The last iPod off the production line? Exploring an iPod classic built 6 months after it was discontinued.

The last iPod off the production line? Exploring an iPod classic built 6 months after it was discontinued.

iPod classic was discontinued on 9th September 2014 (without any official announcement from Apple, and at the same time the Apple Watch was unveiled to the world..). The only statement about the end of iPod was Tim Cook’s answer to an audience question at WSJ.D:

"We couldn’t get the parts any more, not anywhere on Earth," he insisted. "It wasn’t a matter of me swinging the ax, saying 'what can I kill today'.
"The engineering work was massive, and the number of people who wanted it very small. I felt there were reasonable alternatives."

On the inside of the rear panel is a date stamp – probably when that individual component was manufactured (which would be earlier than when the iPod came off the production line of course). The hard drive also has a manufacture date printed on its label. The only way to determine exactly when the iPod itself was finished and sent out the factory is to decode its serial number, which I’ve not done before because that sounds like work

I had an iPod in recently for an SSD upgrade. The client said the hard drive had died. This is his iPod:

An iPod classic opened to reveal its internal components. A date code is visible printed on the inside of the rear panel, reading 2015-01-22

Which, of course, doesn’t make any sense! These weren’t made in 2015! I checked the hard drive next (which had in fact died, as expected):

 An opened iPod classic with the hard drive removed and identified. The hard drive's manufacture date is shown as 01 FEB 2014

That’s just about on the right side of the 9th, but Toshiba getting that drive to the Apple factory would eat up those days alone, so this definitely wasn’t sold before the 9th. Unlike when Apple killed iPod touch in 2022, it wasn’t a ‘while stocks last’ situation either, so I don’t think this iPod was ever ‘sold’.

The Apple store on September 9th vs September 10th, 2014. Apple also did a bit of UI styling towards the flatter, matter designs still used now. Apparently, this was also when Apple loaded U2 on everyone’s devices automatically (check if you still have it!)


I think this was a replacement unit, after the original owner had it sent back to Apple for a repair.

There’s a few other oddities about the insides of this iPod. If you’ve opened up one before, see if you can spot them! I’ve found three, but let me know if you notice others:

 The motherboard of an iPod classic, showing the features

  • There’s no code printed on the LCD back plate, and no QA signature
  • The RAM has a sticker applied
  • The RAM chip is the part used earlier in the iPod classic’s life, not the revised part*

After persuading Google Translate to identify the text on the label, it seems that Liu Nannan QA’d this unit. I can’t imagine another reason for a name label to be in the iPod, and since the usual QA mark is absent, it makes sense that this is the equivalent. But I’ve never seen one before… maybe, the whole thing is a fake?

Unlikely. No reverse engineered iPod motherboards have been found on the market that I know of – and I’d guess they’d be relatively popular products if they were around. So it would be quite crazy if this is one. Looking at the marks on the ICs on the board, they’re all the normal models. The connectors are all the usual part numbers too….

……."We couldn’t get the parts any more, not anywhere on Earth,"……..

Some of the parts in iPod classic, like the LCD, I believe are designed specifically for it. Others, like the RAM, audio and power ICs, the cable connectors and all the little resistors and capacitors, will of course be off the shelf components. So what parts did Apple have trouble sourcing? For its specially designed parts, they can just place another order. For the off-the-shelf ones, many are still available even today.

A close up of the power management chip of an iPod classic A close-up of the I/O chip of an iPod classic Close-up of the RAM module of an iPod classic
A close-up of the CPU of an iPod classic A close-up of the audio chip of an iPod classic

Top row from left: Power IC, I/O IC, RAM

Bottom row from left: CPU, audio IC


Yes, these are taken with a phone jammed against a scope, its how professionals do it.



The Toshiba 1.8 inch hard drive might have been the single weak link in the production line – by its manufacture date it seems like it was the bottleneck. The 1.8 inch form factor was used very little in devices – Apple’s own Macbook Air and iPod classic were probably the biggest users. No advances in the form factor really happened post 2009 – curiously similar to when iPod classic stopped getting hardware updates. It seems Apple didn’t want to re-engineer the storage system to serial ATA or eMMC, and perhaps Toshiba wanted to cut the unprofitable product from its catalogue – I doubt Apple put up much of a fight when they got the call from Toshiba.

I’m not sure when Apple stopped offering repair services for iPod classic. Apple’s general policy is 5 years of availability after discontinuation, but might be 7 depending on if you go to Apple itself or an authorised service provider. I’m not privy to how those schemes work, so I don’t know when Apple actually ran out of parts for iPod classic, and when they stopped offering those parts to other repair providers.

But it certainly seems that Apple kept the orders in for some of the classic’s components for a decent while after they killed the product. I don’t know of a way to check when the motherboard itself was assembled, but the serial number of any Apple device can be handily decoded to give some details about its birth:

  • The first two characters are a factory code. Most factories specialise in specific products
  • The next character is a year identifier
  • The next two are the week of production
  • The next three are the unique identifier
  • The last three are a product configuration code (effectively matching to a SKU)

For this iPod:

 The diagnostic system information of an iPod classic.

               Q2 516 07Y 9ZU

  • It was built in 2015 (because it certainly wasn’t 2005)
  • It was built in April
  • It’s a 160GB ‘7th’ generation

Which is half a year after Apple quietly discontinued iPod classic. Did this iPod use a rear panel from the last batch that was ever made? How many parts did Apple order after September 2014, and what parts were they? Unless insider information gets out, the only way to figure out answers is to check iPods and see. Many millions were sold, but as time passes the number of iPods that are in ‘circulation’ drops. Some get destroyed or lost, or added to collections. Some may get found or dug out of drawers, and hopefully those, along with others that are in use, can be checked. Using the serial decoding technique doesn’t require disassembly thankfully.

But the factory code of this iPod isn’t one that’s been identified before (at least by B S Magnet et al.) Almost all iPod classics (go check yours!) were from factory 8K. Some factory codes are specifically for repairs/rebuilt devices, so perhaps it’s one of those. If you have an Apple device with a serial starting Q2

While intensely comparing all these serial numbers, I also noticed that the etching on iPod classics subtly varies between units:

A comparison of the etching on iPod classics. The variation of the exact placement of symbols and text is marked

Commonly you may notice that the regulatory marks on one iPod (or anything else) are different to another of the same model – that’s just different global markers requiring different markings. But tiny differences like the thickness of the graphics or the position relative to the rest are slightly different. But of course they would be – the factory does its best, but nothing is made perfectly. I’ve even seen an iPod with the etching wonky! QA wasn’t paying attention that afternoon.

 A comparison of two different 4th generation iPods. The etching on the right hand iPod is askew

Other than the internal quirks and date codes, nothing makes this iPod stand out against any other. Before opening it, I had no suspicions that it was post-discontinuation at all. If you’ve never bothered to investigate your iPod’s serial number (why would you?), give it a go. The date system is fairly easy – the year code (3rd character) will start at 9 for 7th gens from 2009, then wrap back to 0 for 2010 and go up from there. I do wonder where the last iPod to roll of the line is. Someone has to have it (or, tragically may have discarded it). When was the conveyor belt finally turned off? If you open an iPod and beat April 2015, let me know and I’ll buy you a pint or something.



*Interestingly this iPod uses a RAM chip that I’ve only seen in earlier units – classics from 2013 or so and later use a different chip. Obviously with the same specifications, but likely from a different vendor. Perhaps the original Samsung chips were swapped for cheaper alternatives during the lifecycle, but Apple had to go back to Samsung when the other supplier dropped the chip as a product.

**The new rear casings I get have their own serials on them, which then of course don’t match the motherboard’s serial number once they’re installed as a replacement part. If you have an iPod and the rear casing serial and the motherboard serial don’t match, then don’t worry that you’ve been scammed/got a fake etc, its likely that its just been repaired (by someone who isn’t Apple).

***Although interestingly in some service manuals used by authorised providers, when a laptop motherboard replacement is necessary the manual advises the service provider to use the original back plate of the laptop, and just write the new motherboard serial number on the inside of the back cover. I’ve not come across a device that has had this done (be that a laptop or iPod, as it might have been advised for those too!)

****Oh no! The serial number of the iPod is fully exposed in this blog and not obfuscated! Keeping your serial number secret isn’t necessary. A serial number can’t be used to do anything at all really, other than find out what model its for using an online search tool. Given how serials are structured, it wouldn’t be impossible to just guess a valid one anyway, if knowing serials had an advantage. If you’re selling something, posting images for support in a forum, or whatever, don’t worry about blacking out your serial. Pay more attention to any reflections on glossy screens or edges of the frame that you could crop – the amount of gross bare feet or half-naked photo-takers is hilarious



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