Apple seems to be putting together the details to take iPods to the next level, as Microsoft assembles its plan to try to dent the music player's market lead.

A new Apple patent filing describes a new technology which, if applied, would let iPod users navigate content on their player using a touch screen that isn't actually touched.

The patent was originally filed in September 2005, and describes a "Proximity detector in a handheld device".

The product description dispenses with an actual Click Wheel in favour of a virtual replacement, which appears on screen when a finger hovers near that screen. The finger does not actually need to touch the screen to activate the navigation device.

The intelligent technology as described also has the capacity to determine between a deliberate command and an accidental one.

The news follows an indiscreet revelation by Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou, who claimed Apple to be working on a "none touch" iPod.