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The case for ditching the Dock connector

Apple's 30-pin Dock connector has spawned generations of cables, docks, and accessories that all use the wide dongle we've all become familiar with. But is it something that has outlived its usefulness and is ready for replacement? That's the question iMore's Rene Ritchie discussed in a post yesterday, and his opinion is that Apple may move to an updated "micro dock" this year.

Why? Ritchie notes that design changes like this are not unprecedented in the world of Apple, citing the move from mini SIM cards to micro SIM for the original iPad and removing the antenna from the inside of the iPhone for the iPhone 4 and 4S. The changes provided the extra space under the hood required for a larger battery, a power-hungry Retina display and backlight, 802.11n Wi-Fi and more.

Ritchie points out that the current dock connector takes up a relatively large amount of space that could be better used for a 4G LTE radio. While the change might not occur in the next generation of iPad expected to be announced in the next few weeks, it could be a requirement for the iPhone 5. Ritchie doesn't think Apple would go to Thunderbolt, since iOS doesn't use the PCI Express architecture, nor does a micro-USB connector make much sense as it doesn't add a lot of speed to the connection.

There's less of a need now for a connector that does more than just charge the device. With Wi-Fi sync and installation of apps and AirPlay connections to speakers and TVs, the need for a wired connection has waned. Last year's move to iOS 5 brought about the "PC-free" era, no longer requiring a PC or Mac to complete the initial setup of an iOS device.

Apple would, Ritchie comments, upset a lot of customers and accessory manufacturers with a change to a new connector. But the company has always been willing to take a chance, pulling floppy disk drives, optical drives, and FireWire ports from new Macs as the need for those components disappeared.

What will take the place of the 30-pin Dock connector? Your guess is as good as mine (or Rene's). This year seems like a likely time for the change to come, and we'll all get a chance to embrace change for better or worse.

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