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Apple Puts 3rd-Party Lightning Connectors in a Bottleneck

Apple Puts 3rd-Party Lightning Connectors in a Bottleneck

Apple is asserting an extra bit of control over third-party accessories for its new, 8-pin Lightning connector. It's either an effort to boost its own sales or something less cynical. "Apple doesn't like to have third-party accessories or anything related to its products on the market that doesn't work very well," said Ben Bajarin, a principal with Creative Strategies.

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
10/05/12 5:00 AM PT

Apple may be tightening its control over makers of devices that connect to its products. It is making significant changes in its policies governing accessories made for iPads, iPhones and iPods with its new Lightning connector.

Apple is making significant changes in its policies governing accessories made for iPads, iPhones and iPods with its new Lightning connector, reported iLounge, which cited multiple reliable sources.

Only Apple-approved manufacturing facilities will be able to produce Lightning connector accessories, according to iLounge. Since Apple hasn't approved any factories yet, consumers can expect delays in new Lightning-enabled products reaching the market.

Apple reportedly has scheduled a seminar in China in November to discuss the changes it's making in its MFi (Made For iPhone/iPad/iPod) program.

Apple did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

Amazon Sellers Burned

Some early-bird accessory makers have been apparently burned by Apple's new policies. Two companies, iTronz and Nanotch, both listed adapters that allow devices with Lightning ports to connect to the older accessories with 30-pin connectors on Amazon.com. Both devices are now listed as "currently unavailable." A third company, Specialty Accessories, is taking pre-orders for a Lightning adapter for US$14.79 at the site.

Apple sells at its online store a Lightning to 30-pin adapter for $29 (the comparable accessory from iTronz sold for $19.99) and a Lightning to 30-pin cable connector for $39 (the Nanotch accessory in a similar vein listed for $24.95).

While Apple's foot-dragging may ring up a few more adapter sales, analysts believe that the company is more concerned about quality than ca-chings.

"Apple doesn't like to have third-party accessories or anything related to its products on the market that doesn't work very well," Ben Bajarin, a principal with Creative Strategies, told MacNewsWorld.

"There's a lot more going on here under the hood than in the previous generation so because of that it wants to make sure that the customer experience is good and that consumers have the best possible experience," he added.

Mystery Chips

It's been reported that Apple has incorporated an authentication chip in the Lightning connector. It's been hypothesized by some that the chip will make it more difficult to make accessories for devices that support Lightning without Apple's cooperation.

"We have taken apart one of the Lightning connectors, and there are some chips inside -- but we don't know what they do, exactly," Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect with iFixit, told MacNewsWorld.

"We haven't found anything inside the new iPhone that would hinder third-party development of adaptors, but we have a strong suspicion that if there is such a hindrance, it would exist in the Lightning cable itself -- and it would be in those two chips that we found when we took apart the cable," he added.

Raising the bar for accessory makers who want to connect to Apple devices through Lightning may result in some short-term consumer dissatisfaction but will yield better long-term results, according to Adam Nations, communications director with uBreakiFix, a national chain of computer repair stores.

"This will help in the long run because there are plenty of cheap chargers and accessories that can destroy or damage devices due to lax manufacturing specifications to cut down on cost," he told MacNewsWorld.

Preventing Foxconn Redux

While some accessory makers may bridle at Apple telling them how to run their factories, the policy changes don't sound like a far departure from the past, maintained ABI Research Mobile Devices Analyst Michael Morgan.

"There's always been an element of Apple approval needed," he told MacNewsWorld. "Now it's going to add a few more checks to the list for you to pass."

Quality control may not be the only reason Apple is interested in snooping around accessory makers' factories, asserted Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group. It could allow it to address labor problems before they blow up in its face as has happened at Foxconn, he maintained.

"While there is a strong PR element to this, there are strong quality and customer satisfaction reasons, as well," he told MacNewsWorld.

"Apple curates its online store very tightly so it makes sense that they would curate its accessories as much as possible to make sure they don't embarrass Apple and that they don't destroy the experience with its products," he reasoned.

"Apple has the highest quality reputation in the market," he added, "and this is how they're going to assure it."


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