5th-generation iPods to sport Apple scroll-wheel

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
When Apple Computer introduces new versions of its original iPod digital music player later this year, expect them to sport more home-grown components such as an Apple-branded scroll-wheel.



Since forming a division of the company to focus specifically on iPods, sources say that iPod engineers have increased their efforts not only on broadening the line of digital music players, but also on reducing component outsourcing to maintain tighter control of the company's intellectual property.



On the surface, today's iPods appear to be a simple and tightly packaged product of Apple's California design studios. But inside, the players rely on a wide array of components developed by third parties. These include drives from Toshiba, controller chips from PortalPlayer, navigational controls designed by Synaptics, and LCD displays from either Sharp or Samsung.



In working to develop some of its own component solutions -- rather than continue to license them from others -- Apple hopes to gain more control over the iPod and shave costs at the same time. These costs saving measures are likely to be reflected in slightly higher margins for Apple and lower iPod costs for the end consumer.



The iPod's navigational controls will be one of the first components to see such changes, sources have told AppleInsider. By October, Apple is expected to abandon Synaptics as its supplier of iPod scroll-wheels for its white iPods in favor of an in-house solution.



For Synaptics, Apple's move to develop its own iPod scroll-wheel will mark one of the final chapters in its long-standing relationship with the iPod and Mac maker. Earlier this year Apple dropped Synaptics as its supplier of trackpads for both its PowerBook and iBook line of Mac laptops. Apple now uses its own trackpad solution dubbed the Scrolling TrackPad.



Recent comments from Synaptics have offered corroborating evidence of an Apple switch towards an in-house scroll-wheel solution. Despite an expected seasonal surge in iPod demand, Synaptics during its recent financial conference call said it expects revenues to decline 9 to 10 percent during its September quarter and by as much as 22 percent in the December quarter.



Shaw Wu, an analyst for American Technology Research who covers both Apple and Synaptics, also believes Synaptics is vulnerable to imminent technology shifts by Apple.



"While this may come as a surprise due to a seasonal ramp in iPod demand and new cell phone wins, our proprietary checks with industry and channel sources indicate that Synaptics continues to be at risk as Apple moves to an internally developed [scroll-wheel] solution using CY PSOC controllers," the analyst said in a recent research note. Wu estimates that Apple has been a 35 to 40 percent customer for Synaptics.



In related news, reliable sources say fifth-generation iPods could also see major advancements in battery technology. Specifically, Apple is said to be developing an iPod that supports user-replaceable batteries, which the company would market in the price range of $49 to $69. Such a move would also help lower iPod prices and present Apple with an opportunity to generate additional higher-margin battery sales.



Likewise, Apple is reportedly experimenting with several new iPod battery technologies, which have emerged from third parties and promise both extended life-spans and longer runtimes. However, AppleInsider has been unable to confirm with 100 percent certainty that either of the aforementioned battery advancements will make it into the fifth-generation players.



Apple, which has been criticized for the shortcomings of its internal iPod battery solutions, recently reduced the cost of its iPod Battery Replacement Program from $99 to $59.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    What's the real gain here? Was there something Synaptics wasn't giving them that Apple really felt they needed?



    Then there's the problem if malfunctioning. We all remember the trackpad woes when Apple first debuted their trackpad design on powerbooks. It would suck to have the same situation repeated as the 5th generation iPod rolls out the door to thunderous applause, and lots of eager first adopters.



    Apple just loves to kick around the third parties. *sigh*
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Okay... So this means that the iPod 5G will have the same click-wheel as the current generation ipods, but that Apple will develop them within the company. But wait, what will make the 5th Gen different from the current iPod? Will there be ANY structural changes, because thats what the iPod market needs right now, something NEW...
  • Reply 3 of 31
    Quote:

    Originally posted by ThinkDifferent

    Okay... So this means that the iPod 5G will have the same click-wheel as the current generation ipods, but that Apple will develop them within the company. But wait, what will make the 5th Gen different from the current iPod? Will there be ANY structural changes, because thats what the iPod market needs right now, something NEW...



    What if it comes with a new scroll ball function much like the new apple mouse? Replace the button in the center of the scroll wheel with that new apple mouse ball?
  • Reply 4 of 31
    maffrewmaffrew Posts: 166member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mike Moscow

    What if it comes with a new scroll ball function much like the new apple mouse? Replace the button in the center of the scroll wheel with that new apple mouse ball?



    That's what i was thinking. It would be very small and would allow a much bigger screen, but then you'd have to add seperate buttons again, which in a lot of ways is a step backwards.
  • Reply 5 of 31
    haraldharald Posts: 2,152member
    Push straight down for play / pause.



    Scroll up / down and left / right to select an option that belongs in that direction, and then push down to select within a certain timeframe.



    You could do it all with one button, which would be ironic; multibutton mouse, single-button iPod.
  • Reply 6 of 31
    chris cuillachris cuilla Posts: 4,825member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Harald

    Push straight down for play / pause.



    Scroll up / down and left / right to select an option that belongs in that direction, and then push down to select within a certain timeframe.



    You could do it all with one button, which would be ironic; multibutton mouse, single-button iPod.




    Ironic indeed.



    Small ball makes some sense.



    Though last time Steve spoke about this, it sounded like they thought that they had finally "got it right" with the current click wheel.



    I do like seeing them tweak little things pursuing better usability, design, reliability, functionality, cost, etc. No need to give into the "Swiss Army knife" protesters.
  • Reply 7 of 31
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    MANY players have had batteries that were not easily user-replaceable. It's not like that's some unique trait of the iPod.



    But I don't understand how user-replaceable (but still shaped just for iPod) batteries would make the iPod cheaper?



    Unless they don't include a battery at all
  • Reply 8 of 31
    jeriqojeriqo Posts: 9member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Harald

    Push straight down for play / pause.



    Scroll up / down and left / right to select an option that belongs in that direction, and then push down to select within a certain timeframe.



    You could do it all with one button, which would be ironic; multibutton mouse, single-button iPod.




    Oh yeah, so it would take 5min to scroll through your entire library.
  • Reply 9 of 31
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member
    How about an iPod shuffle with scroll ball and 3-line screen?
  • Reply 10 of 31
    Ummm .... I'm thinking with a vPod (video ipod) needing most of it's front for a widescreen format color LCD, the tiny little "squirrel ball" would be a perfect solution ...



    As far as speed of squirrel ball versus. traditional iPod controller, I don't see any difference, in fact the squirrel ball could be even faster ...



    Looks like the iPod line is in for a big makeover ...
  • Reply 11 of 31
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,871member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by nagromme

    MANY players have had batteries that were not easily user-replaceable. It's not like that's some unique trait of the iPod.



    But I don't understand how user-replaceable (but still shaped just for iPod) batteries would make the iPod cheaper?



    Unless they don't include a battery at all




    I don't understand it either. From my own design experience, it would be MORE expensive to do it that way.



    Now an OEM battery with a simple case design is used. That would have to change to a consumer friendly case, that is safer. It would be bulkier and more expensive. The case now has no battery compartment. It sits inside the unit with the components around it. The rear of the case is applied in one piece, and is easily made water resistant. Instead, a compartment will need to be made with an easy battery attachment. The case rear will have to come off easily, or have a battery door. In either case (no pun intended), the user will have to be able to open and close it without damaging the integrity of the seal. This is more complex and more expensive, as well as adding more bulk to the case. Can Apple continue to use SS in its construction if they do this, or will they have to go to plastic for the rear as well?



    I'm not sure it's worth it. But if they manage it, one more complaint will be eliminated. Of course people will now damage the unit when changing batteries.



    You can't get something for nothing.
  • Reply 12 of 31
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,871member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by CosmoNut

    How about an iPod shuffle with scroll ball and 3-line screen?



    Then it wouldn't BE a Shuffle, would it?
  • Reply 13 of 31
    jeriqojeriqo Posts: 9member
    Quote:

    As far as speed of squirrel ball versus. traditional iPod controller, I don't see any difference, in fact the squirrel ball could be even faster ...



    So you think going up and down and up and down with your finger is faster than infinite scrolling ? How about acceleration ?



    Quote:

    How about an iPod shuffle with scroll ball and 3-line screen?



    More likely...
  • Reply 14 of 31
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by melgross

    Then it wouldn't BE a Shuffle, would it?



    Good point. What I meant was...



    Essentially the tiny form factor and capacity of the shuffle with the brains and functionality of its bigger brother the iPod mini. I'd love to see Apple try cramming all that into a case the size of the shuffles, but they've wowed me before and they'll probably do it again.
  • Reply 15 of 31
    clonenodeclonenode Posts: 392member
    I think Apple should come out with an under $50 iPod for kids... the kidPod or iPod Jr.



    It needs to be inexpensive, so I don't worry about my 6 & 4 year old killing it. It needs to be about the size of the current iPods, but with different controls and surfaces.



    I'm looking for a way to let my children play our iTunes purchased music and a shuffle or mini don't match my requirements.
  • Reply 16 of 31
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,871member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by CosmoNut

    Good point. What I meant was...



    Essentially the tiny form factor and capacity of the shuffle with the brains and functionality of its bigger brother the iPod mini. I'd love to see Apple try cramming all that into a case the size of the shuffles, but they've wowed me before and they'll probably do it again.




    I've nothing against the idea. What would it cost though? As much as a mini?
  • Reply 17 of 31
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,871member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by clonenode

    I think Apple should come out with an under $50 iPod for kids... the kidPod or iPod Jr.



    It needs to be inexpensive, so I don't worry about my 6 & 4 year old killing it. It needs to be about the size of the current iPods, but with different controls and surfaces.



    I'm looking for a way to let my children play our iTunes purchased music and a shuffle or mini don't match my requirements.




    You have to watch small kids. They could get the cable wrapped around their neck. Also, the volume would have to be regulated the way thay do it in Europe so that it can't get too loud. Children's ears can be easily damaged by listening through earphones.
  • Reply 18 of 31
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by melgross

    I've nothing against the idea. What would it cost though? As much as a mini?



    Probably drop the 1GB shuffle and replace it with the new one. You'd have a 512MB shuffle for $99, a new 1GB "shuffle plus" for $149, and the 4GB mini at $199.
  • Reply 19 of 31
    macgregormacgregor Posts: 1,434member
    Apple control-freak meter .... pegging out again.



    Regarding the iPod with squirrel ball, I don't think so. The iPod is iconic and I think it is important that as people upgrade to bigger capacities - you assume everyone now will have more music 15 years from now - the user interface should be consistent.



    I see the squirrel ball as great for an iVid where more space for screen is necessary; the clickwheel is two big and by necessity, the number of files on a iVid would be quite a bit less than an iPod and thus requires less time to scroll. 300 videos doesn't need the efficiency of 10,000 songs.



    BTW, What about a squirrel ball under the right hand speakers on the Powerbook?
  • Reply 20 of 31
    jeriqojeriqo Posts: 9member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by MacGregor

    Apple control-freak meter .... pegging out again.



    Regarding the iPod with squirrel ball, I don't think so. The iPod is iconic and I think it is important that as people upgrade to bigger capacities - you assume everyone now will have more music 15 years from now - the user interface should be consistent.



    I see the squirrel ball as great for an iVid where more space for screen is necessary; the clickwheel is two big and by necessity, the number of files on a iVid would be quite a bit less than an iPod and thus requires less time to scroll. 300 videos doesn't need the efficiency of 10,000 songs.



    BTW, What about a squirrel ball under the right hand speakers on the Powerbook?




    I don't see the scrollball in anything going in your pocket.. but that could be an option for the video iPod
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