Cupertino locks in headphones to new iPod Shuffle

Tiny iPod Shuffle

Tiny iPod Shuffle

CrunchGear have reported that the new iPod Shuffle has an interesting twist to its headphones. Apparently there is a tiny chip inside the headphones which ensures that you cannot connect a normal pair of headphones to their new player. Nice move Apple.

What this essentially means is that you have to purchase Apple approved headphones to be able to listen to your iPod. Now, I couldn’t care less as this doesn’t affect me, but it just amazes me that companies carry on with this sort of proprietary system design. I feel the same way about laptop power supplies that use proprietary connectors to force users to purchase replacements from the manufacturer instead of having the option to sort out a replacement themselves.

CruchGear posted about this again the following day reporting that the special chip will be available on a license basis and other headphone manufacturers will be able to purchase the chips from Apple to put in their new Apple-compatible headphones.

Does this not rankle anyone?

As you might have guessed, I’m a bit of an audio aficionado. I like getting good quality sound and have spent a good bit on Sennheiser HD650 open-backed headphones. Would I be able to use them? No.

I do assume that someone will bring out a special headphone adapter, but once again you’re not just buying the device but being forced to buy accessories to use the device the way you want.

The answer, do a bit of research and buy something that doesn’t lock you in to:

  1. Proprietary accessories
  2. Proprietary software

Whilst my 4 year old iAudio player might feel a little clunky, I’ve been able to replace the battery for a tenner, I don’t have any software installed to have it interact with my computer (it just pops up as an external hard drive), and I’ve even replaced the firmware with a different operating system (RockBox). Finally, there are no restrictions on what file formats I can play, so if I want to use FLAC or OGG (open source audio compression codecs), I can.

Please take not I’m not just levelling my aim at Apple here. Sony are just as bad (I believe) with keeping things locked down, and even worse are Creative. Recently my younger brother’s old Zen player stopped working. On dismantling the device and plugging the 1.8″ hard drive into my desktop I found out that you can’t actually read the content off it as they use a proprietary file system. There in came a whole load of research and an eventual solution which required me to use a special python script, from a linux install, in order to copy the files off the hard drive. What a fucking crowd of assholes to go creating something inaccessible like that.

Time to plug the iPod Flea

Now that my little rant is over – time for some light relief.

I think considering the tiny-ness of the baffling iPod shuffle it’s time to role out this excellent video of the iPod Flea (and when I say baffling I mean I’m baffled as to why anyone would want a device on which you can’t pick what you want to play unless you create a playlist prior to using the device – otherwise it’s “play songs in order” or “play songs in random order”).

This video has been around a while, but seems all the more relevant now.