Rumours from pretty much every outlet are confirming that the yet-announced iPhone 5 will have a redesigned iPod dock port, much to the annoyance of anyone who has ever bought an iPod dock. While we know some people will be a little ticked off, there is method to Apple’s madness.
Apple’s 30-pin dock connector first made an appearance in 2003, and has changed over the years, originally supporting Firewire and analogue audio, with these features lost and changed for other things such as video.
Used for every Apple iDevice since its introduction, it has remained as a way of charging and moving data to and from an iPod, iPad, and iPhone, as well as the numerous accessories designed for products in Apple’s iStaple.
But too many rumours have appeared this year suggesting that the next iPhone will ditch the classic 30-pin connector, with images of leaked prototypes supporting the concept.
So why would Apple change its iPod dock, after so many cables, stereo docks, and hundreds of thousands of dock-connector accessories have been sold?
With every generation of devices, we see technology shrink in size. Computer processors are a great example of this, constantly evolving and seeing notable size reductions, as is the smartphone: remember how thick and large these things used to be?
Apple’s current 30-pin iPod dock connector is long, taking up a little over 2 centimetres of space on any Apple iDevice. A longer connector doesn’t just mean a bigger plug; there’s also a reasonably large connector on the inside of the device, taking up space that could be used for other pieces of hardware.
Imagine if Apple made the dock smaller, though, and was able to reduce the size and bring in new technology, like Near-Field Communication (NFC), LTE, and possibly a larger battery.
Shifting the iPod dock to a smaller format can make that possible.
Better… stronger… faster…
Without wanting to quote “The Six Million Dollar Man,” Apple can build a new dock to be all of the things Oscar Goldman says: “better, stronger, faster.”
The current 30-pin dock has lasted almost a decade, and a new one designed to be smaller can last ten more years.
Let’s look at speed and connectivity for a moment.
When the first iPod dock came out, it supported Firewire and USB 2.0, the high-speed data transfer and charge port technologies art the time. Fast forward to now, twelve years later, and Firewire is dead, replaced with Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, capable of transferring data at higher speeds and send even more power across the port.
The standard plug port is still USB, though we’re now seeing the third version (USB 3.0) included with new computers and drives, just four years after it was released in 2008. Unsurprisingly, it’s faster than the previous version, and is backwards compatible with older versions.