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3G iPod and iM600 speakers

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Q: I just purchased a set of Altec Lansing inMotion iM600 speakers. I seem to be having some trouble with compatibility with my older third-generation iPod. Once the iPod is on the dock, the iM600 will not allow me go to my menu to choose songs. The iPod seems to freeze after being placed onto the dock. The only way I can get a song to play is if I start the song BEFORE I put my iPod on the dock. Is this normal? Also, the fast-forward button on either the remote or the speakers will not forward or skip songs on my iPod. Further, the iM600 does not seem to be charging my iPod during play. Is it supposed to? Could you please let me know if my third-generation iPod is compatible with these speakers? I would love to get this working, if possible. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

- Dawn

A: As the third-generation iPod has long been a discontinued model, it is not entirely surprising that the newer speakers are not fully compatible. Although the iPod freezing up when placed in the speakers doesn’t seem normal, it is not surprising that the track controls and charging is not working properly.

The third-generation iPod required a 12V FireWire-based power source in order to charge. In fact, the 3G iPod was the first model to support any kind of USB connectivity at all, and Windows users with USB ports were required to use a dual-connector cable to provide 12V FireWire power from the AC adapter while connecting to their computer’s USB port to sync.

The fourth-generation iPod was the first model to allow charging from either a 12V FireWire or 5V USB power source, and from about 2004 to 2007 all iPods, and even the original iPhone, could charge from either. In the fall of 2007, Apple dropped all support for the 12V FireWire charging, forcing most accessory makers to support the 5V USB standard to charge all newer iPod models.

In the case of Altec Lansing, their early models of iM600 speakers used 12V FireWire power. However, due to the newer requirements, Altec Lansing surreptitiously updated their hardware to use the newer 5V USB charging, effectively dropping support for older iPod models in the process. Sadly, the company did not differentiate the speakers by model number, so you’ll find some iM600 speakers that support older iPod models and some that only work with the newer ones. The rule of thumb seems to be that the iM600’s that include the video output port use the 12V standard while the newer ones without the video output port use the 5V USB charging. The video output port was something else that Altec Lansing removed in 2007 after the new iPod models began requiring a special chip to enable video output in connected accessories.

Likewise, the third-generation iPod did not support the same playback controls through the Dock Connector port as the newer models do. Remotes were instead connected via the Remote port at the top of the iPod. It was not until the fifth-generation iPod that remotes began using the Dock Connector port.

So in summary, it is quite normal that the iM600 speakers will not charge or control your third-generation iPod. The fact that the iPod freezes up when connected to the speakers is unusual, however, and that may simply be a bug with the speakers or some other incompatibility. You might be able to solve this by fully restoring your iPod to factory settings and reloading it from iTunes, but it’s more likely that it’s simply a problem with how the iM600 interacts with the third-generation iPod. Since this model has been discontinued for six years now, it is unlikely that Altec Lansing is specifically testing their speakers with these older iPod models.

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