Apple may be preparing to use an internally developed scroll wheel on future iPods, finally severing its relationship with present supplier, Synaptics.

AppleInsider predicts the move, which will reflect a strategy to develop more iPod components internally to, "maintain tighter control of the company's intellectual property".


The report speculates such a move will help Apple reduce costs, and help keep the company's iPods competitive on price. Apple has already abandoned Synaptics as supplier for trackpads in its portables.

Synaptics, which exceeded earnings estimates in its just-gone fourth quarter with revenue up 62 per cent year-on-year, now predicts revenue to fall in its coming quarters, including the traditionally busy December quarter.

Russ Knittel, Synaptics' chief financial officer, warned: "Based on our current visibility, we anticipate that revenue in the first fiscal quarter will be down 9 per cent to 10 per cent compared to the June quarter. This anticipates seasonal growth in the notebook market with demand weighted towards low-end consumer models and lower visibility in the hard disk drive MP3 player market."

Better batteries required

Apple is also developing an iPod that supports user-replaceable batteries, the report predicts, with new technologies for longer running times.

Batteries in iPods remain a contentious issue.

Following its defeat in a class action and a $100 milllion settlement for its US customers, Apple slashed the cost of replacing an iPod with a faulty battery for US customers, but not in the UK.

Here, the scheme seems to cost £79 - more than double what Apple now charges US customers.

The cost of the Apple Care iPod Protection Plan, which is only available to iPod users who acquired their music player within the last 12-months has been reduced from £59 to £39, Macworld confirmed last week. But UK owners of older iPods remain heavily charged in contrast to US owners.

Apple has been frequently approached to clarify its position on this matter, but has failed to do so so far.

But with battery life such a clear target for its competitors and a costly issue for the company, Apple is bound to be examining its options.