by Al Sacco

Why Apple Should Ditch Its Proprietary iPhone Dock Connector—and Why It Won’t

Aug 07, 20124 mins
Computers and PeripheralsiPhoneMobile

Apple is expected to roll out a new, smaller proprietary dock-connector port on its full lineup of iPods, iPhones and iPads this fall. The move could help Apple produce smaller, lighter iOS gadgets, but it will be a big hassle for iOS users and Apple accessory makers. Here’s why.

The white earbuds and charging cords Apple ships with its iOS devices have become iconic during the past few years. The earbuds in particular are a status symbol. And you can’t go to a coffee shop or sit in an airport lounge today without seeing one of those white charging/sync cords.


One major difference between the two is that the standard iPhone earbuds work with any device that has a 3.5mm audio-out jack, but the iOS charging cord only works with Apple devices; the earbuds connect to gadgets via a standard port, while the sync cords uses a proprietary Apple port.

And that’s no accident.

Apple could have used a standard port, such as a mini- or micro-USB port on its iOS devices starting with its very first iPod, but for a variety of business reasons—not the least of which is to get users to buy Apple-only accessories and further lock them into the Apple ecosystem—Apple decided to use its own proprietary charging and sync dock-connector port.

And that sucks because you can’t use the same charger for all of your mobile devices, at least without buying an Apple-specific adaptor—unless, of course, you buy all of those devices from Apple. It also sucks because if you want to buy an audio accessory, such as a speaker dock, it has to be specifically made for Apple devices, which means it might not work with your other gadgets. And it sucks for a third time because it’s an example of how Apple frequently overlooks what’s best for the consumer to focus on what’s best for the company’s coffers.

This week, Apple fan-site iMore claims to have confirmed earlier rumors that Apple is about to roll out a new, smaller—but still proprietary—dock-connector port on its full lineup of iOS devices. If the new dock-connector rumor pans out, and I think it will, Apple will not only continue to frustrate customers who want a standard port, but it will further complicate the situation.

By introducing a new dock-connector port, Apple will make iOS-accessory makers have to build products with the new, small connector port or some combination of the two ports. It will likely force iOS device owners to purchase an adaptor to use those new iOS accessories and docks, and vice versa; anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPod or iPad with the new smaller port could have to buy an adapter to use them with current iOS accessories.

In other words, iOS device owners will have to pay more to continue using devices they already paid for. The same would hold true if Apple decided to build a standard dock into the next generation of iOS devices, but at least users would be able to use any other gadgets they already own that have standard ports. And the problem would become a nonissue over time, as gadget makers stopped releasing products that only work with Apple devices.

Apple should ditch its proprietary dock connector for iOS devices. But it won’t do that because it has worked too hard to create an iOS-specific ecosystem of accessory makers. And with every iOS accessory that an Apple customer purchases, the more likely they will be to purchase another iOS device or upgrade an older iPhone, for example, because they already invested in Apple-specific products.

That’s all great for Apple; not so much for consumers.

Apple makes beautiful technology products. But its decision to use proprietary ports to lock users into its ecosystem is plain old ugly.


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