Adding New Dock Connectors To All iOS Devices This Fall Is A Manufacturing Impossibility

Adding New Dock Connectors To All iOS Devices This Fall Is A Manufacturing Impossibility

There’s a good reason why this new dock connector won’t be coming to all iOS devices this fall.

It seems like Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone will be the first iOS device to boast a brand new, mini dock connector when it launches this fall. But there have been rumors that claim Apple will refresh all its iOS devices to make the new connector a standard across its entire lineup.

Not only does this seem highly unlikely, but there’s one reason why it’s an impossibility: Apple’s supply chain just couldn’t handle a refresh that big.

As noted by ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, there’s a good reason why Apple staggers the release of its iPhone, iPad, and Mac refreshes.

Launching such enormously popular devices puts an absurd strain on the entire component supply chain. Screens and Li-ion batteries in particular are a limiting factor, but so is NAND flash and Silicon-on-a-Chip (SoC) processors.

As soon as the Cupertino company releases a new product, everyone wants it, which sends production into overdrive. You only have to look at the iPhone 4S, the new iPad, and indeed the Retina MacBook Pro to see how its supply chain struggles to cope with the demand; these devices were sold out for weeks after their launch because they — and their components — simply couldn’t be produced fast enough.

Moreover, the sixth-generation iPhone — or “iPhone 5’ — is gearing up to be the biggest iPhone yet, with some analysts predicting sales in excess of 200 million units. This device alone is going to put enormous strain on Apple’s supply chain, and you can bet that within 48 of its release, there’ll be a waiting list 4-5 weeks long.

Asking those suppliers to produce extra components for a new iPad and a new iPod touch at the same time would be a disaster. What’s more, it would be a disaster at the worst possible time. The new iPhone’s fall release means it comes right before the highly-profitable holiday period. The last thing Apple wants during this time is a component drought that means it has no iOS devices available for Christmas shoppers.

Kingsley-Hughes and his supply chain sources predict what most of us were expecting. Apple won’t refresh its entire iOS lineup this year, but it will add the new dock connector to the iPad and the iPod when they’re ready to be refreshed:

My bet — based not only on past history but what I’m hearing from the supply chain — is that Apple will stick to the existing release timetable. We’ll likely see an iPhone announcement — where we will also see new iPods announced — come September or October, and this will be followed by an iPad announcement early next year.

The iPhone 5 may not be the only iOS device released this fall, however. The rumored iPad mini could still get its much-anticipated debut, Kingsley-Hughes reports, because Apple may want it to hit the market for the holidays — when it’s likely to be a massive hit.

Having said that, it’s also possible the Cupertino company will wait until next year to release the smaller device to save cannibalizing sales of the 9.7-inch iPad at such a crucial time.

If you were about to pick up a new iPad, then, but you’re holding onto your cash in case a new one arrives with a new dock connector this fall, you’re more than likely wasting your time. Go buy that iPad and start enjoying it now.

Besides, you can always pick up an adaptor if Apple proves us wrong.

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  • Alfred2612

    I agree with you, Killian. It would be unnecessary to refresh everything at the same time. I mean, why go to the effort?

    A new iPhone is probably coming this September, and maybe new iPods with the new dock too in time for the Holidays. iPads will be refreshed in the early spring. So why the rush anyway?

    (maybe this will be the needed excuse to retire the iPod classic, as its not worth the effort of re-machining the assembly line for the new dock!)

  • iFreek

    It’s not such an innovative part (like a retina screen) that supply could be an issue in this case.

  • mr_bee

    This doesn’t make sense to me. I think you *might* be right, but it’s by no means certain.

    The part in question is a brand new custom part, it requires no NAND, no screen, no SoC’s etc., and will be built by an Apple supplier expressly for Apple with no other customers. I don’t see why they couldn’t also have been making them by the ton in a secret factory somewhere for six months or a year already.

  • joewaylo

    The accessories won’t be on time regardless of a fall release date. They have to start from the scratch announcement just as they have on the 3G/3GS and iPhone 4/4S or make a quick adapter. With the iPhone 4/4S it wasn’t too long to make the adaption on the case size. They just needed to add a sponge behind the case.

    With the increased with, they’ll have to go to the drawing board and design, test, and build public consuption devices which would take 3-6 months varying on the severity. Cases would more than likely come first, then the battery cases and car accessories.

  • joewaylo

    The accessories won’t be on time regardless of a fall release date. They have to start from the scratch announcement just as they have on the 3G/3GS and iPhone 4/4S or make a quick adapter. With the iPhone 4/4S it wasn’t too long to make the adaption on the case size. They just needed to add a sponge behind the case.

    With the increased with, they’ll have to go to the drawing board and design, test, and build public consuption devices which would take 3-6 months varying on the severity. Cases would more than likely come first, then the battery cases and car accessories.

  • Tallest_Skil

    Freaking duh. This was never going to happen.

  • kavok

    Yep won’t happen all at once.

  • BigLama

    I don’t see how it couldn’t be done. We’re talking about slapping a new dock connector, not reinventing the world!
    I think it could be done but it wouldn’t be easy.

  • Koban4max

    Why would they want a 9-pin connector anyway? What purpose does it have?

  • assyrianpride

    duh, theyre never going to make any of the older iphones again after they release a new one.

  • benandarchie1

    If they were to change the connector on every iPod and iOS device why would there by a supply problem? Would people really upgrade from the current iPad to one with a smaller connector? No way. I think they are gonna change it but not going to change it with the iPad until the new, new iPad. But I don’t think my next phone is going to be an iPhone. iOS 6 just hasn’t done it for me. I was hoping for something fresh, it really just is very small changes and is by far the smallest major update for iOS. Bye bye iOS.

  • Tallest_Skil

    But I don’t think my next phone is going to be an iPhone. iOS 6 just hasn’t done it for me. I was hoping for something fresh, it really just is very small changes and is by far the smallest major update for iOS. Bye bye iOS.

    If you treat your phone the same way you treat your lettuce, you have serious issues.

    OS X looks the same every year. Do you whine about how you’re going to Windows? Windows looks the same every year. Do you whine about how you’re going to OS X? Anyone that wants their UI to be “fresh” knows absolutely nothing about UI.

  • Terry Johnson

    This is not impossible. If what COM and other apple enthusiast websites have touted in the past is correct, apple recycles the components from unsold goods (i.e. cameras). How much less timely would it be to replace the dock connector? – after all it isnt like they are completely changing the entire device and honestly they are not changing its overall functions or features. Even more so if it was a “quiet refresh” similar to what we’ve seen in past mac models; it would hardly be advertised.

    The relatively modest increase in demand, combined with the fact that they already operate with about 3 DOS (days of supply, as in, if they stopped producing today they would be sold out of all stock in about 3 or 4 days) makes it not only possible, but likely. I’m not the type to brag about knowing more because in most cases I certainly don’t, but I am 9 credits away from a degree from the #1 supply chain school in the country – its possible.

  • bowlingGreen

    Ah incompatibility. The mainstay of Apple.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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