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Apple Builds Authentication Into iPod shuffle Earphones?

Gordon Kelly


CONFIRMED: Authentication Built Into iPod shuffle Earphones

There will hopefully be some praise coming Apple's way tomorrow when it details the highly anticipated iPhone OS 3.0 platform, but until then it is time for some more deserved criticism...

Further digging itself into a hole following the ill-thought out new iPod shuffle is talk of some quite simply mind blowing selfishness. Emerging from boingboing, it seems the crazy decision to remove controls from the player itself and put them onto the earphones had another major motivation: cash.

Apple may yet refute this but it is looking increasingly likely it has implemented an 'authentication chip' into the new inline earphones so that only earphones certified by the company can be used with the player. Consequently no pre-existing inline headphone control adaptors are said to work and the cost of making Apple certified earphones will then inevitably have to be passed onto the end user.

Boingboing even believes it has located the DRM chip itself (shown above) but is unable to verify at this stage.

Of course the bigger question in all this is: with iPods having a near 70 per cent MP3 player market share should this approach be widely adopted in future iPod models then it could, at a stroke, assert massive control over the earphone/headphone sector. It seems implausible that Apple would go this far but then again, it is Apple...

Watch this space.

UPDATE: It's true! Bloggers Engadget managed to chat with V-Moda, a shuffle third party earphone maker and it confirmed an authentication chip is indeed "required to enable to volume control functionality with the new shuffle (as well as the latest gen of iPod and MacBooks)."

Is that four horsemen I see flying above me...?


via boingboing

Dark of Day

March 16, 2009, 8:35 am

if so ..anti trust ruling please EU


March 16, 2009, 9:58 am

I hope it's just another tabloid rumour, like they've found some mysterious chip and instantly assumed the worst.

Google puhhleeease make an mp3 player, Google should be the new Apple for civilised world (EU) and sensible people.


March 16, 2009, 10:14 am

Edit: It seems that this is true.

So far everything has gone crap with the new shuffle.

Steve stepped down and all hell broke loose.


March 16, 2009, 11:29 am

Instead of being the iPod Shuffle it's becoming the iSuck.


March 16, 2009, 11:45 am

@Randy: Google is just Microsoft 2.0 - I don't feel very comfy seeing them spread out into all markets.

Stewart Clark

March 16, 2009, 11:47 am

I have already decided that when I replace my Ipod it will not be with another Ipod. 3 reasons I do not like being told what I can or cannot do with something that I have paid for, I want a memory card slot and, preferably, a removable battery.


March 16, 2009, 12:19 pm

If Apple try to do something like this with the rest of the range then I will no longer buy any more iPods. I've bought about 4 or 5 so far over the years and I will NOT have Apple dictate what earphones I can and can't use!


March 16, 2009, 12:46 pm

I spy potential abuse of a dominant position - Article 82 EC. I hope the European Commission gets its teeth into Apple like it did with Microsoft.


March 16, 2009, 12:53 pm

I am shocked by this article. Not by the fact that Apple might have put a DRM chip into its last Shufle, but by the speculative aspect: this is speculation based on someone's else speculation. And you call this journalism? My God! You write:

"it is looking increasingly likely it {Apple} has implemented an 'authentication chip' into the new inline earphones". On what evidence do you base your "it is looking increasingly likely"? Just because some half-informed techy found a chip he could not identify in a new piece of equipment? This chip could be so many things (yes, including a DRM chip), how does he know what it is doing? On the picture, there is even a question: "what do you do, 8A83E3?". This is a clear enough indication that the original writter doesn't know what he is talking about. And you even write: "Boingboing even believes it has located the DRM chip itself (shown above) but is unable to verify at this stage". Obviously, you are not too concerned with TR's credibility...You could have reported the FACTS: an unknown chip has been discovered in the iPod Shuffle's earphones. While it can be anything, some say it could be a DRM chip to forbid use on non-Apple earphones". But you judge before even trying to understand ("Further digging itself into a hole following the ill-thought out new iPod shuffle is talk of some quite simply mind blowing selfishness. Emerging from boingboing, it seems the crazy decision to remove controls from the player itself and put them onto the earphones had another major motivation: cash). Frankly, look at Apple's balance sheet: would a company with more than $25bn in cash (Yahoo finance, http://finance.yahoo.com/q/... take the risk to alienate its customers by locking them with low margins items such as earphones? I certainly do not know what that chip is and I can't exclude anything, but let's have a look at what Apple is and then you can decide if this DRM story makes any sense:

1) Apple has &#22425bn in Cash on its balance sheet,

2) Apple goes for high margin items: it sells high-end computers, PMP players and smartphones,

3) its strategy has always been to go after the high-end of the market.

4) it has favored open technologies in the past, where it could (FreeBSD, Darwin, WebKit, etc...),

5) to balance point 4 and before you mention it: yes, it has put DRM in place in its line of players and its iTS music store, but this decision stems from its contracts with the music majors. Apple tried to get rid of the DRM as soon as it could (remember Apple was the 1st to sell DRM-free MP3 tracks with EMI back in 2007),

6) the PR nightmare that would result from such a stupid decision is certainly not worth the money Apple could make on earphones.

Do you think that low-end, low margins earphones fit in this strategy? I am not sure.

What I am sure is that Trusted Reviews is less and less trustworthy.

The Doctor

March 16, 2009, 1:35 pm

I've always thought that companies reflect the nature of the people who run them (Ryanair, for example) so it's no surprise that Apple is innovative, excellent at selling its products but is still a nasty company.


March 16, 2009, 1:59 pm

let's celebrate the idea that the new ipod range is innovative rather than everything else.


March 16, 2009, 2:00 pm

Aside from anything else, Serge, why would a slightly sensationalist article make us untrustworthy?

Also, it makes me laugh how, post Shuffle, people are saying that Apple have gone downhill without Jobs. So far as I'm aware he had limited influence over the last couple of years while he was still around. Conversely, he was probably aware of the development of the new Shuffle.


March 16, 2009, 2:32 pm

Maybe all those people fooled by Apple's marketeers will wake up to the fact that the company's just another Nike, McDonalds, Gap, et al.


March 16, 2009, 2:35 pm

I guess time will tell whether this is true or not. Unfortunately it seems TR has already decided that it is, just like it has already decided that the new Shuffle is pants without actually testing it. :)

Neil B

March 16, 2009, 2:45 pm

@Ben the new shuffle IS pants because it is another apple product that is a triumph for style over substance. I've never understood why people who like gadgets would pick an apple product, they're generally twice the price for half the functionality of other products but it depends what you want I guess. Have I just turned this into an apple-bashing thread?

Andy Vandervell

March 16, 2009, 3:29 pm

@Ben: Gordon has decided it's pants, that's his opinion. Not saying it's not the right one, but, as you imply, until we review it TR as a whole has no opinion...if that makes sense.


March 16, 2009, 3:54 pm

If that's just Gordon's opinion then you should probably remove it from 'News' and pop it all into a Gordoblog instead. IMHO, anyway.

Andy Vandervell

March 16, 2009, 4:03 pm

That is one of many things we're planning to do. ;)


March 16, 2009, 4:06 pm

So in other words, Apple moved the DRM from iTunes right into the headphones. Nice! Had to go somewhere...


March 16, 2009, 4:18 pm

I'm detecting a bit of hysteria being whipped up here, so I'll just point something out here. These new headphones don't just work with the Shuffle. They work with the latest Nano, Classic and Touch. With those players, you're quite free to swap Apple's earphones with your own choice of earphones. Apple haven't forced you to use their phones. Obviously that's not an option with the Shuffle, or you couldn't control it, but we already knew that. So it seems that nothing's changed?


March 16, 2009, 4:26 pm

So what if they do turn out to be DRM'd and you can't use other 'phones with the new shuffle? What difference will it make anyway? Walking down any street shows that the majority of people use the bundled iPod headphones anyway, so clearly don't give a stuff about music quality. Leave the iPods for the masses who are happy with 'ok' sound quality, and those that know better will still be able to choose a player with better sound quality and choose their favourite 'phones to go with it.


March 16, 2009, 4:31 pm

Hey a 'Gordoblog' column sounds good.

Just let him rant and rave about everything - weather it's true or not - with a small print disclaimer at the bottom...he could be the Clarkson of the Tech World, no?

The Technology industry needs opinionated hacks with personalities, who aren't too afraid to speak out of turn and put a ruffle in the feathers of industry.

Andy Vandervell

March 16, 2009, 4:35 pm

Well, not sure about a 'Gordoblog', but a general staff one is definitely on the cards.


March 16, 2009, 5:25 pm

I just can't see this DRM malarky being true .... but if it is then stopping people from using better earphones is one of the most stupid moves any company has made since Sony's rootkit debacle. Its bound to hit sales not to mention tarnish their already rapidly vanishing customer goodwill.


March 16, 2009, 5:42 pm

This feedback is rather making me smile.

I'd also like to go on record saying that this article isn't sensational in the slightest compared with what is appearing around other Internet sites this morning. It very deliberately takes the angle IF this is happening THEN it is outrageous. At no point does it assume anything.

@lifethroughalens - thank you :)

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