Gear We Like
Why I Hate the New Apple Lightning Port
The new “Lightning” dock connector has a lot of people crying foul. Let me start off by saying that as cables go, it’s a pretty nice connector. It is reversible, meaning you can plug it in upside-down and it still works. It’s also great that Apple has finally ditched the giant 30-pin connector used on iPhones, iPads, and iPods they have been using for nearly a decade for Lightning which is 80% smaller. They might even add some nifty extra functionality to it down the line.
The Bad Part With Lightning is Two-Fold
Your Old Stuff? Sorry!
First off: say goodbye to all of your old cables and accessories. They don’t work anymore. If you have a cool gadget like a bungee cord for your iPhone 4, sorry, doesn’t work anymore. Dock? Battery Pack? A bunch of cables lying around? Buy a new one (or five).
That is unless you buy a $29 Lightning to 30-pin dock connector adapter. Depending on how many accessories you have, you might need a couple.
Secondly, they are ignoring a standard so they can cash in. This part irks me the most. You see, nearly every phone these days uses a micro-USB plug to charge. Between tablets and phones, they can all charge with the same cord.
"Introduction of the universal charger will make life much simpler for EU consumers," said Dennis Abbott, a European Commission spokesperson. "When you discover you’ve left your charger at home or work, you will be able to use someone else’s, knowing it will fit your phone. How cool is that?"
In the EU, they actually have a policy beginning in 2011 which states that mobile phone makers should move to a standard mobile charger (micro-USB). The idea behind it is that one standard plug would make it simpler for consumers. If you forgot your charger at home, you can use someone else’s at work (or the hotel). It would also simplify the manufacturing process, and help reduce electronic waste from useless, obsolete chargers. All of the major mobile phone manufacturers are signed on.
So how does Apple get around it? By selling an adapter for £15 (~$25). Completely defeating the purpose of having a single standard.
Oh, and for those on the other side of the Atlantic who think it would be handy to have one of these adapters? Sorry, Apple doesn’t sell them in North America.
But Why Do They Do That To Us?
By using a proprietary connector, Apple can make all the rules, and change them whenever they want. That could be to add a new feature, or maybe take one away.
I recall a problem I ran into with my “iPod with video” a few years back. I had a video-out cable for it so I could watch video podcasts on my TV. When that iPod was stolen, and I bought the new model (iPod Classic I believe, which was essentially the same), my cable no longer worked. The difference in the cable? The first one, a standard AV cable (in which Apple had changed the plug assignment) cost me a couple bucks, and the new one would cost me $50.
Apple can also decide who gets to make accessories.
Since Apple licences companies that make accessories using the port, they get a cut of every single one that is sold.
To put that into perspective, Apple has sold 85 million iPhone in the USA since 2007 and 34 million iPads since 2010. Then add iPod touch, and then add on the rest of the world… that’s a lot of gadgets, and a lot of accessories people buy for them.
And of course, I’m sure they’ll sell a few of those $29 adapters in the meantime.
So there it is. Billions of dollars
In the end, I don’t think it’s good for consumers. This is exactly why I moved from Sony digital cameras in the early 2000’s when they were forcing customers to buy overpriced Memory Sticks and power adapters… just because they could.
But it does look pretty cool.