Here’s another spin on the rumor that Apple is planning to replace the venerable 30-pin connector port in the new iPhone with a new, more compact 19-pin proprietary dock connector format.
xtom at the Italian Melablog site speculates (a tip of the hat to Google machine translation) that Apple has designed a micro connector that will be mechanically and electrically compatible with the Micro USB port format, so as to comply with a European Union directive that mandates Micro USB compatibility for all mobile phones in the consumer-friendly interest of standardizing charger type proliferation with at least 30 different types of charger on the market.
In a December, 2010 release, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “I am very happy that the European Standardisation Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry…. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation.”
The EU release goes on to observe that Incompatibility of mobile phone chargers is not only a major inconvenience for users, but also creates a considerable environmental problem, noting that mobile users who change phone brands would be in the absence of standardization usually be obliged to acquire a new charger or chargers, and dispose of their old one(s), even if the latter remained in good condition, generating an estimated more than 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year in the EU.
In response, leading mobile phone producers including Apple, Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola Mobility, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, Research In Motion (RIM), Samsung, Sony Ericsson, TCT Mobile (ALCATEL), Texas Instruments and Atmel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June 2009 committing themselves to ensuring compatibility of data-enabled mobile phones within two years, standardizing on the the Micro-USB connector format.
Ergo, a proprietary 19-pin connector unique to Apple products wouldn’t be compliant and would appear reneg on Apple’s commitment to charger connector standardization unless it supports Micro USB. However for phones without a Micro-USB interface, an adapter is allowed under the Memorandum of Understanding.
And in order to maintain backward compatibility with returning customers investment in accessories that have been produced over the past nine years for the traditional 30-pin format introduced with the third-generation iPod dock connector, xtom theorizes that Apple could make an adapter like the one he’s mocked up, able to connect to the new iPhone 5 through the dock connector and support the 30-pin port format.
So what will Apple do (presuming they really are intent on replacing the 30-pin dock connector)? Will they go with a Micro USB compatible connector format, or opt for the somewhat kludgey adapter workaround for their EU customers. The EU market is huge, with an estimated 500 million mobile phones in use in the 27 EU Member States. Apple’s share of that would mean an awful lot of adapters.
On a related note, several forum commentators to my previous blog entry on this topic expressed confidence that third-party cables and adapters, etc. would be available as less expensive alternatives to Apple’s always pricey hardware. Maybe, but Apple has never licensed their proprietary MagSafe charger connector for manufacture by third parties in seven years now, despite plenty of demand, so there’s no guarantee that they would do differently with a new idevice charger connector format, especially if it uses MagSafe type engineering and has chipped DRM compliance connectors as is being rumored.