Apple iPod shuffle decoder’s unused features include WMA support, LCD screen output, and FM tuner

“A look under the hood of Apple Computer’s iPod Shuffle shows the company is making music with two chips,” John G. Spooner reports for CNET News. “IDC analyst IdaRose Sylvester recently dissected a 512MB iPod Shuffle, purchased at retail, in order to determine what the tiny music player is made of. Her report, published earlier this month, reveals that Apple used two main chips spread over two separate circuit boards to foster the compact design of the music player, which was introduced in January. But despite the Shuffle’s tiny size, Apple still left room for a relatively high profit margin.”

“The Shuffle that Sylvester dismantled was based around two main chips–an MP3 decoder from SigmaTel and a flash memory chip from Samsung–which means the device uses many fewer chips than hard-drive-based iPods, she wrote,” Spooner reports. “The MP3 decoder, mounted to one board, takes charge of a multitude of functions. Its handles music, including the playing of MP3, AAC and Audible format files. At the same time, it harbors a USB 2.0 converter, SDRAM for buffering data and a headphone driver. The chip can also handle Windows Media music file decoding, voice recording, sending images to an LCD screen and an FM tuner, she wrote. Those features go unused in the Shuffle, though.”

Full article with more details here.

26 Comments

  1. Jobs is pretty good at removing features too – iPod Firewire cable seems to be sold out BTW on the Apple Store – 7-8 wait for one and the power brick is even longer …

  2. Brando/Nathan,

    I was thinking the exact same thing! Imagine if Apple made an optional lanyard that had a screen and FM radio in it that you just snap your iPod Shuffle into and voila! you got a screen and a radio.

    That would be freakin’ brilliant! Opening it up to third party screens, FM tuners, etc. would be even more brilliant.

    Magic word: wish. I think I just did!

  3. I do not have one WMA file that works properly on my Mac… not ONE. So the only reason I guess Jobs would add WMA support is to entice more PC users… I believe the regular iPod also has WMA support built in, but not turned on.

  4. Tyk,
    I don’t think that feature is “turned on” in the iPod shuffle, just like the other iPods, it just happens to be a capability that is in the chip but not used. If people want to use their WMA files, isn’t there something that will convert those to mp3 format in iTunes?

  5. I don´t think Apple would ever add WMA support for an iPod…
    what’s the point? They wanna get Microsoft out of the way and adding support for WMA would only help Microsoft.
    How can Apple benefit from that?

  6. WMA, RM, RAM should all die. Too much pron in WMV though. WMA users should switch to a real format, and I don’t mean Real format … uh, you know what I mean. I don’t expect WMA to die though, upteen billions of monopoly-money should see to that.

  7. Sorry, it is slightly off-topic…

    Does anyone else who has used both an HD iPod and Shuffle to listen to the same songs from the same computer feel that iPod Shuffle has exceptionally “clean” sound?

    Maybe I just had it up louder, but it seemed I was hearing parts in the music and vocal I had never noticed and that the vocal seemed very true.

    I was wondering if maybe Apple “kicked-up” some frequencies to make up for the small size.

    It just doesn’t sound little.

    ~M

  8. In the keynote Steve Jobs did say that they experimented with the Flash-based iPod’s design so it is likely that at some point a version with a screen did exist. The same chip could have been used for that.

    WMA on the iPod is a non-issue. iTunes features unprotected WMA to AAC or MP3 conversion so anyone with a large library or ripped or stolen music can allready use it in their iPod. If Microsoft and its hardware partners are not going to feature AAC playback in their music products then why should Apple feature native WMA playback on theirs?

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