly earnings call. While most attention will be on the iPhone and the iPad lines, a third product line will experience a milestone of sorts.

As Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis pointed out recently, the iPod is about to be eclipsed by the iPhone in total cumulative sales. At the end of the last quarter, 375 million iPods had been sold worldwide since the device was introduced in 2001. The iPhone, which came out in 2007, had sold 356 million by the same point. Given that Apple sold 37 million iPhones in the previous quarter, compared to nearly 6 million iPods, it seems a safe bet that the iPhone will overtake the iPod in cumulative sales. It will have done so in half the time.

There’s a larger issue at play here, says Evans, which has to do with the role music does (or doesn’t) play in tech these days. “Music attracts a lot of a attention, but it’s actually become a relatively unimportant part of the landscape,” he says. “With streaming and the decline of ownership, there are few barriers to switching, and every device has a choice of music services. So music is a commodity.”

What we don’t know is the device breakdown—how many iPod Shuffles Apple is selling vs. Nanos vs. the Classic, aka the big white one with the dial. The itty bitty players may still be healthy. They’re cheap and people like them for jogging. But the overall trend is clear: Music has never been less important to a tech company’s bottom line. And since music is the iPod’s raison d’être, it’s getting passed by.

Grobart is a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek and the managing editor of Bloomberg Digital Video. Follow him on Twitter @samgrobart.

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