Apple was accused yesterday of ripping off consumers as it emerged the next version of the iPhone could render all current accessories obsolete.
Outraged iPhone owners flocked online to complain about the reports that Apple has decided to radically alter the size of the connector in the next iPhone, which is expected to be launched in October.
Speakers, docks and other expensive accessories costing hundreds of dollars would be rendered useless by the move, along with cheaper add-ons such as chargers. Even cars with the current connector built in would need to be upgraded.
Technology blog TechCrunch said it confirmed the change by speaking with three separate manufacturers, although Apple has not commented on the plan.
Current iPhones, and all previous models, have used a 30-pin connector for power and to plug in accessories.
However, reports claim the next iPhone will use a smaller 19-pin version, rendering all current accessories useless. Leaked pictures claiming to be the new handset also show a smaller, rounder connector.
Some reports claim the new connector will allow a smaller, thinner iPhone to be made, while others claim it could lead to a cable attached by magnets.
According to blogger Robert Scoble, the move will also allow Apple tighter control over accessory makers.
Apple charges firms to create accessories as part of its “made for iPhone” scheme which approves add-ons, although the firm has never revealed how much it charges to join the scheme.
Manufacturers must also buy a special “authentication chip” for some of their accessories, a move by Apple to cut down on unapproved accessories, and it is believed the chip is even found in some iPhone headphones.
“It will be nearly impossible to make unlicensed devices,” said Robert Scoble.
“Unfortunately these design goals mean making obsolete the something like 10 power chargers in my home. Sigh.”
Sirio Brozzi of the website Awesome Robo hit out at the move, and blogged: “People are stunned by this possibility, myself included. I mean, why fix something that’s not broken?”
He believes the move is planned to give both Apple and accessory makers a huge new market.
“Have you guys ever heard of <<planned obsolescence>>?” he added.
“It’s a practice which encourages planning and designing a product so it’s only useful for a limited time, before becoming obsolete.”
Apple also advertised for staff to work the new connector earlier this year, advertising for a Lead Engineer, who the firm said will be “responsible for identifying appropriate connection technology requirements for new products and follow through with selection and development of suitable interconnect products”.
“This will often involve adaptation of existing connectors or complete new designs,” Apple said.
Along with a change in its dock connector, the iPhone 5 has also been rumored to be receiving a newly designed speaker grill, a different back cover and antenna that are molded into one piece, and most notably, a larger screen.
However, some believe Apple could – at a price – supply adapters to allow older accessories to work with the new handsets.
The new iPhone is also expected to have a larger 4″ screen using Apple’s retina display, which uses individual pixels so small the human eye cannot see them, making on-screen text appear like a printed page, and allowing graphics and video to be shown at resolutions higher than a high definition TV.
It will also include Apple’s own maps software, which the company revealed a few weeks ago. In a bid to compete with Google’s maps, Apple even revealed it has a fleet of planes and helicopters photographing the world to build up a 3D map.
The iPhone accessories which could become obsolete
Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 8 – $850
Bose Sounddock 10 – $600
B&W Zeppelin mini speaker – $300