Teardown Tuesday: 4th Generation iPod Shuffle

April 18, 2017 by Robin Mitchell

In this teardown, we will look at the innards of an iPod Shuffle 4th generation to see what lingers inside one of the smallest portable music players around.

In this teardown, we will look at the innards of an iPod Shuffle 4th generation to see what lingers inside one of the smallest portable music players around.

The Outside

The outside shows an incredibly minimal design which consists of several controls including play, pause, next track, previous track, volume adjust, a power slide button, and a 3.5mm port that functions as a USB port and headphone port.


The Pod Shuffle, 4th generation


The back of the iPod shows a clip which can be used to keep the iPod attached to a lip of material, adorned with the Apple logo. The side of the iPod has the power button (which also functions as an option for either linear playing or random playing), voice over button, and the USB/headphone port.

The idea of combining the USB and headphone jack is both clever and problematic. Headphone jacks are notorious for wearing down and, since two devices now share the port, it won’t last as long as a pair of separate IO ports.


Back of the iPod


More buttons and USB/headphone port

Opening the iPod

Taking the iPod apart was much easier than anticipated. The unit is nearly completely sealed—but remember, if they can build it, it can be taken apart! A thin line surrounds the clip section which suggests that this is the access for internal parts and so pulling on the clip opened up the iPod. What is revealed is the main PCB, battery, and internal connections.  


Back of the lid that holds the clip
Inside the iPod

Battery and Front Buttons

The battery found inside the iPod Shuffle is a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 0.192Whr which is equivalent to a 52mAh battery (the battery voltage is stated as being 3.7).

Nearly half of the internal space is dedicated to the battery which makes sense considering that the device is designed to be portable. While the battery, itself, may be very small in both size and capacity, the device does not contain a screen which is usually a power-hungry component.


Battery sitting inside the iPod
Battery removed from iPod


The front buttons on the iPod are situated behind the main PCB and separated with a piece of aluminum. Removing the internal components and screws reveals the flexible material that holds the tactile switches. Interestingly, the internal material was incredibly sharp and so caution is advised when taking apart Apple products!


iPod Shuffle with internal components removed


Front buttons removed

Main PCB

The main PCB consists of many small surface-mount components and one very large IC on the backside.

A ribbon connector can be seen on the top side of the PCB which connects the board to the front buttons.

The top side also contains the buttons found on the side of the iPod shuffle and the LED indicator.

The whole board is secured with just one screw found on the bottom right corner. It comes to no surprise that the iPod Shuffle is built like a watch considering its small profile.


The main PCB inside the iPod


The symbols showing the functions of the buttons


Apple has gone out of its way to make the device as difficult as possible to reverse engineer. Both the major ICs have ident numbers that do not correspond to a device that can readily be purchased from major vendors. However, with a bit of digging and some electronics knowledge, we can determine what parts do what.

The first IC is a small square IC that sits on the top side of the PCB and has Apple written on it. One of the idents is listed as 333S0350 which does not directly correspond to any parts online. However, what is known is that the iPod uses a custom ARM processor possibly sold by Samsung. Considering the large number of decoupling caps near this IC and the use of a custom logo plus idents, this is probably the SoC that controls the iPod.


The topside PCB with the SoC (top left)


The second IC on the iPod Shuffle is found on the backside and has a QR sticker stuck to it. Thanks to the sticker, the IC is completely unreadable and the ident itself has been damaged. However, considering the physical size of the IC, this must be the 2GB NAND flash that is used for music and file storage. Interestingly, despite being completely removed from all IO and the battery, the device still functions as a storage medium when connected to USB.


The large IC on the back with QR sticker


Ruined ident info


Some people like Apple products and some people don’t. After taking apart this iPod Shuffle it can be said that, while Apple products may be expensive, they are definitely built well. The use of custom IC logos shows an interest in keeping intellectual property safe, which makes it hard for engineers like myself to try and understand how such devices work.


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