The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

If this was good enough for the iPod shuffle, why isn’t it good enough for the iPhone 5?

In 2006, Apple released an iPod that, to this day, is unique amongst all of the iPods it sells in that it didn’t come with a standard Dock Connector: the iPod shuffle.

In order to save space in a design that was built from the ground up to be as tiny as possible, Apple jettisoned the traditional 30-Pin Dock Connector in the second-gen shuffle in favor of a clever implementation of USB that plugged in right through the 3.5mm audio jack.

For the last six years, Apple has favored this implementation of USB syncing and charging in its line of iPod shuffles, even as every other model of iPhone, iPod or iPad shipped with a much bulkier 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector.

As rumors have heated up that Apple will abandon the 30-Pin Dock Connector in the next iPhone for a slimmer 19-Pin Connector, a natural question to ask is, “why?” If Apple just wants to save space in the next iPhone, why not just adopt the time-tested iPod shuffle’s approach, which is about the most efficient and elegant implementation of USB ever designed?

The answer’s simple: while the iPod shuffle’s USB design is ingenious at syncing and charging, it’s really crappy at everything else that the 30-Pin Dock Connector is designed to do. But what does the 30-Pin Dock Connector do, why doesn’t Apple just use USB like most of its competitors, and why is 19-Pin — not 30 — the way to go?

A Matter Of Pins

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

If you pull a standard USB cable out of your Mac and take a look at the plug end of the connector, what you’re going to see are four little, gold pins.

Now look at the fat end of your Apple dock connector cable. They may be a lot smaller, but in Apple’s connector, there are thirty pins.

Those pins are at the heart of this matter. Why has Apple — a company that embraces simplicity of design to the point of mania; a company that is always trying to make its products as slim and light as possible — chosen to design a Dock Connector that is seven-and-a-half times bulkier and more complicated than USB? Why not just switch to micro USB like the rest of the smartphone industry?

That’s a good question, but Apple’s Dock Connector does a lot more than USB does. Here’s why.

USB vs. Apple

Let’s look again at the USB connector plug and its four main pins.

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

How can USB get away with just 4 pins when Apple uses 30?

You might suspect that each of these pins has a unique purpose, and you’re right.

In every USB plug — whether micro USB, mini USB or just plain fat USB — there are four pins. The first pin provides power to a connected device. The second pin is data out. The third pin is data in. And the fourth pin is ground, which is a necessary component for any electrical device.

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

In the iPod shuffle, the tips and rings on a 3.5mm headphone plug do double duty as the four standard USB pins.

Now here’s an interesting fact: Apple’s iPod shuffle line actually only uses these four pins to move USB data in and out of the device, as well as to charge it. The way Apple implemented this into the headphone jack is by connecting each of these pins to one of the four standard tips or rings you find on a 3.5mm TRS connector (or headphone plug).

Usually, these tips and rings are used to move audio data from an iPod into a connected set of headphones, but when you connect an iPod shuffle to your computer, they do double duty to sync and charge your device! Ingenious!

USB is undeniably elegant. When you plug a USB device into your computer, the drivers for that device are automatically loaded and your PC suddenly knows how to talk with it. Even to an average person, those USB pins make perfect sense. What else would you want a connector to do besides move data and power in and out of a device?

The problem with USB, though, is that it was designed as a protocol to standardize PC peripherals: keyboards, mice, digital cameras, printers, disk drives, that sort of thing. In other words, USB expects that you’ll be using a traditional desktop computer to load drivers to access an accessory.

The problem with USB is that it expects you’ll be using a traditional desktop computer at one end.

And that’s the problem. Your iPhone, your iPad, your iPod… sure, these are all computers, but they don’t load drivers. In conventional desktop computing terms, these are still accessories. So how do you get one accessory to talk to another accessory without drivers?

That’s where Apple’s 30-Pin Dock Connector comes in. It allows an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod to talk directly to compatible accessories, no drivers required. It’s the soul of Apple’s billion-dollar iPod, iPhone and iPad accessory empire. And it’s secretly one of the best inventions Apple’s ever made.

Why 30 Pins?

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

Each of these pins is like a tumbler in a lock.

When Apple first debuted the original iPod back in 2001, it didn’t use the 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector we all know and hate/love today… it used Firewire, Apple’s own answer to USB, to pump juice and data from a Mac into their portable music player. Starting in 2003, though, Apple suddenly dropped the standard Firewire connector and adopted the proprietary 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector they use today.

The reason Apple did this was simple: the iPod had become such an iconic device, such an extension of self for so many people, that accessory makers were clamoring to be able to build iPod-compatible hardware. By switching to a proprietary Dock Connector, Apple could not only allow accessory makers to easily make their devices communicate with an iPod without drivers, they could also launch a profitable “Made for iPod” licensing business.

By switching to 30 pins, Apple allowed accessories to easily communicate with iPods without drivers, launching a profitable “Made for iPod” licensing business.

The 30-Pin Dock Connector is what allowed Apple to turn the iPod, then the iPhone and iPad, into the hub of so many people’s digital lives. Thanks to the Apple Dock Connector, we have cars that can speak with our iPhones or iPads, televisions that can suck movies from our iPods and display them 50-inches high, and an endless and affordable array of iPod-compatible toys, peripherals, accessories and speaker docks.

It’s telling that the one iDevice that doesn’t ship with a 30 Pin Dock Connector — the iPod shuffle — is the one that has a negligible number of third-party accessories made for it: the iPod shuffle is the only iPod that uses straight USB instead of 30 pins.

So how does the Apple Dock Connector work, and why is it different than just USB?

How The Dock Connector Works

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

It might not look like much…

We’ve already seen that a USB connector only has four pins: two for data, one for power and one for ground. It’s up to a connected computer to be able to load drivers to be smart and powerful enough to translate the data coming from a USB device into a format it can actually work with.

The 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector works quite differently, though. Each pin has a specific function, and all a compatible accessory needs to do is watch what data is coming through the specific pins it needs to provide that device’s functionality.

Think of the Apple Dock Connector like a lock, and a compatible accessory like a key. In any lock, there are a number of tumblers; for a key to open that lock, it needs to be precisely cut so that its ridges trip those tumblers and then unlock, say, a door or a box.

That’s how the 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector works. While two of those thirty pins do provide USB data-in and data-out for the purposes of syncing, the rest have very specific functions. The result is that if you plug your iPhone into, say, a speaker dock, the speaker dock’s connector is configured so that it only trips the pins it needs: in this case, audio out and power in. An accessory made to display video from your iPod classic on your TV, on the other hand, will be configured to only watch the video out and audio out pins. And so on.

It’s actually extremely elegant. The original 30-Pin Dock Connector was a remarkably future-proof design, and Apple has added functionality to many of the blank pins over time; until now, there’s a pin for nearly every function an accessory could possibly want to provide. The benefits for accessory makers are huge, because they don’t have to make devices with power-hungry CPUs to try to figure out and translate all of the data coming in and out of an iDevice into a format it can actually use.

After nine years, it’s in Apple’s vested interest to make make a smaller, better Dock Connector.

But there’s a catch. While the Apple Dock Connector has lasted almost a decade without a significant design change, it’s one of the bulkiest components of an iPhone or iPad. That makes the Dock Connector a big bottleneck when it comes to slimming down future iPhones and iPads and giving them better battery life. After nine years, it’s in Apple’s vested interest to make a smaller, better Dock Connector.

Luckily, it’s not that hard to do.

How To Shrink 30 Pins

When Apple first introduced the 30-Pin Dock Connector in 2003, they made it to be future proof, with a pin available for every conceivable connection… but after a decade of tech innovation, even Cupertino’s sophisticated soothsaying has reached its limits. In 2012, many of the pins on the 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector are reserved for obsolete technology.

It’s not important for us to understand what every pin on the Apple Dock Connector does, although if you’re interested, there’s a complete list of pin-by-pin functionality here. Let’s just concern ourselves for now with the pins that Apple probably doesn’t need anymore:

PinSignalDescription
8,9Video OutComposite video output (only when the slideshow mode is active on iPod Photo)
10S-Video Luminance outputfor iPod Color, Photo only
19,20+12VFirewire Power 12 VDC (+)
22TPA (-)FireWire Data TPA (-)
24TPA (+)FireWire Data TPA (+)
26TPB (-)FireWire Data TPB (-)
28TPB (+)FireWire Data TPB (+)
29,30GNDFireWire Ground (-)

Notice anything? A full eight pins on the 30 Pin Dock Connector are dedicated to maintaining Firewire compatibility. The only problem is that Apple has abandoned Firewire in favor of USB 2, Thunderbolt and now USB 3. It’s pretty much a dead technology. All of those pins can be reclaimed without impacting consumers or accessory makers (except in extremely marginal cases).

We can easily shave 11 pins off of a 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector.

That’s not all. We’ve also highlighted pins 8, 9 and 10, which seem to exist only to provide pretty marginal video-out functionality to a handful of iPods. Between both the Firewire pins and the legacy video-out pins, we can easily shave 11 pins off of a 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector, leaving just 19 pins total.

And what do you know? That’s exactly the number of pins Apple’s rumored to be moving to in its newer, smaller Dock Connector.

Why Apple Won’t Do Anything More Exotic

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

19 Pins is the future. Not 30, not micro USB.

As we’ve seen, there are two main reasons why Apple has kept the 30-Pin Dock Connector standard for so long: it makes it much easier for accessories to communicate directly with iPhones, iPods and iPads, and Apple has a lucrative side business selling “Made for iPod, iPhone or iPad” certifications to accessory makers.

The result is that after ten years, there are hundreds of millions of accessories in homes and store shelves that require a 30-Pin Dock connector. Any change to the connector Apple uses is going to cause a major upset amongst both consumers and Apple’s partners.

Apple’s accessory partners are “panicked like a deer in headlights” at the idea of Apple changing the dock connector.

Kyle Wiens of iFixIt says that all of Apple’s accessory partners are “panicked like a deer in headlights” at the idea of Apple changing any aspect of the dock connector.

Which leads us to the last problem. If Apple were to totally abandon its current design philosophy when it comes to the Dock Connector, the impact on the environment would be huge. Kyle Wiens of iFixIt again says that such a transition could create millions of tons of electronic waste as everyone throws out their old, obsolete accessories. That’s a bad scene for everyone.

That’s why the best option available to Apple is to just drop the pins accessory makers aren’t using from the existing Apple Dock Connector. Doing so will allow Apple to make the connector at least 37% smaller while still maintaining backwards compatibility by selling a 30-Pin-to-19-Pin adapter, which, of course, will also make Apple a tidy profit. All the while keeping relationships intact with both accessory partners and customers who might otherwise have seen thousands of dollars worth of their “Made for iPod”, “Made for iPad” or “Made for iPhone” accessories become obsolete overnight.

Conclusion

The Future Of Apple’s Dock Connector [Feature]

What an 19-Pin Apple Dock Connector Adapter could look like, courtesy of melablog.it.

The 30-Pin Apple Dock Connector is one of the most efficient, versatile, future-proof and forward-thinking gadgets Apple has ever made. Even today, the principle behind the Apple Dock Connector is inherently sound, and much more empowering to both accessory makers and consumers alike than micro USB. As a bonus, because it’s a proprietary standard, Apple makes a tidy sum licensing the technology to third parties.

It’s a fantastic invention… so fantastic that, even after ten years, Apple has no reason to abandon it. The only thing they need to do to keep the Dock Connector relevant is slim it down by ditching the pins no one needs anymore. And once Apple does that with the iPhone 5, expect the new, slimmer, 19-Pin Apple Dock Connector to last another ten years… until we finally ditch tethering our iDevices to other gadgets once and for all.

Related
  • FlameLegend

    Very well written and an interesting read! I think it’s a smart move for smaller connectors, hoping to see this as one of the design changes in the New iPhone,

  • FlameLegend

    Very well written and an interesting read! I think it’s a smart move for smaller connectors, hoping to see this as one of the design changes in the New iPhone,

  • Mohy

    A very good article, Mr. Brownlee

  • Tally

    Excellent read, I have been wondering about this for some time and you have more than answered all of my questions regarding Apple’s dock connector. Thank you!

  • patstar5

    That picture is wrong. The iphone doesn’t have a headphone jack at the bottom. Why can’t they make a redesign dock connector and use the same charger as the ipod shuffle? That way it will charge when plugged into an auxiliary port.

  • mr_bee

    The image at the end is kind of ridiculous. If the 30 pin (or now 19 pin) connector is there, you don’t need the headphone jack connection.

    The audio jack is older, larger, and clunkier than most any other connector and doesn’t have anything to do with this discussion at all really. Clearly whomever wrote it is fascinated by the audio jack, but it’s really quite irrelevant to discussions of the 30 pin connector.

  • Mckebabs

    I wonder how come the most simple and cheapest portable gadgets can easily communicate with USB drives but pricey Iphone/Ipod accessories can’t handle this relatively simple task? Power-hungry CPUs? I don’t think so.

  • Robles

    It would be nice if some of those 19 pins were dedicated for Thunderbolt compatibility, so Apple can create an adapter (as they did with Ethernet and Firewire 800) or they could go straight to creating a new cable which can be connected to that port.

    A better solution would be compatibility with Magsafe, if an Apple product could be charged with a recently redesigned Magsafe connector, it would bring consistency to the Apple ecosystem in which data > Thunderbolt and power > Magsafe

  • brownlee

    I wonder how come the most simple and cheapest portable gadgets can easily communicate with USB drives but pricey Iphone/Ipod accessories can’t handle this relatively simple task? Power-hungry CPUs? I don’t think so.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. “USB drives?” This isn’t about USB drives: there’s a pretty simple protocol for just reading data on or off a disk, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. The reason iPhones and iPods don’t talk to USB drives is because Apple doesn’t want iPhones or iPods supplementing their storage that way, but that’s irrelevant to what is being discussed here: we’re talking about accessories that expand functionality, not storage.

  • brownlee

    It would be nice if some of those 19 pins were dedicated for Thunderbolt compatibility, so Apple can create an adapter (as they did with Ethernet and Firewire 800) or they could go straight to creating a new cable which can be connected to that port.

    Don’t hold your breath. Adding Thunderbolt support would be pretty wasteful when USB is the major standard in the same way Firewire support is, and there’s nothing about an iPhone or iPad that really needs to draw upon Thunderbolt tech anyway.

  • brownlee

    The image at the end is kind of ridiculous. If the 30 pin (or now 19 pin) connector is there, you don’t need the headphone jack connection.

    The audio jack is older, larger, and clunkier than most any other connector and doesn’t have anything to do with this discussion at all really. Clearly whomever wrote it is fascinated by the audio jack, but it’s really quite irrelevant to discussions of the 30 pin connector.

    The audio jack in the adapter mock-up at the end is just being used tfor stabilization, not data transfer. And it’s just a mock-up!

  • brownlee

    That picture is wrong. The iphone doesn’t have a headphone jack at the bottom. Why can’t they make a redesign dock connector and use the same charger as the ipod shuffle? That way it will charge when plugged into an auxiliary port.

    The iPhone 5 is supposed to have the audio jack at the bottom of the device, like the iPod touch.

  • NapMan

    The image at the end is kind of ridiculous. If the 30 pin (or now 19 pin) connector is there, you don’t need the headphone jack connection.

    The audio jack is older, larger, and clunkier than most any other connector and doesn’t have anything to do with this discussion at all really. Clearly whomever wrote it is fascinated by the audio jack, but it’s really quite irrelevant to discussions of the 30 pin connector.

    If they remove the audio out pins from the connector maybe this will allow speaker docks to still work.
    With many speakers now moving to AirPlay it might not be as necessary to supply audio out through the 19-pin connector.

  • northshorenerd

    I wonder how come the most simple and cheapest portable gadgets can easily communicate with USB drives but pricey Iphone/Ipod accessories can’t handle this relatively simple task? Power-hungry CPUs? I don’t think so.

    The point is they communicate with computers, and those computers have drivers installed (even if the driver is generic.) USB is fantastic for moving data from computers to things, but it’s not fantastic for general purpose communication.

    It is a popular way of delivering low power to devices, but that doesn’t count as communication: that’s just the dumb delivery of voltage.

  • Macultholic

    I wonder if they could reduce the pin count by multi-plexing signals?

  • Mckebabs
    I wonder how come the most simple and cheapest portable gadgets can easily communicate with USB drives but pricey Iphone/Ipod accessories can’t handle this relatively simple task? Power-hungry CPUs? I don’t think so.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. “USB drives?” This isn’t about USB drives: there’s a pretty simple protocol for just reading data on or off a disk, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. The reason iPhones and iPods don’t talk to USB drives is because Apple doesn’t want iPhones or iPods supplementing their storage that way, but that’s irrelevant to what is being discussed here: we’re talking about accessories that expand functionality, not storage.

    USB drives were meant as an example. I wanted to point out that USB protocol handling on portable devices like accessories shouldn’t be a problem. So sending predefined signals to iDevices and receiving back whatever needs to be received also shouldn’t be a problem.
    Therefore it seems that Apple did it because they didn’t want the accessories to be compatible with other devices (like everything else).
    Does 30pin connector makes life a bit easier for the engineers? Sure.
    Is it worth the lost space and way more complex physical connector? I don’t think so.

  • pixelbud

    That picture is wrong. The iphone doesn’t have a headphone jack at the bottom. Why can’t they make a redesign dock connector and use the same charger as the ipod shuffle? That way it will charge when plugged into an auxiliary port.

    Try actually reading the entire article:
    1. Look at the leaked photo. iPhone 5 is said to have the headphone jack at the bottom.
    2. The whole article is about 30 pins. And the fact the aux port was stretched to 4 like USB.

  • alfonzso

    It’s mind boggling that in this day and age, Apple continues on the proprietary path. I still don’t see any benefits over USB? As a consumer enjoying standards, I jumped of joy when all manufacturers (except Apple) implemented microUSB. Proprietary iDevices I choose NOT.

  • enderwiggin21

    I don’t see why it’s the shape of the connector that matters. MicroUSB, MiniUSB, whatever.. it’s the pin count that’s relevant. If 4-pins can take care of an iphone connected to a crappy $40 iHome alarm clock as well as syncing, then there’s nothing keeping it from being microUSB except for:

    a: The uses of the remaining 15-pins being discussed for which 4-pins is inadequate.
    b: Apple wants proprietary because it gives them more money through licensing and locks people into the ecosystem further. And there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re a business. It worked with the 30-pin and has taken off, clearly. But for people to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that Apple is doing it for the good of the technology and consumer and the cashflow is merely secondary icing on the cake.. come on. Just call a spade a spade already and admit your favorite consumer electronics company likes money just as much as any other.

  • renowden

    The picture of the TRS connector (near the top of the article) is wrong. You show a stereo (headphone) jack and a mono (microphone) jack. The Shuffle jack has a tip, two rings and a sleeve. This also functions to operate the in-line control switch. A similar jack is used on the iPhone for the same purpose plus a signal for the Microphone. Heavy multiplexing there and it would be good to know how it works.

  • AndrewMclave

    its nice to have the mysteries of life explained in such a sussinct way John! Damn good work! Any idea how they get the figs into fig rolls? (its an english thing)

  • quicker

    “USB is undeniably elegant.”

    USB is the worst protocol specification I have ever read, bar none. The amateurs who wrote it couldn’t even get their units right. It’s horribly limited, which is why you can find 50-foot Firewire and HDMI cables but you’ll never find a 50-foot USB cable. They used pull-up/down resistors for determining which of 2 speeds were desired, and then had to come up with a completely different protocol when a new speed was added. It’s why “no drivers” sounds great, as long as you use a device whose specifications are in the spec, until you realize that the spec included specification for things such as “rowing machines” and “guns” (really) and not “digital cameras” or “scanners”, so you still need to install drivers for your digicam. Even the physical layer is famously bad: the plug looks symmetric, but isn’t.

    It works well enough most of the time because 99% of the use case is “keyboards and mice”, and for that they can fall back to a PS/2-like “boot device mode” that ignores most of the USB spec, in order to let old PS/2 keyboard designs be adapted more easily, and in order for USB keyboards to work during PC BIOS setup screens (when the operating system’s USB drivers obviously haven’t been loaded yet). Half the USB devices I’ve seen work by simulating RS-232 over the USB protocol, which is why you need to install custom drivers to get the full functionality out of anything.

    There is nothing whatsoever elegant about USB. When it works, it’s because of the blood, sweat, and (mostly) tears of engineers who had to implement that garbage, not because USB has any redeeming qualities.

  • jrtbrlnh

    A nice article but I can’t say I completely agree with it. In reality we have serial data, power, analog audio and a resistive accessory indicator. This does not need 19 pins. Apple have already shown it is possible to do clever things with standars connectors ans it could be possible to use a standard connection in a better way. I have some sympathy with another poster on the superiority of FireWire as well. The answer is bring back FireWire!! and add the other functions in a way that does not need drivers on accessories. Bottom line is this is really hardware licensing revenue for Apple and new revenue again for a change in connector format.

  • Halberstadt

    In the photo of the two headphone plugs, I believe the label “4″ is pointing to the insulators between adjacent conductive (metal) parts of the plugs. In fact, it appears that the top plug is a 3 conductor version and the bottom is a 2 conductor version.

  • BlogNOOB

    It would be a good idea to make a new 19 pin dock connector with 15 pin on one side and 4 USB-A compatible pins on the other side to enable connections with standard USB-A connector plugs, too.

  • Solutions_Inc

    An excellent article!

  • AndyBaird

    Excellent article, and I hate to nitpick… but the illustration purporting to show the iPod shuffle’s 3.5mm connector is wrong, as is the associated text. The black areas designated “4″ in the illustration are electrical insulators, not conductors. They cannot carry information. And the plug depicted is not an iPod shuffle docking plug.

    The reason the iPod shuffle can do what it does is that its nonstandard 3.5mm plug has *three* rings plus tip–a total of four conductors, just as in a USB plug–whereas the standard stereo phone plug pictured here has only two rings plus tip. A glance at the shuffle’s dock will confirm that its plug is not like the one shown here.

  • jca488

    What a wonderful and informative article. This is one of the reasons why I stopped reading TUAW.

  • crizzanch

    This is a very interesting article… I love the way you explained it in a manner that will keep me read it til its end….

  • joedoe47

    uuuuhh, why not just use four? I mean android 4.1 has found this “revolutionary” way to stream music via that mirco usb connection, why can’t apple show them up by using 4 pins and doing even more like stream music, video and even act as a second screen? or is apple afraid to obtain yet another broad patent that could give them the upper-hand in screwing over every other company out their and achieve their dream of a monopoly?

  • Stijn Gevaert

    So people who have speaker docks should just buy another one just because some people think 30 pins are te much? I don’t care, it works excellent as it is now! Just keep the 30 pin connector no need to change that!
    Just upgrade the 30 pin connector or there will have to be a WHOLE market change! B&W Zeppelin Air, JBL On Beat Extreme, Klipsh G-17 Air ALL USELESS if they make a new dock connector! It’s a no go!

  • bbwolfsg

    That picture is wrong. The iphone doesn’t have a headphone jack at the bottom. Why can’t they make a redesign dock connector and use the same charger as the ipod shuffle? That way it will charge when plugged into an auxiliary port.

    According to “the rumor”, Iphone 5 will have headphone jack at lower side of the phone as the picture shown ( 19 Pins is the future. Not 30, not micro USB pic) in this article!

  • dandirk

    I don’t understand the “driver-less” argument. Well possibly to simplify the accessory (cheaper) to just a physical switch system instead of something more robust and flexible. Maybe other limitations of USB like video bandwidth. I do not see driver-less though to be a compelling reason.

    A driver can support as many or as few commands as needed. Limitations would be file size and resource requirements (power/cpu). Could be easily plausible that a software/driver based command system would drain more energy then reasonable.

    OSX/Win has a handful of simple drivers that support various classes of hardware. Some of those drivers even handle multiple classes of hardware. Flash Drives and USB harddrives is a great example. The same usb driver can be used for 100s of different accessories. If said accessory added non-standard features, then yes that vendor would provide a custom driver.

    Apple could have easily created 1 driver on the iphone (or the Apple equivalent to a driver, not a dev) and provide API like commands to support an infinite number of actions/controls. They then could have added/removed as many as they wanted just with a software update to the iOS.

    Someone brought up USB harddrives earlier and the simple commands they use… Sorry but those commands are not so simple, there is a lot of info going back and forth from a device to the HDD, confirmation of writes, checks etc. The fact a simple USB HDD requires multiple commands to operate means that other accessories can also use multiple commands through usb to function.

    The 19 hardware pin system in my opinion is not really future proof as you claimed, or at least not elegantly future proof but rather a hammer solution. Just look at the results, they were used at release and pins had to be removed due to lack of use. That alone proves it wasn’t that great of a solution.
    Honestly I think the best reason for the “pin” system is this… “they could also launch a profitable “Made for iPod” licensing business.” The added benefit is that yes accessories can operate with a less complicated “control” chip.

  • sfvicbaum

    Everyone is looking for the way to deal with the new connector. Here is a novel way:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj3H6iRBg-I

  • Scott Townsend

    Please Apple, please, don’t change the connector. It’s just fine the way it is, and allows for future expansion with those extra pins.

  • Tallest_Skil

    Please Apple, please, don’t change the connector. It’s just fine the way it is, and allows for future expansion with those extra pins.

    But completely disallows future expansion of the hardware itself. The 30-pin Dock Connector is done.

  • Carlos A. Osuna

    Sorry Man, Apple’s mind doesn’t work that way.

    Else iMac would have 3.5″ drives, iPhones would be clamshells, and Retina Displays would have been just Full HD, etc.

    Most guys like iFixit don’t really know the dynamics inside Apple and tend to be over-conservative. Just witness early drawings of what the Apple iPhone was supposed to look like and what it actually turned out to be.

    You should read between the lines and check that “coincidentally” Mini Display Port is 20 pins, it contains USB, HDMI convertible video, PCM audio and AUX channel at 1Mbit/s or 720Mbit/s, sufficient for Apple’s needs.

    It will converge the requirements of both Macs and iPhones/iPads with a still quasi-proprietary connector. All analog output will come from the headphone jack, now relocated to the bottom.

    My prediction. iPhone 5 (which I think will be called iPhone Pro) will have a Mini Display Port. iPad 4 will have both Mini Display Port and ThunderBolt to allow hooking into CinemaDisplays.

  • Tallest_Skil

    Else iMac would have 3.5″ drives

    They do…

    iPhone 5

    IT’S THE SIXTH IPHONE, AND IT’S CALLED “IPHONE”. PERIOD.

    iPhone Pro

    Terrible name.

    …will have a Mini Display Port.

    Makes absolutely no sense. No data can be carried. No power could be carried. It couldn’t sync. It couldn’t charge.

  • bottem

    Just one nitpick. The two data lines in USB are not “in” and “out”, they are both bidirectional. They are also differential meaning they transmit the same signal at the same time, just reversed for signal integrity.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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