Don’t you love it when things you’ve gotten used to suddenly change on you? Especially if those changes cost you money?
No I’m not talking about random price hikes on your TV bill or that your favorite grocery store no longer carries Coke Zero. I’m talking about Apple. Current rumors about the upcoming iPhone 5 (if that’s what it’s finally called) to be released this fall all point to the end of the big 30-pin connector on the bottom of your iPhone. A smaller 19-pin connector is supposedly going to replace it.
So why is that important? Because I have iPod speakers, docks and thingamigogs all over my house that use the 30-pin connector. And some of those thingamagogs were expensive. So if I upgrade to a new iPhone 5 (and let’s face it, you know I will), I may be stuck with a lot of other iAccessories I can’t use.
The fact that every electronics company in the world makes accessories for iPhones is one of the main reasons it’s my favorite smartphone. With an iPhone you don’t have to risk a limited availability of accessories. And if you forget your charger on a trip you can bet that at least half of the people you’re traveling with will have one you can borrow. That advantage may be on its way out, at least temporarily.
Makers of iAccessories are probably pretty excited about this. It means they get to sell a lot more stuff for people who upgraded. Owners of older accessories (by older, I mean products purchased this afternoon) are going to be disappointed, possibly so disappointed that they may forgo the phone upgrade altogether.
It’s understandable why Apple may want to do this—the 30-pin connector is big, takes up a lot of space on the phone, and the technology behind it is outdated. Also, more people are using either Bluetooth or AirPlay to connect wirelessly to speaker systems anyway. With iCloud you don’t need to connect to a computer to back up your content, so the practicality of a physical connection of any type is waning.
Still, I’m preparing to be annoyed. With an install base in the gazillions of 30-pin products, I predict an outcry over this forced obsolescence.
I also worry that the timing is poor. Will manufacturers have enough time to reboot their product lines for the holiday season or will we have to wait until 2013 to get a new iSpeaker system for the iPhone 5?
Of course Apple and third party makers will probably offer adapters, but those might not be practical for every device. In case, we won’t know for sure until Apple makes the official unveiling later this year or a blogger finds a prototype sitting on a bar stool.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.