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IFA: "Converter offers no solution for iPhone 5's new dock connector"

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As will come as a surprise for absolutely nobody, Apple is about to introduce a new model iPhone, later this month in fact. The past few months have seen more than a usual amount of leaks, at least where it concerns Apple, which is notoriously proficient at keeping unannounced products a secret. This time round however, it is fairly easy to envision the upcoming new iPhone, even if there is always a chance Apple will surprise us after all. Obviously noone from that company has confirmed or denied any of the rumours so far.

One thing we can be quite certain about is that the new iPhone will be equipped with a different dock connector than the 30 pin variety that has been the norm so far on all i-devices, excepting the smallest ones. The new connector is a lot smaller and only has 9 pins, where one of those is the edge of the connector itself.

While traipsing around the IFA tradeshow last week, we enquired with more than a few manufacturers of products that come equipped with a dock connector what their thoughts were on the upcoming change. Even while they could not say much as they are all bound by Apple's NDA rules, none of them denied that a new connector would be part of the new iPhone. When we asked what people who owned existing dock products were to do, most of the representatives referred to a 'converter' which supposedly will be made available, either as a standard part of the new iPhone's kit or as an optional accessory. That matches what we've heard so far in other places.

However, we also heard from several companies that work closely with Apple, that as the old 30 pin connector only transfers analog audio and the new one will only support digital, a simple converter is not going to work. It would make sense for the new connector not to waste pins on analog signals, but it would also mean a converter would by definition need to come with a built-in D/A converter, just as future docks will have to possess. That has potentially interesting consequences for the dock market (more opportunity for differentiation through various quality DACs) but also makes the converter story less likely. If such an accessory is made available, it is unlikely to be bundled and certain not to be cheap, at least not when purchased through Apple.

Hence it is not surprising that we heard a lot of brands opting to develop more wireless products, which solve the issue of dock connectors once and for all. Of course for this they look at both AirPlay and Bluetooth. As far as we are concerned, that latter technology is only a viable option when combined with the Apt-X codec for the A2DP profile, as the default encoding method leads to significant degradation in audio quality. Fortunately several of the brands we talked with did integrate this codec, something we hope will only increase with time.

iPhone dock connectors
To the left the old, to the right the likely new connector of the iPhone (image via Tech Crunch).


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