Q: How do you kickstart a stagnating accessory market?

A: By screwing over your entire user base

Apple unveiled a new connector for the iPhone 5, called the Lightning Port. It replaces the older and ubiquitous 30 pin connector, the same one that has been the interface for iPods, iPhones, and iPads since 2001. As you can see, it is significantly narrower than the older cable. And with the limited amount of room inside of any modern smartphone, each square millimeter is precious. So okay, I buy that Apple needed to redesign the port and the cable to shave the thickness of the iPhone 5 below 8mm. But here come the dubious issues.

CA-CHING!

First off, if you want another cable, it will cost $20. For a cable. So, okay, maybe all you need is an adapter for your existing cables. Yes, you can buy those. For $29. The again, who ever said Apple was consumer friendly? Do you think they’re the most profitable company in the world because they charge reasonable prices for their goods? The bedrock of the company is built on wallet rape. Sadly, they will probably sell out the day they’re released… which is a couple of weeks after the iPhone is released. Have fun, early adopters!

But wait, there’s more. One of the things that popped out at me during Apple iPhone unveiling yesterday was the first point in the Lightning Port presentation: “All-digital”. I mean, what the hell does that even mean? I assumed all of these cables were digital already. It sounded like something cooked up by the marketing department, like “High Quality” — it’s meaningless. But as it turns out, “All-digital” has a real impact and isn’t simply marketing-speak. Because “All-digital” means they removed all of the analog outputs. In other words, you’re getting less from the Lightning port than you did from the 30 pin port.

If you have an iPhone speaker dock, check the spec and look for “digital audio input” or “built-in DAC” or words to that effect. Because many docks use the analog sound pins on the 30 pin connector. To use the digital pins, the unit would need its own digital to analog converter (DAC). If you have an older or inexpensive speaker dock, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to hook up the iPhone 5 to it, even if you buy a $29 adapter. Your only recourse at that point is to use a plain old mini stereo cable assuming your dock has that input as well.

So who wins here? Apple & accessory manufacturers.

Who loses? Well, it’s all how you look at it, I guess. If you want the iPhone 5 and don’t care about cost, then I guess everybody wins. But if you are on a budget and you did invest in speaker docks and cables with 30 pin connectors, well… you lose.

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