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Mystery chip found inside talking iPod Shuffle's earphones

Controller chip - or covert IP protection part?

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Discovery of an as-yet-unidentified chip inside a dissected pair of new iPod Shuffle earphones has sparked rumours that the control-less player can only be driven by Apple-approved cans.

iPod Shuffle 3G

The mystery chip's located underneath the controller's three buttons

The chip – which carries the marking “8A83E3” on its surface – is, according to online reports, located underneath one of the three in-line click buttons that control how users access and play music on the latest iPod Shuffle.

But why is discovery of the chip so significant? If the chip confirms to the player that the connected controller is authorised by Apple, it locks out other companies from selling bargain basement Shuffle-compatible earphones.

Ordinary headphones don’t work with the latest Shuffle, because they don’t have the in-line click system required to control the player.

However, that hasn’t stopped third-party firms, such as Scosche Industries, from developing alternative cans for the new Shuffle.

But the price of such goods could be affected if manufacturers first have to license authentication technology from Apple in order to make their cans work with the player.

Such a move wouldn't be without precedent: past iPods have contained authentication chips to prevent knock-off docks ripping off Apple technology. That might be good for the protection of the company's intellectual property rights, but it doesn't help punters whose old docks stop working fully when they're connected to a new iPod.

That said, it's entirely possible that the chip is simply there to ensure that in-line single-, double- and triple-clicks are signalled to the player. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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