If Apple switches from a 30-pin dock connector to a smaller 19-pin design, as a story by Reuters reports, iPhones and iPads would have a new standard port. This is certain to frustrate some people — namely the huge market base that has purchased billions of dollars worth of licensed chargers and docks. The company is thumbing its nose at loyal customers. But it has to happen.
New standards are always rough on the early adopter gadget nerd. If you wanna stay up on the latest and greatest, you’re constant rendering your own devices obsolete. The good companies have ways of letting you down softly. But it’s never an easy pill for you or your wallet to swallow. As much as it seems like some greedy ploy by Apple to screw you over and force you into buying another set of expensive new toys, the truth is that any innovative, forward-looking company has to make these difficult breaks with the status quo.
This is technology.
The latest and greatest innovations need to be encouraged and celebrated. Yes, the 30-pin connector still functions admirably, but it has also been in use for more than 10 years. The longer it sticks around, the harder it is to move on when it becomes a truly dated technology. The rumoured 19-pin connector has immediate benefits: smaller size means more room for better components, or the ability to further shrink down a device. And while we don’t know much about its specs for now, it wouldn’t be unimaginable for it to enable faster data transfer rates. (Thunderbolt support, perhaps?)
This isn’t the first time Apple has done something like this. And it likely won’t be the last time either. To show this isn’t the end of the world, we put together a list of all the times Apple has parted ways with a technology or standard. Each time, people were certain the company was off its arse. As it turned out, Apple was just ahead of the game.
Floppy Disk Drive
When Apple unveiled iMac G3 in 1998, the floppy disk was something everyone still used. CD burners weren’t ubiquitous by any means, and flash storage was still in its infancy. An external floppy disk drive was still an option for those who absolutely needed it, but Apple made their intentions clear: the floppy disk must die. Thirteen years later, the technology was laid to rest.
Apple’s decision to nix the SuperDrive from the first MacBook Air had everybody on edge. The Floppy Disk was hard enough. Now, 10 years later, the world is supposed to be ready for thumbdrives and the internet to replace CDs and DVDs — for backup, storage, and as vehicles for multimedia content? As it turned out, the answer was unequivocally yes. Apple’s slow and sustained move away from physical media seemed crazy. But then last year, Ultrabooks followed suit, launching across several brands sans optical drives.
Firewire was one of Apple’s babies when the company introduced the technology. Starting in 1999, Apple pushed other manufacturers to include a Firewire port in their products. But better technologies emerged, and Apple embraced that reality in the name of quality. Ever since the rise of USB 2.0, Apple has relied on Firewire less and less. First it was the USB-only support on the iPod. Then it was the elimination of the Firewire 400 port on the MacBook Pro. And Now the MacBook Pro with Retina Display has no Firewire port at all, instead utilising the superor Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 technologies. This is perhaps a more graceful way to phase out a technology, and it’ s a good lesson in letting one go, even when you were instrumental in its development.
All Apple Display Connections
Apple’s decision to begin using smaller display connections in iBooks and Powerbooks elicited the same anxiety as the rumours of the smaller iPhone dock connector. But these mini-VGA ports (and then mini-DVI, mini-DisplayPort, and then Thunderbolt) allowed for smaller connections, better performance, and the ability for a single port to support multiple types of connection standards. Nobody loves having to buy a new adaptor. But this is the kind of performance improvement a 19-pin connector could introduce.
Yes, Apple shrunk down the Magsafe connector. It made old power bricks incompatible with new laptops. But whatever. Every Apple laptop comes with a power brick, and a few bucks buys a magnetic adaptor for an old one.
The Bottom Line
Some gadgets would become obsolete if this new connector comes to pass. That’s unfortunate. But if Apple’s history of transitions is any indication, there will probably be an adaptor that allows iOS devices and their accessories to work together with much of the same functionality intact. As long as they’re not charging $US50 for a little piece of plastic, it’s hard to fault a company for chasing after a newer and potentially better technology for our benefit.