Gizmodo's Wilson Rothman writes about Apple's current iPod product line and the role of the hard-drive-based iPod Classic. There are few hard-drive players on the market now, and even Apple admits that they're selling fewer of them in favor of iPhones, Nanos, and iPod Touches. There's a dwindling customer base that needs a giant iPod to carry an entire music library around. Flash-based players are smaller, lighter, and have more features to offer than their disk-based counterparts. And there's always the longevity factor. A disk-based player has internal moving parts that will break eventually, while a flash-based player is more durable.
Like Rothman, I have a 160 GB iPod Classic and a 32 GB iPhone. Depending on my destination, I'll take both devices with me when I go out. I can't explain why I need to carry my entire music collection with me at all times. It's come in handy at those times when I've had an urge to hear a particular song or I need to look up a song for reference purposes. Most of the time I listen to a handful of podcasts or music I've recently acquired. I can listen to those things on my iPhone, since I've set up playlists that sync new music to the phone. Yet I carry around my now-clunky (by comparison) iPod Classic anyway. I have a few other reasons besides music hoarding for keeping the Classic around. It keeps a backup copy of my photos, and I've used it to move large files from computer to computer as well.
But my Classic isn't going to last forever. I can hear the hard drive clicking when I start playing an album or a long symphony, and my technical experience tells me that hard drive noises are not a good sign. I knew when I bought the Classic two years ago that it would most likely be my last disk-based player. If Apple made a 128 GB iPod Touch, I would buy it as soon as my Classic served up its last song. I could keep all of my music on it and use it as a web browser and mobile computer just like my iPhone. I wouldn't be as skittish about using a Touch at the gym as I am about my phone. I'd be a mess if either one took an accidental flying jump off the treadmill, but a dead music player is easier to replace than a subsidized phone.