The question to ask at this year's Consumer Electronics Show was "Does it connect to my iPhone?" Most of the time, the answer seemed to be "Yes."
Regardless of their industry, it seems that exhibitors all over the show floor at CES 2013 had jumped onto the iOS device accessory market. Ford cars and trucks are designed to integrate your mobile device with the vehicles in some way, and companies like Hyundai are making it possible use Siri with your vehicle.
Everywhere I looked at the Las Vegas Convention Center, someone was trying to show off an iPhone 5 case with Hello Kitty designs or a rubber egg that amplified the volume of the iPhone 5 when the device was docked.
At more than one booth, pretty women in workout clothes ran on treadmills with an arm strap that sent biometric data to their iPhone via Bluetooth. Interestingly, all of these gadgets with the exception of anything that had an Apple-specific connector was designed to work on Android devices as well, but most of the exhibitors had an iOS device on display.
It's easy to say at a glance that the iOS accessory market is huge, and there's no way to deny that. There are millions of people out there with iPhones and iPads, and many of them are going to buy cases and accessories to connect to their devices. My initial assessment was, "Man, everyone wants to get into the iPhone and iPad market."
My BYTE colleague Serdar Yegulalp pointed out to me how third-party makers benefit enormously from having a predicable form factor. Because Apple makes so few products compared to other companies, it's easier for its products to be a target for accessory makers.
While there are millions of Android devices out in the wild, it's hard for case makers and other accessory manufacturers to create compatible gear for consumers. They must narrow things down to what's popular, and can only manufacture for a small percentage of mobile devices consumers possess.
If Apple continues its current trend, the next iPhone will have a form factor identical to the iPhone 5's. This is great news for accessory makers, but consumers may be getting bored. In fact, the Cupertino company has reportedly cut iPhone part orders in half, due to lower demand. This is thanks to increased competition from handset makers like Samsung. Those who criticize Apple's iPhone line say that the incremental changes and innovations aren't radically different when the handset is compared to rival smartphones.
Apple may not have exhibited at CES since 1992, but the company still seems to have a strong presence on the show floor. Too bad it means that we all just know what to expect from the next iPhone. The element of surprise could be wearing off.