The (Apple) taxman cometh

The (Apple) taxman cometh

Summary: Apple changed its idevice connector and now the new iPhone 5, iPod touch and iPod nano can't connect to the millions of 30-pin "dock" cables and accessories littering the planet -- unless you're willing to pay, that is.

Apple's newest adapter will drain your wallet at Lightning speed - Jason O'Grady

I have to admit to being a little annoyed. 

I understand that Apple's not a charity and that its first obligation is to its shareholders. But enough is enough.

I've used Apple computers since the original Macintosh 128k and am all too familiar with the "Apple tax" drone. In previous years the Apple tax was absurd, Macs were priced at 2-3x of a similarly spec'd Wintel box. But these days, Apple's computers are more in line with Wintel pricing (witness the $999 MacBook Air) and premiums have shrunk.

Or have they?

I think that it's high time to resurrect that old chestnut known as the "Apple tax." 

While Apple's computer prices are more competitive than they've ever been, Apple's just moved its famous tax to areas that aren't quite as obvious, and it's still there and more expensive than ever

Exhibit A is Apple's ridiculously expensive Lightning to 30-pin adapter (pictured). It's the little dodad that you need to connect your fancy new iPhone 5 or iPod touch or iPod nano to the now-mothballed 30-pin dock connector.

And it costs $29. 

That's right, the adpater that's required to use your new iPhone or iPod with the speaker dock, alarm clock or car interface that you purchased as recently as yesterday will set you back thirty bucks. (That's almost as egregious as Apple's absurdly priced "bumper case" -- a chintzy piece of plastic that Apple whacks you $29 for.)

Apple hates its customers, and its stupid "Lightning adapter" is a classic example of how much. 

It's almost as if Apple's pricing strategy goes like this: figure out what's the absolute maximum that a customer will pay for a given piece of Apple schwag, then add 50 percent. That's the Apple tax at work.

And don't think that Cook, Schiller, Cue or Forestall or their ilk are losing any sleep over it. They get this crap for free! In fact, they probably toss "lightning adapters" out the window of their limos and Rolls Royces on their way to meetings with their stock brokers. Literally laughing their way to the bank! 

First, I want to address the every-other-Apple-dongle-is-just-as-expensive argument. While it's true that all of Apple's other dongles (like the MacBook adapters for video, Ethernet, and HDMI) as similarly priced, a) that doesn't make it right, b) they're not as mission critical as being able to charge your iPhone in your car or on your nightstand. Hell, an arguement could be made that a charged iPhone is a safety device (think about walking alone in a bad neighborhood and whoops, the battery runs out. Then think of your wife or daughter in the same situation).

An iPhone charger is an important accessory. Apple knows this and is knowingly gouging you on the price. I mean, come on! If the thing was $20 (which is still outrageous, by the way) it wouldn't sting nearly as bad. But $30? For a one-inch square piece of plastic?!

And how many of them will you have to buy? I don't know about you but I can probably put my hands on upwards of seven dock connector cables in the immediate vicinity of my house. And that doesn't include the ones in my car, gear bag, and office. Or the half dozen that my wife has. Or the dozen that I've lost over the years.

Don't fool yourself. Don't be naive. Don't be an Apple apologist. Cupertino has spreadsheets on this stuff and knows precisely that the average schlep ends up buying a dozen of their over-priced, proprietary cables and adapters during an iPhone's lifetime - at $20 a pop.

Which is exactly why Apple went with a proprietary new port on the iPhone 5 instead of going with the world-standard microUSB (oh, and yes, there's an expensive adapter for that too!)

It's a slap in the face to customers and shows that Apple doesn't give a rat's ass about you and only wants to squeeze every last dollar out of you and then some. Apple is a big, greedy corporation like every other, and if you think otherwise, you're just drinking the Kool Aid. Apple doesn't care about you a lick. You're a calculation, a line item, a number in a spreadsheet. To Apple, you're a walking bag of money and it won't be happy until it's shaken every last cent out of you.

What about the "Don't like it? Buy something else" arguement? True, no one is putting a gun to my head and forcing me to buy an iPhone 5. But isn't Apple a monopoly? Phil Schiller and Tim Cook just told me that the iPhone 5 is the best and most fully featured smartphone on the market. What else would I buy? A Blackberry?

Well, there's one bright side I guess. At least Apple still includes a power adapter in the iPhone box. Unlike Nintendo, which unbundled the power supply (no joke) in Japanese and European releases of its new 3DS XL.

Will Apple do that next?

UPDATE: Apple briefly offered to include its spendy Lighting to 30-pin adapter with pre-orders for the new iPhone 5 in the UK, as seen in the screenshot below, then removed the offer. This tells me two things: a) Apple considered bundling the adapter (the right thing to do) then removed it, and b) Apple must include the adapter free of charge for everyone that pre-ordered it with that option. Welcome to Lightning-gate.


UPDATE2: Garrison Douglas has created a petition asking for Apple to make the Lightning adapter free to iPhone 5 customers.

Topic: Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Luxury Cars

    To make matters worse, some luxury cars include a recessed holder for an iPod/iPhone which uses the 30 pin plug. The holder is shaped for the older models. This new plug is incompatible and even with the bright idea of getting an adapter for it.. Well, remember "recessed"? They won't fit because now the iPod/iPhone with the adapter is too long for the recessed shape. And this shape is part of the dash, good luck getting a retro-fit.
    • They could put a generic dock slot then sell their own adaptors...

      It would future-proof their products, make them accessable by iDevice owners regardless of what Apple does - AND open the markets for Android and the other phones.

      Of course, these are the same idiots who build Bluetooth based peripherals and then make them Apple only.

      Or this abomination - the Griffin Beacon. It's a Bluetooth IR Media remote. They make two versions - of the EXACT SAME PRODUCT... Yet for some reason, the iOS version can't be used on an Android device or vice versa. Yes, if you have an Android phone and an iPad.. or an iPhone and an Android tablet... YOU NEED TO BUY TWO of them.
      The Werewolf!
      • Bluetooth and no need for a connector

        And it can be used by any modern smartphone.

        Apple may have just shot its self on the foot.
        • the issue is charging, not syncing

          How do you charge via Bluetooth?
        • Not all bluetooth is the same

          As I understand it, Apple cripples the bluetooth connection so it's use is limited.
          • The only thing music playback on an iPhone doesn't do

            is metadata (track title/artist). Everything else works just fine when it comes to BT Audio.
      • Exactly!

        If you made an iDevice connector in your car, and its incompatible with the Lightning, deal with it!

        Recall all your cars, and have it re-fitted, and when Apple changes it again, issue another recall and refit..

        yea good luck!
      • Kia/Hyundai did that

        They have a special cable that connects the apple device to the vehicle's sound system through USB, but is different than the USB-iFruit data cable, so with any luck, supporting the newer style should just be a matter of a newer cable.
      • The solution bas been found...

        ...and Apple missed it. Nokia didn't. NFC handles the data (music) and wireless charging charges. Standard USB car adapter is all that's needed.
    • USB Ports

      Many recent cars now simply have usb ports, which will work just fine with the new adapter… at least thats what my car has… more of the sports variety then luxury though…
      • Re: USB Ports

        I wish mine had one! I have a 2008 VW Eos--and it 'came' with an iPod dock. I thought it would be USB or an AUX port. When I received the car, it was a 30-pin dock.

        It's not like I use the thing but it will cost me over $100 to rip it out & replace it with a USB. but think of all the other cars that were upsold by an iPod dock.
      • USB

        Your USB Port will only play music off your device as if it were a drive. Not let you control music, etc, through the phone, correct? It will charge your phone in other words and work as a usb drive- but no real interaction. And if your phone holder is designed to just fit and cuddle the device based on the plug-not it won't work. All this is crazy- indeed more Apple greed- i'd figure proprietary would mean you'll be rewarded for loyalty not punished. So sad. But remember what Romney and all the rest of the poor people say- corporations are people too.. and people have to eat...
        • Phone plug

          Many/most recent car stereos have a phone jack adaptor that lets you plug in your device via its headphone jack.
    • Be like Apple

      Your car is now an old model. Go buy a new luxury car that has the new plug. Replace your car every year or so like your phone.
    • Preaching to the Choir

      I am (maybe soon to be "was") an Apple "fan" (not a "fanboy"), but Apple it starting to (probably already has) become something that's...well...worse than Microsoft!

      We (their customers), are increasingly being seen as merely numbers on a balance sheet, not the loyal customers who've helped this company become what it is today...THE most valuable company EVER!

      Need another good example? How about Apple's new Macbook Pro with Retina display? You know, the one that all of the reviewers gushed over a couple of months back? The most amazing laptop...EVER?

      Well, guess what? They're not so "amazing" after all. Did you know that some of them carry LG LCD panels and some of them carry Samsung LCD panels? No big deal, right? Except that it IS a big deal, because many (maybe most) of the LG LCD panels are exhibiting horrible image retention, whereas the Samsung LCD panels are NOT. The most frustrating part is that everybody pays the same price for these insanely expensive machines ($2200 USD for the base-model), who's main selling attribute is the amazing screen, but the performance is different depending on whether or not you win the production lottery (a.k.a. you get a Samsung LCD panel). How is this fair? Gambling is for Vegas, NOT expensive top-of-the-line professional equipment!

      For more information on this issue, please go to...


      Apple needs to be held accountable for their poor quality control and the fact that they won't publicly acknowledge that there is a problem.

      R.I.P. Steve.
      • "Good riddance, Steve"

        I was an Apple fan, back in the Eocene or thereabouts - until Jobs intentionally murdered the IIgs, which had been Woz's pet project.
    • I have only docks.

      This article and your post mirror my own sentiments. I have a number of docks. That's docks, not cables. The adapter will work fine for people only using cables, but it's useless for docks. You can't perch your heavy phone on top of an adapter which rises an inch or more above the dock connector. The dock connector will bend and eventually break. All the clock radio docks, Bose speaker docks, car docks, and home theater docks are now useless. A big sarcastic "thanks" to Apple for "innovation" solely for the sake of generating cash flow. Their ecosystem of support devices was one of their biggest selling points.

      Changing this connector demonstrates to everyone that other phones which adhere to REAL standards are a better long-term investment than any device from Apple. I'm certainly going to be taking a harder look at alternatives on my next purchase, since my existing hardware no longer works with Apple products.
  • And yet - you KNOW you'll buy another iPhone or MacBook...

    Rail all you want at Apple, but Apple knows nothing they do will deter their fans from buying whatever comes next.

    You have no one to blame but yourselves...
    The Werewolf!
    • Can I just point out . . .

      . . . that no real Apple uses are railing. In fact, it seems that it is non-Apple users, just like you, who have the loudest voices. I guess that trolling takes energy.
      • OF course no real Apple users are rallying...

        ...because if Apple says "JUMP!", you can be sure that the real Apple user will jump.
        With a wide, fixed grin on his face, gripping tight in one hand his Macbook Air and in the other his belovd Mochalatte...
        You got what you deserved, remember.