Building on solid success with the original iPod, Apple Computer Inc.'s latest MP3 player upgrades form, connectivity and capacity but remains focused in function. The bilingual iPod works in Mac and PC environments with Firewire and USB interfaces, and further slims the product profile to a modest 2 cm. Retaining the sleek and simple appearance of its predecessor, the new iPod protects electronics evolved from the prior platform between a sturdy co-molded plastic top and a stainless-steel lower tub.
Expansive music or file collections are accommodated in the 10- to 40-Gbyte models, with 1.8-inch hard-disk drives supplied by Toshiba. The 30-Gbyte disk of the unit analyzed employs a double-platter construction, with drive thickness forcing a cutout in the main circuit board.
In the battle for thinness, Apple designers shifted to a rotary touchpad interface from the earlier mechanical scroll wheel. The new touch-scroll technology from Synaptics introduces a second board-adhesively bound to the upper plastic shell-for touchplate and supporting electronics. A single Synaptics ASIC and unique sawtooth electrode pattern are the main features of the touchpad board, which also serves to connect monochrome LCD and backlight.
A lowered playtime specification-and potentially improved component power consumption-allow use of a smaller lithium-ion cell than the original iPod, fitting into the mainboard cutout and making room for the touch-scroll board. Measured power draw is modest other than the brief periods of hard-drive activity for caching music data in the 32-Mbyte Samsung DRAM buffer, located on the mainboard.
As with the previous iPod, the design is centered on the Portal Player (PP5002D) ARM core processor and the Texas Instruments (TSB43AA82) IEEE 1394 Firewire interface controller. New to the iPod are a USB interface chip from Cypress and modifications to the power-management circuitry. Wolfson Microelectronics again supplies the audio codec with headphone amp (WM8731L). A megabyte of flash memory from Sharp (LH28F2800) serves for system code storage.
Manufacturing cost is highly dependent on the hard-disk pricing Apple has negotiated with Toshiba. We estimate that the drive costs dominate a total cost-of-goods sold (COGS) north of $150. Including the simple but substantial docking base, headphones and charger, COGS approaches half the $400 retail price for the 30-Gbyte model. Given iPod's market share, consumers have apparently concluded that this is an attractive package despite the price.David Carey is president of Portelligent (www.teardown.com). The Austin, Texas, company produces teardown reports and related industry re-search on wireless, mobile and personal electronics.