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Apple filings reveal potential iPod redesigns

A recent series of design filings made by Apple Computer suggests the company may have intentions of abandoning its Click-Wheel interface in future versions of its iPod digital music players.

In January of 2006, Apple successfully registered a total of 10 new iPod interface designs with a European trademark and design office. They depict versions of both the iPod nano and fifth-generation video iPod not yet released by the company.

First published in March, the visual designs are each credited to Andre K. Bartley, a well known Apple interface designer also named in several other iPod-related patent filings made in both United States and Europe. Since the latest filings strictly cover visual design, they are not accompanied descriptive data.

The designs

Two of the most eye-catching designs are based on Apple's current iPod nano enclosure:

In one of the design sketches, the Click-Wheel has been replaced by a keypad layout that strongly resembles a traditional mobile handset (or cell phone). Just below the nano's screen is a circular navigation pad, flanked by two input buttons (traditionally these are the "connect" and "disconnect" buttons on a cell phone). Below these controls is a keypad layout consisting of what appears to be 12 numeric keys, which also coincides with the keypad layout of traditional cell phones.

Potential iPod Designs

The second iPod nano design includes only a display and a what appears to be a 4-way directional pad like those found on the game controllers that shipped with original Nintendo Entertainment Systems back in 1985.

Apple's filings also include four additional designs based on the iPod nano, each of which includes a navigational interface unlike anything shipping on an iPod today. One appears to sport a square Apple TrackPad while another employs an elongated scroll strip with a rounded top and base. The third and fourth designs include some unknown form of elliptical controller.

Potential iPod Designs

Meanwhile, two other designs —one for an iPod nano and one for a fifth-generation iPod —are also shown with scroll strip rather than a Click-Wheel. However, in these versions, Apple depicts a rectangular strip without the rounded top and base.

Potential iPod Designs

The last two design filings simply show an iPod nano and a fifth-generation video iPod with a display screen and nothing more. The designs may have something to due with an iPod audio interface patent filed earlier this year. In that filing, Apple described a voice-activated menu navigation system that would allow users to control their iPods through speech commands and without the need for a traditional navigational interface.