What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 1

When Apple released the iPhone in late June, some iPod users noticed that Apple had changed the packed-in USB-to-Dock Connector cable to something a little different and probably less expensive to manufacture. The classic Dock Connector cable had two small buttons on its sides, intended to help you disconnect your iPod from the cable. Apple’s new connector used a shell that was only half its predecessor’s height and had no buttons. It was seen in the earlier iPod Radio Remote, but not duplicated by third-party vendors, whose own connector casings were at least Apple’s size, if not bigger—a fact which made their accessories harder to use inside of some iPod cases.

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 2

The new USB cable started to show up in other Apple accessories and has now become the company’s “standard” Dock Connector. As it turned out, however, Apple still had a use for the bigger-style casings: it could squeeze chips inside, like the authentication chips required to unlock the video-out features of 2007 iPods.

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 3

Apple’s ability to miniaturize parts—or deal with companies that could do so—is now legendary. Could the company really find a way to squeeze a full circuit board and microcontroller set into the housing of an iPod Dock Connector cable? The answer was obviously “yes,” as current iPods can’t output video to TV without the authentication chip, but we wanted to see just how Apple had done it. What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 4

We grabbed an Apple Composite AV Cable ($49) and a knife, then introduced them. Kids, don’t try this at home. What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 5

The knife helped to cut away a significant amount of plastic in the Dock Connector’s shell. We wound up using some small scissors to do additional trimming.

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 6

Ta-da! A circuit board. But besides an Apple part number, some wires, and some glue, there weren’t any chips there. So we flipped the board around to the other side.

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 7

Wow, what’s that? A metal box. Actually, it’s a metal shield, most likely to reduce interference from whatever’s hidden underneath.

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 8

What’s underneath is a set of chips found inside a little butterfly-like metal and film enclosure. We had to pry the butterfly off of the board to get access to what was inside.

What’s Inside: Apple’s 2007 AV Cable 9

There’s the authentication chip. As it turns out, Apple’s now in its second stage of iPod accessory authentication: the 2.0a/b chipsets are the ones that are needed for unlocking video-out and other locked features of the 2007 iPods, and as previously noted, accessories without authentication chips won’t let new iPods output video. We’d heard some time ago that Apple is explaining the current chipsets to developers as a way to “guarantee that their accessories will be compatible” with iPods going forward, though no one is really sure what that means. It could mean that having the chip inside an accessory means that any new feature Apple may add won’t be locked to that accessory. It could also mean that Apple is going to break additional compatibility (say, audio-out) in next year’s iPods, like it did with video-out in this year’s, forcing people to buy accessories all over again. No one is really sure.

As much as we’d like to think that Apple would never lock down audio and break all of the accessories people have been using, we believed as much about video, and that happened without warning or explanation. Even with two articles on the site explaining what has happened, we still get reader inquiries on an almost daily basis as to why their accessories and new iPods aren’t working together. Since there’s no way to identify which “Made for iPod” products are “Made for Your Next iPod, Too,” it looks like an increasingly risky time to be investing in add-ons—hopefully Apple will clear up all of the uncertainty in the near future.

  1. Great investigative reporting.

    I think that Apple is going down the “dark path” where M$ treads. To simply break other components so that you have to buy new ones is a slap in the face to the guys that stuck with Apple through thick and thin. Apple does not realize that it is the core faithful that held it together in the lean years. Now that there are the Johnny come lately’s, Apple seems to be more than happy to show its disloyal side. Well, I won’t be buying too many more of their products in the near future, and I have turned in my “Early Adopter” credentials. I will simply wait for something to stop working and then look for “OTHER” brands. Apple is no longer a lock for my money.

  2. This didn’t have an impact on me when I upgraded my ipod as I have never purchased any addons.  But I had always had my eye on getting a nice set of speakers/dock.  Not anymore though.  I don’t want to risk laying out money when there is a chance that Apple may decide to disable it in the future with no warning or explanation.

  3. I try to not be an “Apple Apologist”, but I do enjoy Daniel’s blog and have made it clear in the past that I believe his assertions are right much more often than wrong. The fact is that all that iLounge has proven is that there are a couple of chips in the new Apple video cables that aren’t present in the standard dock connector cable. What it hasn’t proven is *what* those chips are for. To label them as “video authentication” chips as iLounge has been doing for months now seems to be quite a leap without knowing the chips’ true function.

    Is it possible that, as a way of:

    a) saving money in the newer line of ipod products;
    b) saving space/weight inside ever smaller/thinner/lighter ipods; and/or
    c) future-proofing against changing video standards,

    that Apple moved part of the video-decoding hardware to the cable rather than placing it inside the iPod or iPhone?

    We already know that the iPhone would not have been able to handle video out through the headphone jack because the fourth ring on the connector is used to provide the microphone signal and play/pause control capability. Going forward, Apple would have to make a choice: create a specification for video accessories unique to the iphone and another (different) one for all other iPod products, or consolidate all video capabilities from this point forward with a new standard.

    Yes, having these extra chips in the connector does negate a slew of existing video accessories but I’m sure that Apple engineers must have weighed the pros and cons of making such a drastic change heavily and not simply decided to make this change for greed’s sake.

    Keep in mind that when designing a hardware interface such as the dock connector it is sometimes hard to envision all the future uses the design must provide. At some point in the design, an engineer must contemplate the decision of keeping something that is backward compatible versus creating something that enables new capabilities that the current design would not support. It’s part of technological progress and is clearly exemplified when comparing MS to Apple’s design criteria during the past 2 decades.

    Until recently, it was not uncommon for people to complain that Apple made changes that prevented software they bought 10 years ago from running on their latest OS while bragging that they can still run that old DOS program from 1985 on their PC. Microsoft, in their quest to remain “backward compatible” maintained legacy code that made their OS slower and clunkier with each new version. Well, it seems that Microsoft has finally seen the repercussions of carrying all that legacy baggage and learned that, in order to go forward, you sometimes have to let go of the past. Now Vista doesn’t allow some older software to run on their new systems. We call that the price of progress.

    So I ask: is it *possible* that the change to the new video cables was simply a case of “design…

  4. Hi, I’m Daniel Eran Dilger. I wrote ilounge to ask why you thought iPods have a video authentication DRM chip. You didn’t reply.

    Since you know nothing about the hardware involved, and haven’t demonstrated anything beyond the fact that the video cables use a different package for the sense line mechanism that has always existed, you’re still a bit short in explaining what you think is going on.

    Interestingly, you didn’t publish a photo of the existing chips in previous dock connector cables. Why not? Why not include a photo of the modern USB cables, which have a plug equally as large as the new video output cables, and clearly don’t have an “authentication chip” to limit what USB devices can plug in. Rip on open and take a photo of the “chips” inside. Whoops, that would disprove your story.

    Your making wild accusations and jumping to conclusions based on guesswork doesn’t make me an “apologist,” it makes you a sensationalist.

    The latest iPods use new encoding to deliver different video signals. They don’t output video on the headphone jack because that wouldn’t be compatible with the iPhone, which uses those pins for the mic.

    I don’t mind being proven wrong, but don’t do a misleading shell game and badmouth me over what is still a sensationalized conspiracy theory. You are demanding Apple release a $20 Zune/Camcorder cable without really understanding why that’s a bad idea.

  5. Karlfranz:

    (1) “Is it possible that… Apple moved part of the video-decoding hardware to the cable”

    No. As previously noted in articles on iLounge, we’ve taken authentication chip-equipped accessories, connected them to a new iPod and started playback, then disconnected the accessories — video-out keeps playing. This shows that the chips are there as lock/key systems, not as video processors.

    Also note that we have never taken issue with Apple’s decision to discontinue headphone port AV cable output. The idea of having to buy a new $19 AV cable that connects to the bottom rather than the top of the iPod isn’t really the issue here — it’s having to spend a minimum of $49, but probably more, to re-gain functionality that used to be had for much less. (For reference, it’s entirely possible for a company to make a chip-less Dock Connector AV cable and sell it for under $20. Capdase sold $18 Dock Connector AV Cables a year and a half ago — which should have worked just fine with the new iPods. But, thanks to the authentication chips, they don’t.)

    The issue is that the vast majority of “important” (and expensive) accessories used the iPod’s Dock Connector for video out, and compatibility could have been continued for all of these accessories without any issue. In fact, it could be fully reinstated right now with a firmware upgrade — the ability to plug in and then detach an authenticating accessory while still maintaining TV-out conclusively demonstrates as much.

    (2) “To label them as ‘video authentication’ chips as iLounge has been doing for months now seems to be quite a leap without knowing the chips’ true function.”

    Without knowing the chips’ true function? Come on — we’ve actually provided all sorts of details that you can check for yourself; just because you don’t know doesn’t mean that we don’t. If you’re still not able to believe what the chips are being used for, my suggestion would be to do what we’ve done: talk with accessory developers or Apple. Barring that, test the microcontroller code for yourself. But don’t keep on challenging us to provide more and more proof — trying to disprove a negative is impossible, and a waste of our time.

    You say that this has been going on for months. Actually, we’ve been following the authenticated new features story for nearly two years now: authentication has been introduced in a number of different accessory categories over the past two years, and we’ve both known about and mentioned them in prior articles. (“Authentication,” incidentally, is not our term or label.) Authenticated features include USB mass storage camera transfers (Apple’s iPod Camera Connector + others), stereo audio recording (Belkin, XtremeMac, Griffin, Tunewear recorders), the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, on-screen speaker tone adjustment (iPod Hi-Fi, B&W Zeppelin), and Dock-iPod volume mirroring (Apple Universal Dock, et cetera). The official line was that Apple would require authentication only for “new features,” and would not do so for old features — any feature…

  6. I would say:

    Game, set, and match to Jeremy Horowitz.

    Great reporting Jeremy. Great for putting Daniel in his place. You can bet for sure he will not write a retraction. So with that goes his credibility.

    As for correcting karlfranz: Nice one.

  7. i was on the fence about this issue at first. I can buy the “design going forward” argument for moving the video-out exclusively to the dock connector. This will bring consistency across the iPod/iPhone lines.

    What i can’t buy is the need to break that same video-out functionality on pre-2007 iPods. Doing so essentially makes the Apple sanctioned “made for iPod” badge useless and empty. I have no idea what business interest of Apple’s is served by devaluing and undermining that designation.

    This issue has stopped me from buying both a travel speaker and an iPod alarm clock. This must really be hurting the accessory market. Has iLounge asked Apple for comment on this issue? (i assume so …)

  8. My theory for the necessity of these authentication chips is “Triple Play” which will be revealed at Macworld in Jan. If my source is correct, you will be amazed.

  9. Daniel:

    First, you might notice above our comments boxes that if you have a question about iPods or accessories, we ask that you send it to Ask iLounge rather than me. I don’t have the time to respond to every e-mail I receive. Ask is there for inquiries like this.

    Second, your e-mail read as follows:

    “What makes you think that Apple is using an authentication chip that prevents the use of third party video cables?”

    By contrast, your comment above asks why I “thought iPods have a video authentication DRM chip.”

    Both questions asked for me to explain things that I’ve never said. What I’ve said is (a) that Apple is using authentication chips in its video cables, and (b) that it now requires third-parties to use these chips if they want to make their own iPod nano/classic/touch-compatible video accessories, including cables. Further, I’ve said (c) that if a video-out accessory does not include one of these chips, it will not work with current iPod models.

    These are all facts. They are not based on guesswork; rather, they are based on empirical testing, discussions with multiple developer sources, and actual disassembly of accessories. Believe it or not, there is even more to this authentication situation than has been published at this stage, and it’s not pretty; I’ve held off on publishing it because it wouldn’t make things any better.

    To stick to the TV-out authentication issues at hand, what Apple has done with the current generation iPods is to require a challenge-response discussion between each iPod and the video cable or other device that has been connected. That discussion is not about DRM (i.e. “are you a device that will prevent video from being copied?”), and requires the accessory to communicate via a specific type of microcontroller chip (and clock) with the iPod. If these parts — separate components in version 2.0A, now integrated in version 2.0B — are not present in an accessory, the iPod sends out its challenge and doesn’t receive a response. TV-out doesn’t work. Period.

    As is obvious, this is different from how the iPod photo (color 4G) and iPods with video (5G/5.5G) handled video. Put aside the whole headphone port issue; these iPods also could do TV-out through their bottom Dock Connector ports. Authentication hardware was not needed for their Dock Connector TV-out, and is not needed here, either. The new iPods could easily output unlocked composite video by default, just as their predecessors did, requiring special chip-laden accessories only for component or HD video. They don’t. Instead, no matter what your application, you have to buy a new video accessory with a new chip inside. Apple’s accessories start at $49. And developers have told us in no uncertain terms that, due to licensing and now chip fees, they cannot afford to sell competing cables significantly under that price.

    While having reasonably priced cables is important, note that none of the third-party bottom connecting video accessories (such as $200-$300 add-on displays, Viewsonic’s $1,400 iPod projectors,…

  10. Jeremy, I just wanted to say, thank you for all the work you do. I love Apple, but I think they need to do some house cleaning, and hire people more willing to do the legwork required to make founded claims, as opposed to unfounded ones. Thanks for keeping them honest. Keep up the good work, and Merry Christmas.

  11. @dontrammell, DED is that Apple apologist jerk who writes for Appleinsider, said there was no authentication in new iPods and that it was an invented controversy. Hmmm, an Apple insider who doesn’t know what’s inside $49 Apple products…

  12. @sarah4122,

    Nice one. I am sure you forwarded this link to him. If not, I will find his address and forward it to him. 🙂

    Happy Holiday’s.

  13. I just cant believe
    All the things people say
    Am I black or white?
    Am I straight or gay?

    Without a single ironic tone in my writing, I love this sparring. It brings joy to my otherwise dull day.

  14. I realize that I’m a bit late to this party, but I wanted to add my two-cents to the discussion.

    First, thank you very much Jeremy for the solid reporting. The kind of Apple fanboyism by DED is exactly what chafes so many people, this blind loyalism to anything Apple.

    The bottom line here is that Apple has done the detestible. They are headed in the exact direction that Sony has taken, and it is ugly. I personally have a Sonic Video 55 and I am appalled that I would not be able to use it with a new classic. And why all the secrecy by Apple? Funny how Jobs and company completely ommitted this issue from any corporate announcements. It is, quite simply, a dishonest rip off and a slap in the face of all iPod owners and third-party developers who partnered with Apple to make the iPod a cultural phenom.

    The reason for the chip appears obvious, the corporate greed on the part of Apple. Apple now wants to squeeze third party developers in the booming after-market seqment. Apple, not content with making money hand-over-fist now wants a cut of this market. As you have stated, the whole story hasen’t yet been told, but it is obvious what that story is, and it clearly displays the raw, ugly, greedy side of Apple. There is no mistaking that. Very disheartening that Apple would be this duplicitous.

  15. It’s now fairly obvious that these authentication chips were a requirement from the movie studios for Apple’s new rental service.

  16. There’s another possible less evil reason to have required the chip – output format selection. I haven’t looked a dock connector pinout in a while, but I don’t remember there being a bunch of unused ones that could be dedicated to component output. Maybe the new iPods challenge the chip for desired signal format (depending on which chip in in which cable) and output either composite or component over the previously-composite-only pins. I agree it sucks that it doesn’t default to composite and only go component if a chip is present or something. Just proposing a motive other than pure greed.

  17. It’s highly doubtful that it was a requirement from the movie studios. As noted many times before, the chip serves no purpose whatsoever that the studios would be concerned about.

  18. Obadiah- You can actually enable to Video 55 to work with the iPod Classic.

    I don’t remember the details, but search the Apple discussion forums for Sonic Impact or Video 55.

    I also have to add that I think both iLounge and DED are working with the same purpose in mind, but have drawn different conclusions at this point. DED did a pretty exhaustive study himself, being a ‘fanboy’ has nothing to do with it since one way or the other the truth will come out. I applaud both their efforts, even though there is obviously some friction between the 2. I am glad we have more than 1 source working on this.

    In the case of the Video-55, I’m not sure if being able to use the Classic with it supports one theory or the other. IF it is due to new pinouts, then we will know soon enough as other companies will figure them out and introduce their own new 3rd-party cables.

  19. The workaround for the Video-55 and other similar devices is merely to connect an accessory with an authentication chip in it (many Apple-made accessories such as the 2005 Universal Dock and even the iPod Hi-Fi qualify in this regard), and then move the iPod to the Video-55 after the video starts playing.

    This is basically the same method that Jeremy describes above, and the same method that has already been discussed in several of our Ask iLounge columns. A few of the accessories that previously triggered this feature, such as the Nike+ Sport Kit on the Nano have been disabled with the latest firmware update, but voice recorders and the 2005 Apple Universal Dock definitely still work just fine.

    (The other obvious option, of course, would be to purchase the new Apple AV cables and connect them to the general video input port on the Sonic-55. This is in fact the method that Sonic Impact recommends themselves).

  20. Hi Jeremy, nice report!!

    I also got the bummer feeling when I hooked-up an ‘old’ AV cable.
    I know a bit about chips and hw, could you please check the numbers on these 2 big chips and share?
    Perhaps we could ‘fiddle around’ and make some … 😉


  21. OMG I really didn’t want to believe that Apple had gone evil on us. Damn…..Hollywood is the supreme corrupter. The Devil ( Hollywood ) made apple do this for some stinking rental deal. This is one technical dilemma that i can solve morally…..boycott apple rental…..then I don’t need the cable……back to Netflix or buying movies which still work on my 5th gen

  22. Thanks a lot guys for exposing the hocus focus of apple about the authentication issue on their new video cable. after reading reading all the posts….. i think you’re right jeremy. keep up the good work and relay to apple that we are disgusted on what they are doing…. very greedy people! by the way i have an ipod classic 160gb i bought two months ago. i am not happy with it cause i cant use the old ipod cable i bought last month.


  23. Jeremy, ever thought of becoming a lawyer? Way to put Daniel in his place. Shove it to the man!!!

    I was as displeased as others to hear of the authentication chip issue. As far as I am concerned, if XBOX, Playstation, DVDs, games and software can be hacked, it is only a matter of time before the ipod authentication is hacked. In either event, I am so disgusted in Apple’s move I will probably go the Archos route in the future. I was on the fence last Christmas, Apple just pushed me over to the other side.

    As I did not replace my now useless video cable from my iPod Video when I purchased an iPod Classic, I have a question. If my firmware is updated to 1.01 or later to unlock the video out and if I do get a Classic compatible video out cable, will I still be able to use software like PQ DVD to iPod to convert my DVDs to iPod format, or does the authentication chip restrict users from playing movies not purchased from the iTunes store?

  24. So… where’s the hack… How about a cable hack… can I cut the Component cable and take the chip out of it so I can hook up the classic to my expensive 3rd party device…

    You know there’s some high end devices that can’t play stored video.. hell why do you think I would want a 160gig ipod in the 1st place…

    This is all dumb. I wish I could throw my Ipod at steve jobbs.

  25. Other than vague guesses at “challenge-response discussion” and all this “authentication chip” crap (which I suspect is protocol identification, a far cry from “authentication” if you’ve bothered to check the dictionary), have any of you guys actually tried to check _what_ the chip on the video cable communicates? The chip communicates using ultra low speed oldschool serial, so it shouldn’t be difficult to see with even the most basic logic analyzer.

    According to the documentation from Apple all that’s needed is identification of the accessory, although I’m a bit uncertain of how rigid they are on accessory registration with Apple (it’s part of the “Made for iPod Program”, so if you want the sticker you have to apply). The accessory I’m making for an iPhone requires this, and the protocol is really simple and actually makes a lot of sense (since you can use the dock connector in lots of different ways, _including_ the video out). The only problem I can see is that Apple didn’t use this from day one so a lot of existing video cables gets “bricked” (and a lot of cheap 3. party cable manufacturers not bothering to check the documentation has to do a lot oh head scratching).

  26. haha and no one realised that it is COMPLETELY software related !!! not hardware sure there are chips … anyone check if the video pinout goes through them? chances are they are there incase the board is used to control the iPod…

    i KNOW it is completely software related now haha old post but still good to finish it up ay ?

    jailbreak your ipod iphone … whatever you have
    make sure you have Cydia …
    Install RESUPPORTED !!! (and maybe even “TV out Tuner”

    now grab that video out pin (pin 8 or pin 21 depends on how you look at it (connector or ipod)) and shove it in your composite input on your tv (yellow RCA) …

    i bet you it works and ohh guess what no chip … all software ?! hmmm how interesting

  27. I think you’re proceeding on an incorrect assumption. The chip is in the [i]cable[/i], not the device itself. The issue is a combination of hardware (the cable authentication chip) and software (the iPhone OS). Nobody is suggesting that there is any hardware in the iPhone, iPod touch or even the traditional iPod models that check for the authentication chip — on that side it’s [i]all[/i] in the firmware. Keep in mind that the original iPhone didn’t even provide video output capabilities until the 1.1 firmware update was released — it was a software update that brought this feature to the iPhone OS devices in the first place.

    Since any [i]official[/i] app that wants to use the video out features needs to use Apple’s APIs to do so, the same check is made for the authentication chip [i]in the cable[/i] regardless of what app is sending the video signal out of the Dock Connector.

    Obviously if you jailbreak your iPhone all restrictions become irrelevant because JB apps will simply communicate directly with the hardware itself and aren’t going to bother executing extra code to see if the authentication chip is present or not.

    Just another one of many reasons why Apple is so opposed to jailbreaking.

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