Apple's latest iPhone, iPod touch and iPod nano ushered in a new era, at least for accessory manufacturers: they ditched the old 30-pin Dock Connector in favor of the new Lightning standard. With a durable, double-sided, all-digital design, it might be a vast improvement in the long run. For now, it's a bit of a mess, as Apple's attempt to restrict manufacturing and charge higher fees is causing delays before iPhone 5 accessories roll out.
Mar 2, 2013
Panic Software, purveyor of Mac OS X applications, was curious why Apple's $49 Lightning Digital AV adapter wasn't performing very well. The picture quality was lacking, displaying odd video artifacts and failing to output full 1080p video. So Panic cracked open the case, and what should it find... but a tiny ARM computer chip inside. It's got an Apple logo on top, and markings indicate it might have 256MB of memory within.Read Article >
Why does the adapter need a processor, though? Panic Software's theory is that the device actually delivers video via AirPlay streaming. Your iOS device would compress the video, then the adapter would decompress it and deliver it to an HDMI-equipped TV. The video artifacting, a common issue with video processed that way, seems to support the theory, as does the lag some users are reporting. We don't have an adapter handy to test for ourselves, but we've reached out to Apple to ask how the adapter works, and hope to hear back in future.
Jan 4, 2013
It's been a long time coming, but CES 2013 looks destined to be the biggest showcase yet for iOS speaker docks and other accessories that support Apple's Lightning connector. Take Harman for example, which today announced another two JBL speakers to complement those it introduced in November. The $149 OnBeat Mini slots in between its existing Venue LT ($199) and OnBeat Micro ($99). Like the Micro, the Mini is being touted more for its portability than any revelations in sound. For that, the company is announcing its high-end JBL Rumble at $399.95, and as the name implies, strong bass performance is the clear focus here. Harman claims the Rumble offers "thunderous performance" and will include unspecified streaming capabilities for "other" non-Lightning devices.Read Article >
iHome announced yesterday that it too will be exhibiting a new line of speakers ready for Apple's latest devices in Las Vegas, and we've started to see the first third-party Lightning cables trickle out as well. No one's expecting the ecosystem of Lightning products to match that of the 30-pin dock connector in the near future, but CES looks as though it will make for a good starting point.
Nov 30, 2012Read Article >
Griffin has announced the first third-party Lightning cables. While we've started to see accessories trickle out for Apple products that use the new connector, such as the iPhone 5 and iPad mini, until now you haven't been able to buy an actual charge & sync cable from anyone but Cupertino itself. Griffin is offering the cables in four different lengths: 2-foot, 3-foot, 4-foot (coiled), and 3-meter (9.7-foot), priced at $16.99, $18.99, $24.99, and $29.99 respectively. For comparison, Apple sells a 3.5-foot cable for $19, so Griffin isn't really undercutting on price here. Still, with more flexibility in length and a black color scheme, we're sure these products will find their audience. They'll be shipping in the first week of December.
Nov 5, 2012
And while Apple has shown little interest in developing a dock for its latest handset, Belkin is attempting to fill the void with its Charge + Sync Dock. There's just one problem: you'll need to supply your own Lightning cable to use it. Belkin isn't including one in the box — another strange decision from a company that has traditionally included such pack-ins. Apple's repositioning of the iPhone headphone jack works well here, as a passthrough auxiliary jack lets you continue listening to content while the device is seated in the dock. An open design also ensures compatibility with whatever case you may be using.Read Article >
These first third-party products with Apple's stamp of approval come days ahead of a Lightning summit where the company is expected to outline further details for accessory manufacturers. We should have a better sense of what Apple is and isn't allowing under the program in the days and weeks ahead. But at least the six-week wait for something as simple as a car charger is finally over.
Oct 18, 2012
We reported earlier this month that part of the reason iPhone 5 owners haven't seen any third-party Lightning accessories just yet is because of new restrictions Apple put into place for its accessory licensing program. It appears that logjam will start moving in just a few weeks, with 9to5Mac reporting that Cupertino's next summit for accessory makers will be happening between November 7th and 9th in Shenzhen, China.Read Article >
The MFi Technology Summit — MFi stands for Made for iPod / iPhone / iPad — is an opportunity for Apple to discuss the specifications and technologies needed for licensees building iOS and iPod accessories. This year presents an interesting quandary, however. Apple has put into place several new limitations on the program that have prevented manufacturers from creating Lightning accessories until they could be brought up to speed on the new details — but this summit will be their first opportunity to do so, despite the fact that the iPhone 5 was released in September. While one of the presentations on the first day is titled "Designing Lightning accessories," that's likely of little comfort to those Apple device owners wondering why new accessories haven't yet arrived.
Oct 16, 2012
When Apple unveiled its new Lightning connector, there was a bit of sticker shock surrounding the adapters that offer compatibility with older 30-pin dock accessories. The company is charging $29 for the basic adapter and $39 for one that integrates a small cable. Some had hoped that third parties would be able to produce alternatives on the cheap, but it was soon discovered that Apple had incorporated a chip widely believed to prevent any type of unauthorized or knockoff Lightning-based accessories.Read Article >
An in-depth look at the connector by Chipworks seems to bear that theory out. The silicon expert discovered an unannounced Texas Instruments chip it believes is intended for security purposes. Advanced imaging of the chip in question revealed circuitry Chipworks says is "consistent with a serial communication chip including some simple security features." The company isn't done researching either and points out that while they seem heavy handed, these changes could ultimately benefit users down the road:
Oct 3, 2012
Apple's new third-party certification rules may delay the launch of Lightning-compatible accessories
We've been wondering what Apple's new Lightning connector for the iPhone 5 would mean for the iPhone accessory market, and now it's looking like the company is tightening up manufacturing of its new connector and imposing new restrictions on participants in its Made for iPod / iPhone / iPad (MFi) program. iLounge is reporting that third-party manufacturing facilities will need to be certified before it can produce any Lightning accessories, and we've confirmed this change with our own sources. From Apple's own documentation, the new rule says that "Only MFi Manufacturing Licensees will be able to procure mass-production quantities of Lightning connectors." Additionally, no third-party facilities have been approved yet, even though the new iPhone has been out for almost two weeks.Read Article >
We've also learned that Apple is planning a MFi summit for November that will lay out the details for the new program — which means that manufacturers likely will not be able to produce or sell any Lightning-compatible accessories until after that date. iLounge reports that some accessories could be ready for the holiday season, but for the first time, new iPhone buyers are stepping into a world where the accessory ecosystem is much more limited than it was in previous years. While it's not clear yet whether or not this new process will end up costing the end consumers more money, there's a chance that the delay plus new limitations might make new MFi accessories a bit more expensive than they were in the past.
Sep 17, 2012
The Blue Danube. Fragments suspended in air. An iPod speaker dock spontaneously explodes in slow motion, capacitors, speaker drivers and chunks of plastic slowly spinning away from the wreckage. Philips, Sony and Logitech creations, ripped to shreds. Jawbone proclaims: "The dock is dead."Read Article >
The video is a self-serving jab at rivals, but the wireless audio vendor has a point. Last week, Apple did away with the nine-year-old Dock Connector, replacing the ubiquitous 30-pin jack with a new "Lightning" design. It’s far from the first time Apple has tossed out an old technology in favor of a new one (remember FireWire, and floppy drives?) but Apple’s popularity has grown so much over the last half-decade that a tremendous number of people will be affected this time.
Sep 13, 2012
There's been some confusion as to what Apple's new all-digital Lightning connector will be capable of, but the company has just cleared some of that up. An Apple spokesperson told The Verge that Lightning to HDMI and Lightning to VGA cables "will be available in the coming months."Read Article >
Originally, the fact that the $29 Lightning to 30-pin adapter doesn't support video output led to worries that the Lightning connector itself was to blame, and that Apple would steer customers who wanted to share audio and video towards wireless technologies like AirPlay. In truth, you should be able to connect an iPhone 5 directly to a second screen with a new Lightning video cable once they arrive, but you'll need one of those cables due to the 30-pin adapter's limitations. Still, Apple says the 30-pin adapter does support analog audio out, as well as USB audio, syncing, and charging.
Sep 12, 2012
Phil Schiller sees no need for NFC or wireless charging, Lightning connector to be used 'for many years'
With each week that Apple came closer to announcing the iPhone 5, prospects that its latest handset would contain Near Field Communication (NFC) technology seemed to dwindle. What began as an "obvious" rumor quickly turned into unlikely speculation. In an interview with AllThingsD following today's media event, Schiller shed some light on why Apple chose to keep NFC out of the handset — at least this time around. The answer is software. "Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today," the VP of marketing said, seemingly confident that iPhone buyers won't miss the ability to make the type of direct mobile payments possible with Google Wallet and, eventually, ISIS.Read Article >
The allure of wireless charging also didn't appeal to the company, with Schiller pointing out that users would ultimately need to plug a charger into a power outlet anyway. “Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated."
Sep 12, 2012
After two years of maintaining the same aesthetic design, Apple has given the iPod touch a much deserved overhaul. As rumored last week, Apple has redesigned the iPod touch to feature a larger 4-inch Retina display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the same used in the new iPhone 5. Announced alongside the new iPod nano, the new iPod touch is just 6.1mm thin and weighs only 88 grams, the lightest and thinnest yet. While the previous generation missed out on processor tweaks, Apple has dropped the A5 processor into the new version. Apple has also made a significant battery improvements, allowing users to get up to 40 hours of use when listening to music. The rear-facing iSight camera has been upgraded to 5-megapixels with an LED flash, backside illumination, and more, while the front-facing FaceTime camera now shoots 720p video. Apple has also designed a hook into the chassis to support lanyards, including their own solution, which they call the Loop. For networking, Apple has included Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n, and support for AirPlay mirroring. Apple has also brought Siri to the iPod touch, the voice assistant software introduced with the iPhone 4S.Read Article >
The iPod touch will ship with iOS 6 and come bundled with Apple's new EarPods. While the previous iteration was only available in white or black, the new iPod touch will come in variety of colors, including pink, yellow, blue, white, silver, black, and slate. The new iPod touch will be available this October in 32GB and 64GB variations for $299 and $399, respectively. Pre-orders will begin on September 14th. Apple will continue offering last year's model with 16GB for $199 and 32GB for $249.
Sep 12, 2012
It may not be the focal point of the day's announcements, but Apple's not forgetting about its line of iPods. In addition to the new iPhone 5-inspired iPod touch, the company's also updated its cheaper line of portable music players at its event today in Yerba Buena. The new nano has a larger, 2.5-inch display, it's thinner and lighter, and has the new Lightning connector. It actually looks like a tiny iPhone, almost. There are physical playback controls along the side of the device, a nice addition from the touch-only operation on the previous nano. There's an FM tuner integrated, as well as Bluetooth, fitness features, and a pedometer. All are long-requested features, and make the nano more versatile than it's ever been.Read Article >
The new nano looks like it's running iOS, but it's heavily skinned — there are a few icons on the screen, which to our eyes don't look particularly great. It also has a round icon in the home button, which is an odd departure from Apple's typical square aesthetic. It all adds up to something that almost looks like a knockoff of an iPod nano, but this is in fact Apple's new model.
Sep 12, 2012
One of the more persistent rumors around the iPhone 5 was related to a smaller dock connector design. Apple has now revealed that its new iPhone 5 will include a smaller version of the typical 30-pin dock connector — breaking compatibility with existing first- and third-party accessories. The new connector, dubbed Lightning, is 80 percent smaller than the old design with an 8-pin connector that is reversible for easier use. Apple has a solution to combat the accessory woes though, the company is introducing a special adapter to convert existing dock connectors to the smaller design.Read Article >
A Lightning to 30-pin adapter with 0.2 meters of cable will set you back $39, while a simple Lightning to 30-pin adapter will be $29 — both will be available in October. Apple is also introducing a Lightning to USB cable for $19 that ships within three business days.
Aug 13, 2012
If everything we've heard lines up, we're less than a month away from the introduction of the next iPhone — and as such, the rumor mill is churning out a wide variety of leaked potential parts and body designs. One of the biggest points of speculation thus far has been the new iPhone's dock connector — for months, we've been hearing that Apple would abandon the 30 pin connector it has used on iOS devices since the iPod way back in 2003 in favor of a smaller plug. That rumor has picked up steam over the last few months and hit a head in the past few days, as French site NowhereElse posted a variety of photos showing off what appears to be a USB-style connector with 16 pins, eight on each side.Read Article >
Since those photos surfaced, iFixit wrote in and told MacRumors that the connector's metal frame also counts as a "grounding pin," which adds one more pin to the count. Further adding to the confusion is a line of code in iOS 6 that refers to a nine pin connector. While we likely won't know for sure exactly how this new connector will function until a site like iFixit tears the new iPhone apart, it seems pretty obvious at this point that Apple's new dock connector will have about half as many pins as the previous model — and it'll take up a lot less space, as well.
May 22, 2012
Following a flurry of reports earlier this month of Apple ordering up new 4-inch displays for its next iPhone, 9to5 Mac is today joining the rumor mill with affirmation that Apple is indeed in the process of testing a new model with a larger and higher-resolution display. Citing an iPhone 5,1 and iPhone 5,2 that are presently in the pre-EVT (Engineering Verification Test) stage of internal testing, the site claims both variants will be equipped with a 3.95-inch screen spanning a more elongated 1136 x 640 resolution. Though this would break the 3:2 aspect ratio that has been a constant in Apple's smartphone since its very beginning, there's also word that an updated version of iOS 6 is also being worked on, adding a fifth row of icons to the homescreen and extended interfaces within apps to let you see more content. In essence, this is exactly what our forum member modilwar suggested Apple should do: keep the screen the same width and just layer on a few more rows of pixels (176 extra lines, if 9to5 Mac's information is accurate).Read Article >
A second note from the informants suggests that the iPhone dock connector will be revised, to a much narrower design that's "between the size of a Micro-USB and Mini-USB connector." Considering the vast ecosystem of third-party hardware that this port connects the iPhone to, this would be a very significant change for Apple, but the company sounds determined to go through with it. 9to5 Mac goes on to say that this new dock connector will eventually make its way to all iOS devices. In any case, given what we've heard from the likes of Bloomberg and Reuters, and the supposed pre-EVT stage these current testing units are at, the actual release of the next iPhone seems a fair few months away. Plenty of time for plans (and perhaps even designs) to change.