High AirPlay, Thunderbolt costs limiting iOS options?


iLounge has learned that the costs involved with adding AirPlay functionality and Thunderbolt support to devices may be limiting the adoption of the Apple co-developed standards. Regarding AirPlay, sources have noted that the cost of adding AirPlay music streaming support to a set of speakers results in a retail price bump of around $100, making it unlikely that the standard will be widely adopted in lower-priced audio systems for the foreseeable future. Our sources have described the AirPlay technologies as considerably more expensive to incorporate than Apple’s standard docking Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad Dock Connectors, and noted that Apple is very heavily pushing developers to adopt the wireless technologies despite the costs involved.

We similarly have learned that the price of the components required to add a Thunderbolt port to an external hard drive is roughly equal to the cost of a low-end hard drive itself, a high cost that one developer has suggested will limit Thunderbolt’s near-term use to products aimed at the professional market. This high cost structure also makes it unlikely that Apple will integrate Thunderbolt ports in its iOS devices in the immediate future—a feature that many people have guessed would be available for iPads—and would partially explain Apple’s drive to push for Wi-Fi-based synchronization in iOS 5.

Despite these facts, a number of companies are actively readying AirPlay- or Thunderbolt-ready products for introduction in the coming months, and we’ve seen at least one speaker system—Philips’ Fidelio AD7000W—that was priced as low as $230, setting a new price floor for AirPlay audio systems. It remains to be seen when or if costs will come down further to promote more widespread adoption of the accessories.


Charles Starrett

Charles Starrett was a senior editor at iLounge. He's been covering the iPod, iPhone, and iPad since their inception. He has written numerous articles and reviews, and his work has been featured in multiple publications.