How small will Apple make the iPhone 5 dock connector?

How small will Apple make the iPhone 5 dock connector?

Summary: Rumors range from a 19-pin dock connector, a 16-pin connector, and even an 8-pin connector. How small (and simple) will the dock connector be?

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TOPICS: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, iPad
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There's been a flurry of speculation that Apple is preparing to abandon the 30-pin dock connector that has adorned the iPod, iPhone and iPad for almost a decade and replace it with a smaller, more modern connector. But how big -- or small -- will that new connector be?

The catalyst for all these rumors seems to be the a video showing a metal chassis purporting to belong to the upcoming iPhone 5 that was posted to YouTube by parts reseller ETradeSupply. This showed a much smaller slot for the dock connector and a headphone jack hole that was moved to the bottom of the iPhone. This metal chassis has since been detailed in a number of photos and videos. Alleged blueprints for the chassis have also been leaked.

The new connector will save a hefty chunk of space inside the iPhone, being as much as 50 percent smaller than the current connector, and it is rumored that it will also feature a magnetic connector, similar to the MagSafe connector found on MacBook systems. This would help prevent breakage when a cable or accessory is yanked accidentally and unceremoniously from the connector; a surprisingly common occurrence based on personal experience.

What all these photos and video show is that Apple has likely shrunk the dock connector on the bottom on the iPhone dramatically. What we don't know is how the internal hardware of that dock connector may have changed. (Though, I hedge, because nobody is quite sure until Apple is ready to deliver what it's been baking.)

Initial rumor suggested that 11 pins were going to be dropped from the 30-pin dock connector, making the new connector a 19-pin far more svelte and slender than the current offering. Cult of Mac found that there are indeed 11 pins that could safely be dropped from the current 30. These include eight pins that supported FireWire and a further three that handled video-out functionality for the now defunct iPod Color and iPod Photo devices.

However, in recent days rumors are circulating that Apple could shave even more pins from the connector. 16-pin and 8-pin connectors are the most popular suggestions. These two rumors appear to be linked in that it has been suggested that the male connector -- such as that found on the connector cable -- will have 8-pins on each side, while the female connector -- found on the device -- has only 8 pins on one side. This would allow the iPhone to be connected in either orientation to a male connector or docking port.

While earlier rumors suggested that the new dock connector would be chipped to prevent unauthorized accessories -- even cables -- rumors now suggest that Apple will offer an adapter to allow old accessories to be connected to the new iPhone, though no evidence has been offered up to back up this claim. A chipped connector would allow Apple to more tightly control its "Made for iPod" business, but I doubt that it will prevent unauthorized accessories from flooding the market.

Some 250 million iPhones have been sold featuring the 30-pin dock connector, along with another 85 million iPads and countless iPods.

There's no doubt that the current dock is a pretty big piece of kit, taking up valuable space inside its iOS-powered devices; space that could be better put to use by other hardware. The following image gives you an idea of how much space the dock takes up inside the current iPhone 4S:

Shrinking the dock connector brings with it benefits that go beyond a smaller physical connector. It has a knock-on effect on the ribbon cabling and connectors, which many seems quite small already, but even being able to shave a millimeter off a component is an opportunity to pack more useful stuff into the iPhone, or to make the overall device smaller by a fraction.

My hope is that if Apple does indeed revamp the dock connector -- if all the rumors are indeed building up into a compelling case for a smaller dock connector -- that an adapter of sorts is offered. This would mean that a new handset didn't immediately render every accessory, such as chargers, in-car chargers, FM transmitters, music docks, and so on, obsolete overnight.

It would also mean that hardware makers could support both the new iPhone and older iPhone and iPads by offering an adapter. This would not only be cheaper for accessory makers, but also help reduce consumer confusion.

Image source: ETradeSupply/YouTube, iFixit [1, 2].

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, iPad

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17 comments
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  • How small will Apple make the iPhone 5 dock connector?

    Apple just made your iPhone device obsolete.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • It's what they do

      Except this time they are making your accessories obsolete as well.
      jvitous
    • It's what they do

      Except this time they are making your accessories obsolete as well.
      jvitous
    • And?

      Apple made every Windows Mobile and Blackberry device obsolete when it was introduced. Apple made the original iPhone obsolete when they released the iPhone 4 and made the iPhone 3G obsolete when they released the iPhone 4S.

      And there are or can be adapters made... provided that all of the rumors and speculation is correct and Apple is actually going with a different connector.
      athynz
  • Well

    I would hope for a standard MHL adapter but knowing Apple, that's not going to happen anytime soon.
    slickjim
  • How small?

    is it smaller than MicroUSB (with MHL support)?

    If not, FAIL.
    Samic
  • Why not make it USB?

    Apart from that doesn't lock you into proprietary apple hardware. After all, it's USB at the other end already, so it must work.
    keithc
    • An average of $4/accessory

      That's what Apple makes on average from licensing out the ability to use their proprietary connector. You think Apple is going to give that up? And now all the millions of people that buy every iDevice are going to have to buy adapters or new accessories? That's a LOT of money to be potentially bringing in.

      I wonder if Steve Jobs approved of this or would have approved of this move. I know my wife, someone that loves her iPhone, has already said that if Apple does this, she'll think long and hard about getting another one when her contract is up.
      ikissfutebol
  • Proprietary

    Why don't they just use the same micro USB that all the Android phones and tablets are using? Doesn't make a lick of sense why this has to be proprietary. The more devices I can charge and connect with the same adapter the better it is.
    boomchuck1
    • Trix are for geeks

      Only if you promise to answer the phone every time some user calls up and wants to know why the microUSB frying pan he bought in India doesn't work with his iPhone. As a geek, you would know why. But if you give Joe Consumer a USB port, you can't complain when he plugs who-knows-what into it and expects it to work.
      Robert Hahn
      • Excellent point

        Maybe Apple could get some advice from the makers of the billions of cell phones that use micro USB?
        toddbottom3
  • Microscopic, I heard

    with part of the connector actually existing in another dimension.
    William Farrel
    • How small was it?

      That was my impression as well. Billions and billions would fit on the head of a pin.
      Robert Hahn
  • I'm glad Apple is changing the dock

    It makes it so much easier to justify jumping to the Surface / WP8 ecosystem. After all, I'm going to have to buy all new peripherals again anyway.
    toddbottom3
  • Writting Style is very cool

    Points are cool

    http://itechbook.net/iphone-5-is-coming-with-8-pin-smallest-dock.html
    Edward Gill
  • Zzzzzzz.....

    I think I would rather watch paint dry than ready another article that is trying to guess this or that aspect of a product that hasn't even been announced. Mind you, I'm not trolling. Its about time for me to get another phone and I'll probably get another iPhone.
    gribittmep
  • Zzzzzzz.....

    I think I would rather watch paint dry than read another article that is trying to guess this or that aspect of a product that hasn't even been announced. Mind you, I'm not trolling. Its about time for me to get another phone and I'll probably get another iPhone.
    gribittmep