Apple to say bye-bye to iPod click wheel?

“If a recent patent filing is any indication, Apple Computer may abandon the iconic wheel that has become virtually synonymous with its popular iPod music players,” Troy Wolverton reports for The San Jose Mercury News.

Wolverton reports, “The company had previously explored replacing the click wheel with a virtual one as part of a touch-sensitive display. But now Apple appears to be looking at a third option: a touch-sensitive frame surrounding the display. Rather than click a physical button or press a virtual one on the screen, users would touch an area on the frame to operate their iPod.”

“iPod designers face a challenge in trying to create a device with as large a screen as possible while still providing an array of functions and an easy way to access them, Apple noted in the patent application, filed in June but not published on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site until Thursday. The problem with touch-sensitive screens is that they usually generate virtual buttons or windows that ‘overlay the content being displayed,’ the company said. This new approach may solve that problem,” Wolverton reports.

Wolverton reports, “Click wheel or no, Apple’s filing also hints at another interesting feature in this full-screen iPod: a sensor that would determine whether to display images and text vertically or horizontally depending on how the user was holding the gadget. The touch-sensitive controls would also change based on the device’s orientation.”

Full article here.


  1. If true this would eliminate the major flaw of a “vitual” click wheel or touch screen display on an iPod.

    A smudged, fingerprinted display, unless one wore gloves.

    Also, it would immediately make every other music player look like an aoutmoded piece of junk.

  2. I highly doubt the iPod will lose the click-wheel.. If this patent ever comes to fruition (the majority of patents Apple applies for don’t,) it would most likely be marketed as a video device in addition to the regular iPods.

    Steve Jobs talked about this before… Music and video consuming habits are completely different… So it would make sense that they design an entirely different device to better suit video and not just alter the (music) iPod as we know it.

  3. If this patent ever comes to fruition (the majority of patents Apple applies for don’t,)

    Agreed. This is either a ruse, or Apple just filing away an idea for future use.

    Think about it. Wouldn’t it be rather awkward to thumb-click around the screen frame of a regular iPod? The ergonomics aren’t there, and you’d still smudge the screen. Very un-Apple like.

    Then again Apple has surprised us before. Maybe the rumored iPhone will have frame buttons.

  4. Current iPods can be easily operated (volume, pause, forward, reverse) while in your jacket pocket and without looking, with one finger. I’d hate to lose that with any future design. I think that’s why Apple abandoned the 3G-style buttons and went back to the original button layout.

  5. Another possibility is that Apple wants to cover with patents all the viable ways to virtually control hand held devices before presenting their final solution. (At least all the ways Apple engineers can’t think of.) The reason being that if (when) the new product becomes the runaway hit that other companies will want to copy, other companies will be sh*t-outa-luck to find even a close proximity of the Apple solution.

  6. In other words, there’s no way we mere mortals can deduce at this time which of the patents contains the Jobs’ golden solution. We will just have to wait to see.

    By the way, as far as screen smudging issue that leodavinci brings up, (which truely IS an issue) it seems to me that earlier this year someone in the rumour mill claimed that Apple had found a way to do on-screen virtual control with the fingers in close proximity to the surface of the screen but not touching. Does anybody else remember this?

  7. Smudges, smudges, smudges…
    Scratches, scratches, scratches…

    Why do I get the feeling that this is going to happen? Espcially the scratches if Apple uses that soft plastice like they did on the 1st nano.


  8. Mark do you really think a company like Apple would not address fingerprints and scratches with a touch sensitive device? This isn’t a small detail. I’m sure they’d have put some major thought into it

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