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Digital Life

iPhone 5 Could Bring Dockload of Trouble for Accessories

iPhone 5 Could Bring Dockload of Trouble for Accessories
July 23, 2012 11:29AM

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The days of any docking connector at all for Apple's iPhone could be waning, given Airplay wireless connectivity and the possibility of "contactless charging," said analyst Avi Greengart. "Given the volumes they move the industry will adapt itself to Apple and not the other way around" no matter what happesn with the iPhone 5, he said.

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With the iPhone 5 expected in October, the online rumor mills are now reacting to the latest report. According to several sources, the new iPhone will sport a different dock connector.

This means that the 30-pin connector, standard on Apple mobile devices since the earliest days of the iPod, could be replaced with a smaller 19-pin version. While this could allow the device itself to be manufactured in a smaller form factor, it would also result in a huge ecosystem of accessories for the 19-pin version that will not work without an adapter or a new cable.

'Make Room for the Earphone'

Reuters is reporting the alleged change, and said it was intended to "make room for the earphone moving to the bottom." The news service cites two unnamed sources "familiar with the matter." Apple has not yet commented on the report.

Of course, new connectors or new accessories would be a potential boon for the makers of those items. The demise of the wide 30-pin connector has been predicted for some time among Apple-watchers, as connectors of all kinds have become more powerful and smaller.

In addition to possibly moving the earphone jack to the bottom or enabling a smaller device, some have also speculated that such a move could mean a larger battery or other device enhancements.

Aside from Reuters and other sources, there are also reports that China-based vendors have begun selling cases for the coming iPhone -- complete with an earphone socket on the bottom and a guarantee that the cases will work on the new device.

Apple may choose to offer an adapter or provide some other solution, rather than leave upgrading customers to fend for themselves. Although the iPhone remains highly popular, various Android-based phones are providing customer experiences and pricing that could potentially persuade disaffected iPhone users to switch.

'A Bit of a Risk'

We asked Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, if he thought the rumor was credible.

Greengart said the rumor was hard to evaluate, but he noted that, instead of getting smaller, there are also rumors that the new iPhone "will be a departure from the traditional design," possibly even sporting a bigger screen.

He added that a change in the 30-pin connector would be "a bit of a risk" for the company, especially given that the existing dock connector has been widely adopted -- not only for iPhone accessories, but also in newly connected industries, such as in some cars and in radio/alarm clocks in some hotels.

"This isn't to say that Apple won't do it," Greengart said. He pointed out that the iPhone "is selling in such high volumes" that, if the connector is changed, we'll see accessories and adapters appearing quickly. He also suggested that the days of the connector could be waning, given Airplay wireless connectivity and the possibility of "contactless charging."

"Given the volumes they move," Greengart added, "the industry will adapt itself to Apple and not the other way around."

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