New Apple connectors unavailable, third-party add-ons may miss holidays | iLounge News

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New Apple connectors unavailable, third-party add-ons may miss holidays

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012
News Categories: iPod Accessories, Apple, iPad Accessories, iPhone Accessories

After nine years of steady third-party accessory growth for its devices, Apple faces a potentially serious ecosystem disruption this year, multiple reliable sources have confirmed to iLounge. With only two weeks remaining before the expected debut of the next-generation iPhone, Apple has not offered third-party developers the components or engineering details necessary to build docking accessories for the new device—the first iOS product expected to ship without Apple’s now-ubiquitous 30-pin Dock Connector, which will soon be replaced across all future Apple pocket and tablet devices. Noting the time required to manufacture and ship new products, the sources suggest that new iPhone-specific electronic add-ons will likely miss the upcoming holiday season, apart from whatever accessories are released by Apple itself.

Rumors of a smaller Dock Connector replacement have circulated for years, and the new component has recently been spotted in leaked cables, next-generation iPhones, and even parts apparently intended for other iOS devices. References to the new connector have also been found in beta versions of iOS 6. Despite these disclosures, however, Apple has not made the connectors available for developers to test or purchase, or discussed its new authentication chips, both of which might stop existing accessories from working, or limit their functionality with new Apple devices.

While the broadly available Micro-USB standard was suggested as a possible replacement for the 30-pin Dock Connector, sources suggest that Apple’s switch to a proprietary new connector will enable it to control the entire supply of available parts, as well as developers, since third-party versions of the new connector will likely be either unavailable or unreliable for months. One source expects that Apple will introduce a more stringent version of its Made For iPod/iPhone/iPad (“MFi”) licensing program alongside the new connector, complete with more elaborate testing requirements and perhaps higher fees. It remains possible, however, that Apple may merely attempt to dominate the 2012 holiday market by selling its own accessories—perhaps including adapters for older accessories—then supply new connectors and chips to developers in 2013.

Apple’s MFi program was grudgingly accepted by most developers years ago as a necessary cost of doing business with the Cupertino company, adding additional costs to iPod accessories once Apple began to sell electronic components and require per-unit licensing fees, collectively described by some as an “iPod tax.” The subsequent “Works With iPhone” program generated industry-wide grumbles based on new Apple approval and testing procedures, which were blamed for delaying the release of early iPhone electronic accessories for roughly a year, as well as restricting the variety of accessories that could be developed without Apple’s consent. Apple has since been criticized for problems with its AirPlay licensing program, which offers developers a wireless, dock-less alternative for streaming music to Wi-Fi-equipped accessories. AirPlay add-ons have been plagued by audio drop-outs and other issues, leading to complaints and mass returns by disappointed consumers, the costs of which have largely been absorbed by developers.

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Comments

1

My grumblings about the new proprietary connector in and of itself aside, I fail to understand the logic of not providing the necessary specs to accessory makers well ahead of time. Only dealing with their own contracted manufacturers and a handful of, um, 2nd party vendors (e.g. Scosche) along with a plethora of binding NDAs has not prevented penguins in Antarctica from knowing the new connector is coming.

However, not providing detailed specs certainly is going to make life difficult for consumers. The internet is going to be awash with questions and complaints as people try to find car chargers, etc. in the coming months, not to mention that the real winners will be the vendors for cheap Chinese goods that will make their way to market and eBay long before anything approved to not short out and fry your logic board.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on August 31, 2012 at 8:17 AM (PDT)

2

The same things happened when they moved from Firewire on iOS devices to the Firewire over the current Dock Connector, then USB over the Dock Connector.
I thought that the industry was going to globally agree to a standard a couple of years ago?  Times move on, and Apple is not different than other makers, but ALL makers need to stop this monkey business with connectors ASAP.  I have to keep a bag of cables and accessories on hand to charge/sync all the devices we and friends own.  It’s really time for a true standard people.

PS - still hating this captcha machine!

Posted by sb on August 31, 2012 at 9:09 AM (PDT)

3

If they are not providing specs to manufacturers then how did Scosche make those accessories that iLounge had leaked photos of the other day?

Posted by BulkHedd on August 31, 2012 at 9:11 AM (PDT)

4

#3: We didn’t want to overcomplicate the story by adding an additional paragraph on that topic, but another company (not Scosche) reached out to us to say that developers have not actually been given access to the parts or specs yet—that developers are currently creating mock-ups and renderings based on what they think the connector will look like, but without the ability to actually make docking products. We subsequently confirmed that with other sources.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 31, 2012 at 12:56 PM (PDT)

5

Apple as a company is not stupid and they know how valuable their third-party eco-system is and they would not do something as stupid as not release specifications and testing to third-party accessory makers once the product is released. Also, IMHO if they due publicly release the next gen iPhone (and therefore, the next gen connector) on Sep. 12th, then having 3 and 1/2 months of lead time before Christmas should give accessory makers more then enough time to at least make their current products compatible with the next gen dock connector. But even if that isn’t the case, I’m sure Apple will release a “dock converter” that will allow new iPhones to connect with the previous gen dock connector.*

Posted by DMan85 on August 31, 2012 at 1:30 PM (PDT)

6

What are the chances that a handful of select accessory makers have been given advanced notice? I mean even some developers get early access to unannounced Apple devices.

Posted by Mike11 on August 31, 2012 at 2:58 PM (PDT)

7

Knowing Apple, I wouldn’t be surprised if the connector is a Thunderbolt connector.  And we all know how popular and available that has been since its introduction, uhm, what… 18 months, 2 years ago?  Lots of Thunderbolt connector products out there!  Oh yeah!

Posted by JonnyOneNote on August 31, 2012 at 10:13 PM (PDT)

8

While I am glad to see a smaller connector and think that it is about time, I am saddened that they didn’t use a micro USB.  To what #2 said I believe the story a couple of years ago was for a European standard to the micro USB.  If done that most likely would have found its way on US and other IOS devices.
I don’t think that I would characterize Apple as dumb but Jobs isn’t there and the potential of someone dropping the ball is just what those against Apple is waiting for, hopefully this is not that.

also hating this captcha machine

Posted by Scottrey on September 1, 2012 at 5:22 AM (PDT)

9

I’m sure that Apple is working to release an adapter for the new dock connector when the iPhone releases. It will be the stop-gap solution till manufacturers receive the official specs to get the new accessories into production.

Posted by Sreedhar on September 2, 2012 at 10:58 PM (PDT)

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