A smaller dock connector means the iPhone 5 will be incompatible with accessories made for Apple products going back nearly 10 years.
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Apple is prepared to ditch the 30-pin connector it has used since the early days of its iPod media player. The iPhone 5 will instead ship with a smaller dock connector containing 19 pins. The design change, long rumored for the new iPhone, means that the iPhone 5 will be incompatible with the bulk of existing iPhone accessories.
Why the change? According to sources cited by Reuters, the dock switcheroo is meant "to make room for the earphone moving to the bottom."
Supposed photos of the iPhone 5 have been floating around the Internet for months, and most of them show a smaller docking port on the bottom, with the headphone jack positioned next to it. The headphone jack has always been on the top of iPhones. According to pictures, the new dock design looks similar in size to the microUSB port.
Back in 2001, the original iPod used FireWire to connect to computers for fast data transfers. Apple later switched to USB 2.0, and eventually to the 30-pin design it uses today. All iPhones, iPods, and iPads sold in the last five years have used this 30-pin design, which is about 22mm long but very narrow.
It's certainly understandable that Apple would want to move to a smaller dock design. Doing so would save precious space inside the next iPhone, which could be used to increase the size of the battery or to add other components, such as LTE 4G radios. It already looks like Apple plans to use in-cell technology in the display in order to save internal space.
Since Apple has decided to make a change, however, it's puzzling why it would move to another proprietary design instead of using the industry standard microUSB. MicroUSB has become the accepted port for every other cell phone maker on the planet. It would be far better for consumers if Apple went with a standard port rather than its own.
iPhone accessory makers are likely to see a windfall in revenue later this year when the iPhone 5 arrives, even though many consumers will be frustrated at the same time. The change in dock means users will have to purchase adapters so their existing gear will work with the new iPhone, or purchase new accessories altogether. Either way, third-party accessory makers win and consumers lose.
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