It might not generate the buzz it once did, but Apple’s iPod line continues to lead the portable media player market. The iPod “commands a staggering” 72 percent of the market for standalone music players, according to new research from NPD.

As published exclusively by AppleInsider, the report shows the portable media player market continues to “contract amidst cannibalization” from smartphones. Since last December, the market has shrunk by 33 percent.

NPD’s Benjamin Arnold believes further contraction should be expected. One reason for this is current generation iPhones “are encroaching even further on one of the flash memory-based iPods’ traditional strongholds: exercise.”

iPod classic

iPod classic

As AppleInsider notes:

The mid-range iPhone 5c boasts a tougher polycarbonate shell, and the new M7 motion coprocessor in the flagship iPhone 5s adds the ability to accurately capture an enormous amount of data when working out — both attractive updates for fitness buffs looking to trim the number of devices they are forced to care for.

Arnold says that there is still room for iPods in the marketplace, however.

He says the iPod nano, for example, will continue to appeal to many because of its smaller size and weight. The iPod shuffle is also appealing because of its low price, $49.

iPod nano

iPod nano

Finally, Arnold believes “the growing high-quality audio trend may trigger” a resurgence for the iPod classic. Last updated in 2009, the iPod classic is the only hard disk-based iPod on the market.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the iPod line going forward. I still believe there is a market for these type of portable media players, although I’m not quite sure there is room for all four models.

The iPod touch, in particular, looks to be on shaky ground given the emergence of the iPad mini and mid-priced iPhone 5c. The least expensive iPod touch model is $229, for example, compared to $299 for the first generation iPad mini. This price difference doesn’t sound quite right, in my humble opinion.

Do you think iPods still have a place in our lives?