Apple Dock Connector Redesign on the Table

June 4, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Are you not exactly happy with Apple’s 30 pin dock connector on the iDevices which has been there since 2003?

Well, pointers are now on innovation mode in this regard, as Apple’s two yet-to-be-filled job listings from mid- to late-2011 suggest that the company is planning to have a whole new design developed for the dock connector.

The jobs of Connector Design Engineer and Product Design Eng – Connector will be responsible for managing multiple connector designs and developments in support of the iPod product lines.

They require a BS in a related engineering discipline (electrical, mechanical or material science) and a few years’ experience with 3-D CAD design and offshore product manufacturing.

As IHS iSuppli analyst Kevin Keller points out, Apple has been using this connector for a long time and it has always gotten reviews as being unwieldy and large and inconvenient.

If they’re going to introduce something new, the iPhone, because of the broad appeal and broad market, would be a good place to do it, Keller said.

But developing a whole new dock connector would not be a cakewalk, for Apple, accessory manufacturers and the customers. Some iPhone dock manufacturers have already started coming up with new designs aimed at future-proofing peripherals.

According to Keller, there is a unique challenge in front of Apple as it has used that connector for video output, audio output, USB connection, and charging. Pin count will always be an issue. You just simply can’t go down to a simple five-pin microUSB and get the same functionality out of that connector, Keller said.

A patent application suggests a solution for this issue, with the MagSafe-style dock connector, like those in the MacBooks. Or else, Apple could go the Android way of utilizing MicroUSB, but chances of that happening are pretty slim.

Because of the functionality Apple uses that dock connector for, there are no industry standards suitable yet, Keller observed. They would continue to be required to use a proprietary connector. We could see a smaller version of the existing dock connector, but still proprietary to Apple. He added.

As they say, change is not easy.

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