Critics are feeling disconnect from iPhone connector
People who are plugged in to new technologies usually have a drawer full of obsolete cables to prove it. Now they can add one more to the mix -- the 30-pin connector used on previous iterations of the iPhone.
The new iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter than its older siblings. It weighs 20 percent less than the iPhone 4S and has a larger display, better camera and faster processors.
But the redesign added a new complication that has some iPhone buyers grumbling. The design change promoted the need for a smaller connecting cable than the one used in prior models. The cable connects the iPhones to other accessories, such as charging docks, speakers and clocks.
The new Lightning connector won't work with these dock accessories. Buyers will have to fork over $29 for an adapter in order to continue to use their old equipment. And the adapter will work with some, but not all, devices.
Users of the iPhone no longer will be able to connect it to a video display, for example. The adapter will support analog audio output, USB audio and syncing and charging but not video output, according to Apple's website.
The new versions of iPod Touch and iPod Nano also have the Lightning connector.
Tech media critics have labeled the new connector "consumer-unfriendly" and bad for the environment because much of the now-obsolete equipment will eventually end up in landfills.
Most smartphones use an industry-standard micro-USB connector. And Apple's proprietary design means only it will benefit from sales of the new connectors. Manufacturers of accessories designed to work with iPhones also will reap financial rewards because they'll have to develop compatible ones.
There is an array of accessories designed to work with older iPhones and iPods, like the Bose SoundDock, which plays the audio through a set of Bose speakers. Bose also has systems that bypass the wired connection and work with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and it has just introduced the new SoundLink Bluetooth II Mobile speaker, which works with Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices.
Is the connector design change a deal-breaker for those who want to upgrade to iPhone 5? Most people who responded to the question on the PG's Facebook page didn't think so.
"I am planning on buying an iPhone 5, even though it means I'll now have four useless chargers -- three regular, one car charger," said Brandon Szuminsky of Waynesburg, who teaches journalism and mass communications at Waynesburg University. He needs to update his iPhone 4 and said he'd rather just buy new chargers.
"I also have one of the 'iHome' clock/radio/dock deals that I think everyone who owned an iPod/Phone got," Mr. Szuminsky said. "The biggest frustration with the new connector will be because I travel a lot, I usually keep one charger at home, one in my travel bag and one at work. So much for that now."
"I'm happy with my 4S and don't feel compelled to waste money on new technology with only incremental benefits," said Joy Braunstein of Squirrel Hill, who is the director of The Holocaust Center. When she looked at the changes in iPhone 5, "I was underwhelmed. It's not like the 4S where you had Siri and really neat stuff."
James Fisher, a software development engineer from Zelienople, says his car adapter would have been rendered useless without the Lightning connector adapter, but that's not why he isn't switching to the iPhone 5: he's still in the middle of a contract on his 4S. But he doesn't have a problem with the connector change. "Their rivals have all cycled through various shapes and sizes of connectors in the past decade.
"While it's a fair knock that Apple hasn't converged on the mini-USB format that most other manufacturers now use, you have to give them credit for sticking with one thing" for so long.
Many gadget users will find their way around the problem, such as leaving the phone out of the equation altogether. Peter Scarvelis of Ross is planning on buying a new iPhone. He uses it primarily for browsing, using apps and making phone calls." "It would be more of an issue if I was using my iPhone with existing dock equipment." He plans to use Apple TV to get around the video output issue, which will let him continue to stream music and video onto a larger TV screen.
The connector issue is coupled with customer dissatisfaction over the phone's new iOS 6 operating system, which dumped Google Maps in favor of Apple's own mapping and location system and which sometimes delivers inaccurate results. But neither has dampened buyer enthusiasm: Weekend sales for the new phone topped 5 million after its Sept. 21 launch.
For people who are just hoping to empty that drawer full of useless cables, there are places that will take them: Goodwill ComputerWorks store in Lawrenceville re-sells cables and cords, along with refurbished used computers. Construction Junction in Point Breeze has an E-waste recycling program, in collaboration with eLoop IIc. They take old cables for recycling.
First Published October 1, 2012 12:00 am