Image Credit: The Verge
One of the most significant changes on the new iPhone 5 (and future iOS devices certainly) is the new, smaller 8-pin dock connector called “Lightning”. The tiny little connector has been a long time coming in that it allows Apple to continue shrinking device hardware while also giving back internal space to components that matter most.
When the rumors of a new dock connector first started, almost immediately criticism erupted over backwards compatibility. From the start of said rumors, we here at GS have always maintained that Apple would offer an adapter of some sort. There was no way they’d alienate that many accessories, users and companies. And while yesterday’s event confirmed that adapters will be sold to keep most of your older 30-pin supporting accessories relevant, there is some bad news to be had.
Specifically, devices that rely on an analog signal won’t work with the new adapters. According to Apple, the 30-pin to 8-pin adapter does not send out an analog signal meaning accessories which make use of analog video/audio signals will first need an analog to digital converter (external) to make everything play nice. For owners of things such as an audiophile grade amplifier which have, for years, relied on the analog audio out signal from the 30-pin dock connector, it’s a sad story. In their particular case, the analog audio signal bypassed the onboard digital audio chips and instead let the audiophile’s device of choice handle audio processing via their external device(s).
While audiophiles are a small portion of the general population, one thing that could cause more issues with a much larger group of users is that of car docks and/or any other 30-pin device that relies on analog audio out.
Inevitably, there will still be a healthy amount of criticism directed at Apple for killing off a chunk of 3rd party accessories and in turn, forcing people to buy new ones or at the very least ~$19 adapters and cables. But really, any deep hatred and claims that Apple “constantly changes” connectors/ports is bullshit. Seriously. The 30-pin dock connector has been around since 2003 – 9 years. That’s almost an entire decade. In the technology world, a decade is an eternity. Take any non-Apple gadget and look back at the company’s offerings 9 years ago. What connector(s) did they have? Proprietary? If so they’re almost certainly gone, now. And if it was USB guess what? USB has undergone a change, too.
While there are some prickly issues early on, the move to the 8-pin Lightning connector was something Apple needed to do. In the long-term, Apple can and plans to (according to comments made by Phil Schiller at yesterday’s keynote) use the Lightning connector “for a long time”. And now that more space is freed up by the smaller port, Apple can continue making insanely beautiful gadgets that seemingly defy engineering and design properties we’ve come to accept as boundaries.