The next iPhone, expected this fall, will include a new connector that’s smaller than the current 30-pin dock at the bottom of the phone, according to Reuters and TechCrunch. The rumors, circulating for over a month, are credible, say car audio suppliers, who note that the new dock connector could cause problems but also opportunities for the aftermarket
Car radios that date back a few years or longer may not work with a new iPhone, as many of them relied on non USB, 30 pin connector cables (with a proprietary connector at the other end). Suppliers say it could take 2 months or longer to create new cables.
Newer car radios will be partially exempt from the changeover as they rely on USB cables for an iPhone link, and Apple will undoubtedly bundle an updated USB cable in the iPhone 5 box.
Reuters says Apple will switch to a 19-pin connector.
Another issue is that Apple may require a new authentication chip or some form of firmware upgrade for older car radios, docks and kits to work with the new iPhone.
DICE’s Steve Witt said, “There seems to be an indication that there will be some new authentication protocol.” Under one scenario, Apple would require a new authentication chip. And in that case, new hardware—radios or kits—might be the only solution. But Witt said, “We think they probably won’t require a new authentication chip. But they could require that anybody building a host device like a MediaBridge Kit or a car radio, would need some significant changes in the firmware.”
The uncertainty has impacted product development at some companies as they wait for direction from Apple. Licensees only receive full details on new products the day they are announced.
Audiovox said it recently stopped development on certain aspects of new products until Apple’s plans are made clear.
“You put all your development on hold that relates to the chip, and the connector until you get more information,” said Audiovox Electronics’ Tom Malone. ” For products we have in that cycle, we’re going forward and working on other parts of the product not related to iPhone compatibility. We’re in that gray area.”
On the plus side for suppliers and retailers, if the iPhone 5 does in fact use a new dock connector, it might encourage consumers to upgrade older radios.