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?